Bruce Damonte

Project Stats

Location: San Francisco
Developer: Mercy Housing California 
Architect: Mithun I Solomon
Builder: James E. Roberts, Obayashi Corp.
Opened: September 2014
Number of units: 150 
Unit mix: One-, two-, and three-bedrooms 
Rent: $1,181, on average; 50 units receive subsidies such that their residents pay no more than 30% of their income on rent

With San Francisco's population growth and business expansion over the past several years, low-income families are finding less and less available housing they can afford to rent.

That need was overwhelmingly evident in the almost 3,000 applications received for the 150 units of affordable housing at Mercy Housing California's 1180 4th Street development in the city's Mission Bay neighborhood.

"This housing is needed in this neighborhood, first of all; and, second, it's needed in San Francisco, in general, just to be able to provide families at 50% of the area median income [AMI] with options," says Jennifer Dolin, vice president of Mercy Housing California. "This also fulfills a housing need for our homeless families."

Fifty units at 1180 4th Street, which opened in September 2014, are set aside for formerly homeless families. Those households receive supportive services as well as subsidies so that they pay only 30% of their income for rent. The remaining 100 units target families at or below 50% of the AMI.

Of the 700 residents, more than a third are children younger than 18. This younger demographic has had an influence on the design of the common areas and is a focus of the development's social services model.

Children can take advantage of after-school enrichment programs, computer labs, a green turf play area, exercise rooms, and a vegetable garden. An independent space modeled after a dormitory also was created, on the ground floor, for teens to have a place outside of their homes to find a social and homework network.

Two three-bedroom residential units have been set aside for family day-care operators who also meet the project's income requirements. The day-care workers have been licensed and are serving approximately seven to nine children, from infancy to age 5, daily, with some residents being able to take advantage of this convenient service.

The mixed-use development also includes approximately 10,000 square feet of retail space. Dolin says there has been a lot of interest in the space and that the team is working to secure leases.

Although 1180 4th Street spans an entire city block, the design team varied its architecture styles and building materials to break down the scale of the building.

"What's so fabulous about the design is most neighbors are unaware that it's designated as affordable housing," says Dolin.