No. 50, September 2005

Futures Collaborative
Oakland for-profit buys the Y

A.F. Evans plans 5 stories of affordable housing

by Marjorie Beggs

The Tenderloin Futures Collaborative had to wait until the penultimate item for the hottest issue on its August agenda: Central YMCA Executive Director Carmela Gold’s announcement of who bought the Y.

She said the new owner of the 95-year-old building and two adjacent vacant lots is A.F. Evans, the Oakland-based for-profit that has been developing affordable housing in the Tenderloin for 20 years. The purchase agreement was signed Aug. 9, but it won’t be complete until next August, giving the Y time to move.

The sale frees the Y to start down the trail of constructing new facilities at Golden Gate and Larkin, a site it will share with Hastings College of the Law’s controversial seven-story garage and commercial space.

“We’re hoping to retain some Y facilities.”

– Craig Adelman
A.F. Evans Director for Affordable Housing

“We’re tremendously excited — this is a new era for us,” Gold said. “We’ve put out an RFQ for architects for our new site, and we’re also looking for a transition site during construction — 10,000 to 15,000 square feet for about three years.”

Gold introduced Craig Adelman, well-known to many as TNDC’s former director for affordable housing. Now in the same slot with A.F. Evans, he’ll be overseeing the Y renovation.

 “We recognize the Y building as a real resource in the neighborhood, one that sits on an important corner,” he said, adding that the building will mix housing with commercial and community spaces.

“We’re hoping to retain some of the Y facilities, but we’re not sure which. We do know the gym will have to go. We don’t know yet about the pool.”

On the two parking lots, at 351 Turk and 145 Leavenworth, A.F. Evans plans to construct new market-rate condominiums, Adelman said.

The Extra called A.F. Evans a few weeks later to get more details. We asked President Jack Robertson what drew his firm to the Y project.

 “We’re pretty deep into the neighborhood, always looking for more to do that will increase the housing stock,” Robertson said. “We have six other residential projects that we’ve done in the Tenderloin and one more, at Hyde and Eddy, just under way. Also, this seemed like a fascinating opportunity to add a property to our portfolio that has unique historical value.”

A.F. Evans has built 726 apartments, studios and SRO units in the TL since 1985, Robertson said, and 95% are affordable. Citywide, it has built 1,530 units, and throughout California, Nevada and Washington 7,600 units.

Five or more of the Y’s nine stories will be housing, he said, 175 to 200 SRO units, studios and one-bedroom apartments, all affordable.

“The lower floors will be commercial and community spaces,” Robertson said. “There’s a great theater space that we’d love to get back into action, the atrium would be a good spot for a restaurant, and restoring the grand staircase is an option. We have a historic consultant on board to help with those ideas.”

He said that A.F. Evans is “not prepared enough to release any information” on the projected cost of the renovation.

Plans for the condos are even vaguer. Robertson said they’d be “mid-rise,” below the TL’s 80-foot height limit, and “moderately-priced.”

The sale of the condos will make the Y rehab feasible, he said. Other sources of funding are the city and tax credits — especially the 30-year-old federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives Program, administered by the IRS, National Park Service and State Historic Preservation Offices, which gives property owners a 20% tax credit for rehabbing income-producing buildings with historic merit.

A potential source of funds “for the nonrental portion of this project,” Robertson said, is the U.S. Treasury Department’s five-year-old New Markets Tax Credits Program. It allows investors in low-income neighborhoods to claim a credit against federal income taxes — 39% of the cost of the investment spread out over seven years. For the first three years, the investor gets a 5% credit against the purchase price; for the next four years, the credit drops to 6% a year.

It appears that over time, at least, A.F. Evans can recoup 59% of its costs for the two Y projects.

And the timeline?

A.F. Evans has a one-year contract period with the Y, which means the purchase won’t be completed until August 2006. Meanwhile, it will get together its funding, building permits, EIRs and design approval.

The earliest construction and renovation could start would be the end of 2006, Robertson said.

For Folks who want answers

Heidi Seick of the mayor’s office told the TFC that San Francisco’s 140 city agencies and departments get eight million calls a year from people with all manner of questions.

To give better service, she’s been working six years on a 311 system — a toll-free, nonemergency, 24/7, multilingual, live-person response system.

“My vision of it,” she said, “is an absolute transformation in how the city provides services. Right now, 40% of the new concerns people call about are never addressed, and that’s unacceptable.”

A 311 caller would get a tracking number for followup; e-mail, Internet and fax all will be part of the system. Ultimately, Seick said, 311 will expose what’s not working in the city and, as important, will take the pressure off the burdened 911 system. Baltimore, Chicago and New York all have 311 systems in place. Trials are set to start here next spring with the full launch in the summer.

Meantime, The Extra tried to call Seick to find out what the 311 system might cost. We got a message: She was on vacation for a week and wasn’t picking up her messages; she left no contact names in her absence. And there was no tracking number.

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