March 31, 2010

150 Otis: Details For Redevelopment Into "Veterans Commons"

150 Otis Street

Additional details on the proposed Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown Community Development Center’s conversion of 150 Otis Street from a temporary homeless shelter and City storage into "permanent affordable rental housing for chronically homeless veterans over the age of 55" with in-house supportive services ("Veterans Commons"):

Constructed in 1916 as the Juvenile Court and Detention Home, [150 Otis] has been designated as San Francisco Landmark No. 248. The west side (rear) of [the lot] contains an auditorium, underground garage, and plaza associated with 170 Otis Street – the San Francisco Human Services Agency (HSA) building west of the project site.
The lower three levels of 150 Otis Street are currently used as a seasonal homeless shelter during winter months, serving approximately 60 people between 7:00 PM and 7:00 AM. The shelter employs two daytime employees with additional staff at night when the shelter is open. The upper six levels of the building are currently used for City storage.
The proposed project involves interior and exterior renovations to the existing building to create 75 units of affordable permanent housing for homeless veterans and one manager’s unit (49,314 sf), and support service offices and community space (7,283 sf). The area of the building would increase by 4,621 sf; the building height would remain the same.

All non-original windows would be replaced, and the front entryway would be reconfigured for ADAaccessible entry. In addition, an exterior fire escape and windows at the rear of the building would be removed and replaced with an elevator shaft/lobby/trash room measuring 17’ by 25’ by 110’. A raised deck and new entrances would be added at the rear of the building. The project also includes seismic and building system upgrades; interior alterations for the building’s new use; repair of the roof; and repair/cleaning of the building exterior.

Required approvals or amendments: zoning (to allow for the development of housing consistent with Residential, Transit‐Oriented (RTO) and sundry exceptions); height (to accommodate the new elevator shaft); lot line (an adjustment for the removal the auditorium and underground garage encroachment); and a Certificate of Appropriateness for alteration of a City Landmark.

150 Otis Street: Preliminary Negative Declaration [sf-planning.org]
150 Otis: From Temporary To Permanent Shelter As Proposed [SocketSite]

First Published: March 31, 2010 8:45 AM

Comments from "Plugged In" Readers

Homeless...homeless....homeless....

How about something for your average citizen? The middle class could use some support in this city. It's no wonder all the artists/musicians and families have left.

[Editor's Note: Relaxing BMR Rules At Mission Walk To Compete With Bank-Owned.]

Posted by: Cr8 at March 31, 2010 9:30 AM

What are you talking about Cr8? There are still lots of artists/musicians here as well as families. Yes, costs remain high in SF, but the main reason families especially move out of the City is due to the crappy schools. That and the fact that many still believe in some ridiculous suburban ideal of yards and more space for themselves and their kiddies... but whatever, it still has a lot to do with the schools.

Posted by: pokemon at March 31, 2010 10:54 AM

floor plans not much different than Cubix

Posted by: jose at March 31, 2010 11:08 AM

This is a great rehab of an existing building to help those who need it the most..

@cr8: seriously, yes I am sure that some middle class families struggle with buying a house or condo, but let's not forget that they are still far better off than any homeless person. The homeless are at the absolute BOTTOM of the ladder and our society is obligated to help them out. Stop complaining and figure out how you can get a house for your family. It is possible.

Posted by: noearch at March 31, 2010 11:34 AM

I realize there are some artists and families left - I guess I'm just comparing it to the past when SF seemed more like a city of musicians and artists. From what I have observed, it seems most of the scene has moved with the artists to places such as Portland, LA, Austin, Seattle, etc. Maybe I'm just old and out of touch?

Posted by: cr8 at March 31, 2010 11:40 AM

Those trying to find their way in the creative arts mostly need a way to make ends meet while finding time to develop their art.

Usually this means working a day job combined with landing a low cost of living situation. Physical artists may also need studio space depending on their chosen media. If you live in a high CoL area then you need to work more to cover costs and hence take away from the time needed for art.

It is pretty clear that SF can no longer accommodate this sort of artist. Instead they will seek lower CoL areas.

The artists you find in SF today are usually :

1. established successful artists that can earn a living via art without needing a day job
2. trust fund artists who have external means of support (Yeah ! good for them!)
3. misguided newcomers who equate SF and/or NYC as "the place to be" for whom reality hasn't yet sunk in
4. Poseurs

Posted by: The Milkshake of Despair at March 31, 2010 12:00 PM

I think a lot of people have serious reservations about the massive influx of housing for marginal people in SF. Just one example: a homeless housing development was built just across Folsom from the Powerhouse. Shortly thereafter a "resident" got drunk and high and attacked a Powerhouse patron with a hammer. The bouncer intervened and was arrested by SFPD. The owner of the housing complex refused to cooperate with fixing the blame where the blame belonged, the Powerhouse had to have a fund raiser to pay for the legal case (charges were dropped) and the building owner wouldn't comment as to the fate of the "resident" for privacy reasons.

Walk Mission by day between Duboce and 5th street, where these sorts of developments have proliferated, and you see their residents strung out and wandering the streets. They are largely Section 8, mentally disabled, with long records and addiction problems. And we are filling our city with permanent housing for them. I for one think the idea is a little scary. Its exactly what happened with the Tenderloin 40 years ago when the city refused to allow SRO's to convert to other uses. Its the degrading of our city at tax payer expense.

Posted by: stucco-sux at March 31, 2010 12:24 PM

@stucco-sux: I couldn't agree with you more. They are building a supportive housing center on Folsom between 1st and 2nd. What is currently a prime area could have been better thought out to collect more tax revenue, and building the development someplace else.

I made the point on a different thread, and was attacked as NIMBY.

People defending this type of thing will say one (or more) of the following:

1. You are still better off than them.
2. Be more empathetic
3. They are just down on their luck
4. Society is obligated to help them out by providing cell phones, free liquor, and looking the other way when it comes to criminal activities or QoL crimes.
5. We need to distribute the people into more established neighborhoods to get them out of the element.

Yet, you (we) are the ones paying for all this, working 12 hour days, abiding by the laws, etc. And when there are cases of things happen like your story about the guy with the hammer or the guy near the SOMA Grand that killed a guy coming home from dinner at the end of the night, they are given a pass, and you are considered 'cruel' to mention it, or in the example you gave the bouncer was arrested. The recidivism rates for the homeless and homeless criminal activity is extremely high. The vast majority will never be rehabilitated. It sounds cold, but its the truth.

Posted by: SFRE at March 31, 2010 1:09 PM

It's nice to see that Socketsite commenters possess so much compassion. The disabled, the troubled, and the mentally ill will always be with us- unless we go back to the pre-Reagan days of warehousing them in remote locations for life.

As for Cr8, there hasn't been an "art scene" here for decades. You don't even see much art in people's homes. Go to Berlin, where there are both artists and affordable housing, and cut out the "poor me" crap.

Posted by: Rocco at March 31, 2010 2:55 PM

Rocco - "warehousing them in remote locations for life"?

Cut the drama, please. What's wrong with putting the mentally disabled in a hospital where they can receive treatment? Do you think leaving them on the street without any way to fend for themselves is a more humane route?

Posted by: Fishchum at March 31, 2010 3:11 PM

Artists that need a lot of space for their work tend to live in Oakland and have for at least 20 years. Musicians are everywhere, and there are still plenty of young adults working crappy jobs and living with roommates in order to peruse their avocations. Middle class families who don't buy into the giant-yard-and-terrible-commute do stay in the city, especially if they already live in Bernal or Glen Park or the avenues and they can get their kids into the few decent public or charter schools.

I think we could do a lot better in terms of QOL issues, and don't entirely disagree that attracting people able to contribute more and developing something that would bring in, rather than expend, tax revenue would be nice. But this particular project doesn't really raise my hackles - it's next door to the welfare office, after all. If not this backyard, whose?

Posted by: kthnxybe at March 31, 2010 3:19 PM

Yes, this is almost a repeat of a previous thread where some were only concerned with profits, greed, bringing down property values, and loss of real estate commissions.

They continue their same rant today, sadly.

Others, like myself, will talk about compassion and support and working out ways to help the homeless and less fortunate to have a better life. At least we try, and society should too.

Posted by: noearch at March 31, 2010 3:20 PM

@noearch: I know we have all been through this already, but people should always be given a chance to express the point of view.

As an aside, being an architect, what type of hardwood flooring would recommend to go with light cherry cabinetry? A friend of mine and I were talking, and had completely different ideas.

Posted by: SFRE at March 31, 2010 3:25 PM

As long as SF continues to turn into Disneyland for the rich and the Powers That Be want to keep it that way, can we have the people living here dress up as Mickey Mouse?

If we are really going to focus on the homeless, we should instead focus on those who have a chance instead of the chronically homeless. A large percentage of people who end up homeless, at least nationally, are only homeless for extremely short durations, sometimes only for one day, and subsequently become productive members of society and contributors to the community. It would be more effective to spend money on this group of people instead of keeping what is likely a hopeless group of people in some of the most expensive real estate in this country. Malcolm Gladwell did an article on this: http://gladwell.com/2006/2006_02_13_a_murray.html . It would be nice to see the city do something for working folks instead.

Posted by: JimBobJones at March 31, 2010 3:39 PM

@sfre: whoever said one shouldn't be allowed to express their point of view here? no one said that, no one implied that.

Some don't like your point of view and disagree with it. You're entitled to your opinion, but quite frankly you seem to possess zero compassion and understanding for others less fortunate in life.

Posted by: noearch at March 31, 2010 3:58 PM

I will go with SFRE. You don't elevate the bad element up to your level. They drag you down to theirs. I am referring to the chronic homeless.

Posted by: jon at March 31, 2010 4:13 PM

I'm surprised no one has mentioned that these will be homes for veterans. Surely that segment of society deserves something better than what they've been getting for the last few decades, no?

And, if I were a neighbor, I'd way prefer stable housing for 75 neighbor veterans who come and go from their apartment building than a seasonal shelter for 60 transient adults who congregate outside on the sidewalk for a couple hours every day and roam the local streets during daylight hours when they have no where to go.

Posted by: BobN at March 31, 2010 4:35 PM

"Compassion" is well and good, but as long as SF continues being so much more "compassionate" than other cities it will continue to be overrun with homeless. Build a welfare state, and they will come.

Posted by: zzzzzzz at March 31, 2010 4:37 PM

Here's a gun son.

Go kill people in a strange land in horrible and
maiming ways and don't get get all messed up in your head, we dont believe in belly aching or mental health care.

Then came back, deal with your stress by sucking it up man, if you can't go live on the street.

Don't worry, we will cross the street to avoid any contact with you.


VETERANS.. Homeless veterans, two words that should never, ever go together.

Posted by: kathleen at March 31, 2010 6:08 PM

Well,yea...that's a good point you make kathleen..

but you know...I gotta tell you. You're not the most talented poet out there.

just saying.

Posted by: noearch at March 31, 2010 6:12 PM

WHY is this a "historic landmark". What about the architecture of this structure is worth preserving? If this eyesore were in New York or Chicago it would be ignored, and most neighbors would be happy to see it removed. I guess because this building is located in San Francisco, it then becomes "special".

Posted by: tear it down at March 31, 2010 6:46 PM

The construction of thousands of units of supportive affordable housing in the past decade or two has been accompanied by a drop in the crime rate. It's hard to argue that these units are making our city dangerous, unless the alternative is running the homeless out of town with torches and pitchforks. The newer supportive units are mostly better managed than TL SROs or SFHA projects, and much more stable places than the homeless shelters they've replaced.

Posted by: Dan at March 31, 2010 11:13 PM

I thought San Francisco hated veterans?

Posted by: will at April 1, 2010 12:36 AM

I am the
troy mclure
of poetry
just saying
that aint
no haiku
neither
thank you
noearch

Posted by: kathleen at April 1, 2010 4:12 PM

This will be operated by one of the nations largest veteran POVERTY PIMPS: Swords-to-Plowshare where they receive GAZILLIONS in taxpayer funding while funneling the veterans into the 12-Step Religious cult insanity where, for the rest of the veteran's life, they are detoxed-treatment-12 step-trouble-relapse-detox-treatment-12-step-trouble-relapse... and every time Swords gets their cut; very sick cycle.

How about REAL HOUSING FOR THE VETS WITHOUT THE POVERTY PIMPS?

Posted by: August at April 2, 2010 7:19 PM

Word, August. Word.

Posted by: stucco-sux at April 2, 2010 7:43 PM

Belatedly just read the comments, and appalled by "August's" ignorant and mean mis-characterization of Swords. I know and support Swords, and no organization has done so much for homeless and addicted vets than Swords. You have no idea what you are talking about, and even less an idea of what some of these guys went through while you no doubt used your student status to avoid the draft, assuming you are that old. I know your type, quite willing to send someone else's kid off to war, while you scream about your taxes being used to help people who need and deserve the help. Have you no shame??? Signed: A Vietnam vet who was very very lucky.

Posted by: Dude at April 5, 2010 9:48 PM

The veterans who will be living at this complex will have been BRAINWASHED for YEARS & YEARS that they are CRAZY, ADDICTED, and ALCOHOLIC by the Poverty Pimps. The building WILL NOT BE HOUSING, but a prison-like mandatory 12-Step religious cult insane asylum. Swords to Plowshares will make millions off the project....

Posted by: August at March 30, 2012 7:57 AM

If veterans living at this facility want to have a beer while watching a football game....THEY WILL BE THROWN OUT TO THE STREETS!

So much for respecting the veterans!

Posted by: August at March 30, 2012 8:02 AM

Most if not all of you so-called yuppies and sort need to check you sources. Swords is an organization who supports vets. The transitional housing program enables, and empowers the formally mentally challenged, and those with substance use disorders to bring them back into the mainstream of society as a productive member. I am a vietnam vet who was thrust into battle before I even learned what it was like to live, while serving I developed habits that were not condusive to living a productive life, let alone being villified for participating in a war that was so unpopular. For years the VA dismissed claims of PTSD, and until the gulf war, this was not a diagnosis in the DSM-IV. Most of you who have made disparaging comments, most likely have never served your country, but are reaping the benefits of those who served, and those who have paid the ultimate price their lives. It is about time someone cares for the vets who end up homel;ess because of military service. My son was helped by the very organization that you call poverty pimps, and if not for that organization, I would not have my son back. Those of you who do not know about this organization, maybe you need to go volunteer, and see just what they do, I did.

Posted by: CTjr at September 25, 2012 11:44 AM

If you are sooo unhappy with San Francisco politics, mooove! August

Posted by: Timothy at November 6, 2012 5:27 AM

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