146 Waverly Place

The Jeng Sen Buddhism and Taoism Association was the first integrated Taoist-Buddhist temple in the United States.

Home to the temple since 1957, the historic three-story Chinatown building at 146 Waverly Place was sold for $1.45 million last year. And today, plans for converting the temple into eight studio apartments with a roof deck for residents are working their way through Planning.

The hearing for the variance to allow the project to proceed as proposed is scheduled for September 23. The restaurant space on the ground floor of the building (150 Waverly Place) is slated to remain in place.

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by Sam

    Goodbye Chinatown

    • Posted by anon$random

      where is it going? who do you think will live in these apartments, young tech workers? perhaps, if they’re chinese.

      • Posted by Frisco

        It’s a great location regardless of your ethnicity. As modern apartments, they will be better than similar places in the “Tendernob”.

      • Posted by more-please

        to the same “ethnic ghetto afterlife” that the Mission went to recently.

    • Posted by BayviewSF

      Anyone can live anywhere. Everyone has the option to live in Chinatown, JapanTown or MissionTown.

      • Posted by Brian M

        Apostasy! We must preserve forever each ethnic enclave!

        Maybe through some kind of Group Areas Act!?

        Heck, I bet we can cut and paste the legislative language from the original!

        • Posted by Jeff

          Deep knowledge placement. Well played.

        • Posted by Dixon Hill

          Your reference to the Group Areas Act confuses the fact South Africa *required* certain ethnic groups to live in certain areas.

          Your comment would have been more on-point if you had referenced the Chinese government’s demolition of the traditional hutongs in Beijing in order to build the Olympic village.

          • Posted by Dr. House

            Some people are openly supporting policies that require non-Latinos to live outside the Mission. *cough* Campos. Asians, whites are not welcome there according to the Calle 24 people. The comparison, while obviously exaggerated and in jest, is nowhere near as far off from “SF progressive” policy as you pretend.

          • Posted by Dixon Hill

            @Dr House–Clever use by you of the Some People fallacy. Because “some people” say something my argument is invalidated, even though you don’t bother to address the merits of my argument, particularly with respect to demolition of traditional low income neighborhoods in Beijing You merely state that I *pretend* that some people don’t say something. (I said no such thing).
            And (assuming that you are correct) just because someone on the progressive may be saying something arguably racist .that doesn’t mean that all progressives are racists.
            These are complicated social and economic issues and sophomoric attempts to link concern for poor non-white residents of our community with apartheid won’t cut it.
            These are working people with very humble homes. And this is about keeping them in those homes, with the most likely Plan B being homelessness.

  2. Posted by BayviewSF

    This is an old building built in 1957. If it is converted into apartments, will it be under rent control? I guess it will not be under rent control since these 8 units will be considered new, right?

    If this is the case, we should see many conversions of underutilized commercial space to new apartments. It may not be a bad thing.

    • Posted by R

      Conversions are not under rent control. It’s considered “new” under the ordinance.

    • Posted by Jake

      The building was built in 1907. Looks like seismic was done ~10 years ago. These studios will be tiny, starting at 220 sqft.

    • Posted by Dixon Hill

      And think of all the tourists who will want to walk up and down Grant Avenue to see the stucco buildings where the tech workers live! One block, one neighborhood at a time, we’re destroying what makes this place unique.

  3. Posted by Wai Yip Tung

    I wonder what is slowing down the gentrification in Chinatown? What isn’t there a lot of high income earner moving in? Given its proximity to financial district? A lot of technies are staying in Tenderloin. Why not Chinatown which is even closer to work? Is there something to do with the ownership model? Or perhaps the apartment size?

    • Posted by NJ

      Great question!

    • Posted by Jake

      90+% of Chinatown are renters in rent-controlled units. Much of the gentrification in other neighborhoods has been conversion of PDR to housing. Not so much of that in Chinatown. Also, the commercial buildings tend to be smaller footprint than in SoMa, Mission, etc. making conversions less profitable.

      • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

        Isn’t Mission mostly rent-controlled also? The change there is very visible.

        • Posted by Jake

          The rental units in Mission are mostly rent-controlled, as they are in almost every SF neighborhood, but more than a quarter of all housing units in the Mission are owner-occupied (about the same as the Marina), whereas in Chinatown it is ~7%. Mission has many blocks of PDR and many SFH, Chinatown has almost none of either. Much of the gentrification is developers converting PDR to housing and well-off new owners upgrading SFH. Median household income in Chinatown is less than 30% of the median household income in Mission. Very very different neighborhoods. Tenderloin is the most similar in housing and economics to Chinatown.

          Don’t know how many of you have ever been in the apts in SF’s Chinatown, but most are tiny compared to the housing stock in the Mission. Not going to ‘gentrify’ Chinatown without displacing a very concentrated poor community, gutting their homes and the homes of their ancestors, and completely rebuilding. Our current mayor started his career fighting against that. Maybe in the next millennium. Meanwhile, easier pickins.

          Besides Chinatown is tiny, ~25 small blocks with a third the number of units of the Mission. If you want to live around there, within a few blocks there are many choices for the gentry without needing to displace anyone.

          • Posted by Dixon Hill

            @Jake–I mostly agree with you but am not as sanguine about Chinatown remaining *Chinatown* over the long-term. I have namelinked one of numerous articles that came-up by googling “gentrify chinatown”.

            The Nob-Hill-adjacent location and the amount of potential money to be made will attract a lot of developer attention to the area. There are several Chinatown-specific zoning districts (CVR, CCB, CRNC) which state that their purpose includes “preserving the existing character” of the neighborhood. Regardless, I would expect one or more aggressive developers to lobby for the loosest possible interpretation of the established land-use restrictions.

            Perhaps only 25 small blocks as you say but someone is going to want to grab that money sitting on the table. And I’m not sure that Ed Lee currently has much interest in helping the low-income residents of Chinatown remain in place. They contribute nothing to his campaigns and none of them will offer him a high-paid job when he leaves office.

            I expect things to get ugly there before long.

          • Posted by Jake

            Downtown developers did wipeout Manilatown to bring the FiDi to the edge of Chinatown. Lookup the I-Hotel and Walter Shorenstein for the denouement in the 1970s. Ed Lee even played a minor part.

            There will always be pressure to replace those crappy little 1907-era buildings with tall modern ones and collect money left on the table ever since the city fathers cut the deal to leave the Chinese in Chinatown after it burned in 1906 (namelink). The buildings are dumps. The people are precious. Gonna be a long time before we figure out how to get rid of the former and not the latter. And there are enough voters and orgs that care to scare the next mayor-wanna-be and raise the costs and delay the progress of any major developer, including recently CCSF regarding the Colombo building. SoMa, eastern waterfront, Van Ness, even Mission are much softer targets.

            Anyway, all you have to do is stand in Portsmouth Sq and look around to imagine the spawn of the Transamerica and BofA buildings marching right on through. You wouldn’t be the first.

            “To my mind, I was getting rid of a slum.” — Walter Shorenstein

          • Posted by Wai Yip Tung

            This convince me more that small unit development such a the 400ft 2 bedroom condo posted last week is the right model for affordable housing. Much more so that the city’s BMR program. 2 bedroom no larger than 400 sq or 1 bedroom no larger than 300ft, much like what you get in Asia. Tiny, cramped, and affordable.

    • Posted by sfdragonboy

      Come on, grasshopper, where have you been? Chinatown has managed to stave off the developers and non Chinese for decades and for many reasons stated here:

      1) a lot of the properties are owned by Chinese associations and/or well to do Chinese businessmen. They ain’t selling unless their future generations would rather own in Maui. How do I know this? My family owns a building in the outskirts and we aren’t stupid enough to sell. Why? We see the goldmine just like everyone else.
      2) there are organizations bent on keeping the status quo. Remember the recent story about the business that tried to get in on Grant Ave (near California St) that was not technically in compliance to rules/regs of Chinatown? Not sure what happened to that but yes it is difficult for new types of businesses to penetrate this small enclave.

      Trust me, we will see a rebirth of Chinatown once the Muni subway station is finished.

  4. Posted by GoBlueInOakland

    Most the buildings in Chinatown are owned by Chinese-families or Chinese benevolent associations (“tongs”), and tend to rent by word of mouth amongst the Chinese immigrant community.

  5. Posted by Mark

    Don’t worry, Chinatown is not going to disappear any time soon or be displaced by tech workers. It’s a close knit community with a lot of political power (and corruption) in this town.

    • Posted by BayviewSF

      Rent control policy is the reason. 90+% of Chinatown are renters in rent-controlled units. The rent controlled tenants are not dumb enough to move out of their rent controlled units with a very low rent.

    • Posted by jenofla

      Close-knit communities sometimes, with time, fall apart as following generations drift away and decide to sell out. This Chinatown stays the way it is because most of the buildings’ owners are Chinese and are okay renting at rent-controlled prices to other Chinese, usually recent immigrants getting their footing. Would love to know if the temple itself is selling the building or whether the temple is just a tenant and the owners are selling out.

      This might be the beginning of the end of this Chinatown, one that is mostly Cantonese, with history and roots as far back as the Gold Rush, a bit more working class and insular. Like the Castro getting less gay as gays are more integrated into society, Chinatown might end up a historical relic with a pan-Asian-predominant-suburbia (think San Gabriel Valley, Cupertino, Fremont) more the reigning paradigm. Wondering if recent immigrants from China are from specific geographic areas (like Mexicans in SF and LA are usually from specific states) or whether they come from all over and more identified with each other by socioeconomic class.

      Things change. But I will miss Chinatown if it comes to that. Homogenization is the price to pay for integration.

      • Posted by Dixon Hill

        “Integration” is an interesting word to describe the process of dismantling the cultural center of a long-standing ethnic group within San Francisco and kicking low-income people out of their homes and neighborhoods to build homes for people making over $100K per year.

        Actually, integration and homogenization are opposites…they do not co-exist.

        By the way, more than a few SRO residents are not “recent immigrants getting their footing”. A lot of them are low-paid restaurant, hotel, and janitorial workers who have lived in those rooms for 30 years or more.

        There is nowhere else in San Francisco for them to go. And, possibly, no jobs for them in the suburbs. Some people here will say it is their own fault that they didn’t buy a house.

      • Posted by Jake

        um, this nostalgia and these comparisons are a little weird and ahistoric. SF’s Chinatown has a very different history than the Castro. About two-thirds of the residents of Chinatown are linguistically isolated, meaning they don’t speak enough english to get by. The majority of the housing units in Chinatown are SRO (pdf study at namelink). Many working people there don’t make a decent living wage.

        FTR, the total population of Chinatown is less than 15k. The current SF Chinese population is ~175k and the current SF population that was born in China is ~100k. The “integration” has been happening on a large scale for a couple generations. Plenty of middle-aged ethnic Chinese grew up in the Sunset and Richmond.

  6. Posted by Amewsed

    Market rate rentals! Actually Chinatown offers a much better environment to live than the Tenderloin. It has an abundance of vegetable, meat, fish, and fruit stores plus a lot of various restaurants as well as a few dive bars. A lot of immigrant families live in the neighborhood so it is conveniently designed for the daily needs of the community.

    • Posted by Some Guy

      Err. I’ll take a pass on Chinatown fish, flesh, and fowl markets thank you.

  7. Posted by sfdragonboy

    Once the Muni subway station is finished and up and running, it will be interesting to see how much Chinatown changes if any. Will we see what appears to be more of the selling off of the properties by older Chinese generations to younger Chinese or non Chinese buyers or do we see a rebirth of where many Chinese generations began? It is certainly not hard to see why people would want to be here. The weather is usually the best in this area vs other SF areas and it is close to downtown, financial district and north beach. Properties are old here and not seismically safe, but imagine if you did the refurbishing and added amenities like parking you would be set. The Mission would no longer be the hot place to be.

    • Posted by Fishchum

      Chinatown will never be as hot as the Mission, trust me.

  8. Posted by Jake

    may just depend on what you mean by “hot”. If you mean popular place to live, then SF’s Chinatown is the hottest place in the USA west of the Hudson River. Likely to stay that way too. Maybe you folks just don’t keep up with the relevant press. Try the Times and the Daily, those would be the China Times and the Sing Tao Daily.

    Regardless, Chinatown is tiny, only about 5 times the size of Mission Dolores Park and the Mission District itself is about 15 times the size of Chinatown. If you want to compare, then the Mission is about the size of Chinatown plus North Beach plus Russian Hill plus Nob Hill.

    A wet dream of developers for at least 50 years has been to extend the FiDi through Chinatown and as much of North Beach as they can. The development wet dream in the Mission for nearly as long has been to remake it more along the lines and/or density of Nob Hill. Sadly, the poor residents of both have resisted being remade out of town. Even building them subway stops so they can visit the old hood from afar doesn’t persuade. Don’t they know there’s a housing crisis?

    “This land is too valuable to permit poor people to park on it,” Justin Herman, 1970, head of the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, speaking about the 800 block of Kearny Street, where the International Hotel was one of the last remnants of Manilatown.

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