Inclusive Housing in San Francisco’s Civic Center

Screenshot of a tweet from London Breed. Text of the tweet reads "102 New homes, with 25% of them serving people with developmental disabilities. Right in the back yard of City Hall. Let's get it done." Including in the tweet is the link to the San Francisco Chronicle article "SF affordable housing projects would create homes for developmentally disabled." Elizabeth Grigsby, a black woman in a wheelchair wearing a pink sweater and black pants, is pictured alongside Micaela Connery, a woman wearing a dress with a print of various shades of purple.

Five years ago I sat at Mercy Housing’s office with Doug Shoemaker as he shared knowledge and wisdom from his twenty plus year career in the Bay Area affordable housing sector. I shared my vision of inclusive housing — a place where people with and without disabilities, of all incomes and backgrounds, live together as a community. In my thank you note, I told Doug how I hoped one day we would work on a project together.

Today, I’m excited to share more about that partnership coming to life, on a site in the heart of San Francisco, across from City Hall. The Kelsey, Mercy Housing California, and WRNS Studio won a site to develop over 100 homes for people with and without disabilities. The homes will be affordable to people across all incomes; from those making 20% of the area median income (approximately $17K) to those making 120% of area median income.

Organized by the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, our team participated in Reinventing Cities, a global competition to drive carbon neutral and resilient urban regeneration, for San Francisco’s T shaped Civic Center site. Over the course of a year-and-a-half and after three phases, our vision, design, and team were selected. The design process included Universal Design expert Erick Mikiten (Mikiten Architecture), a wheelchair user himself, as a subject matter expert on accessibility, and design that surpasses standard city/state requirements. The resident units and community spaces flex with daily desires; they will be coliving in spirit, a model informed by competition co-participant Common. The project called for sustainable and resilient housing—we led with inclusion and community, elements that help all people, with and without disabilities, thrive.

In 1977, just a hundred yards from our Civic Center site, disability rights activists led one of the most powerful non-violent sit-ins around the integration of people with disabilities into mainstream institutions. San Francisco, and the Bay Area broadly, has always been a beacon of disability justice advocacy and inclusivity. Countless leaders with disabilities and other advocates have spoken about how the cost of housing has pushed communities out of our region and undercut the level of inclusion we all believe in. We’re excited to be working with this team to make this inclusive housing project a reality, not just for its meaning to us and the people who live here, but for what it will symbolize in the heart of our city.

Micaela Connery

Read the full article by The Chronicle, here.