Saving Small Buildings Too!

by Rev. Norman Fong

April 8, 2019

norman fong

Chinatown CDC tries it’s best to save affordable housing in Chinatown and other neighborhoods across San Francisco. Everyone knows we are preserving the large Ping Yuen projects and rebuilt the International Hotel, but many of you may not know that we also try to acquire and rehabilitate small buildings too. A lot of these smaller buildings and apartments face the threat of Ellis Act evictions and “buyouts” where long term tenants with low income are pushed out. New landlords, for example, may make capital improvements and pass the cost to residents and even make the lives of the tenants miserable during construction to get tenants to leave.

The City has a “Small Sites” program that Chinatown CDC is using to help save these smaller buildings (with 6 to 25 units) where tenants are at risk of being displaced. We recently used this program to help us acquire and rehabilitate 289 – 9th Ave which was the replacement housing for residents displaced back in 1980 from Chinatown. Ed Lee was involved in the case with Chinatown CDC back then. The owner of the property, after 40 years, wanted to put that building on the market but now Chinatown CDC is the owner and will keep it as permanent affordable housing. Hurrah!

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Staff standing outside 462 Green Street

462 green street
462 Green Street stairs

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New kitchen at 462 Green Street

chinatown cdc staff 462 green street
Chinatown CDC staff. Pictured left to right: Kayne Doumani, Director of Asset Management; Grayling Harris, Asset Manager; Teresa Wong, Asset Management Assistant; Michelle Huang, Project Coordinator; Peggy Jen, RAD Strategies Coordinator; and Cindy Louie, Controller.

This past week, I got to see some of the improvements Chinatown CDC is doing at 462 Green St. It’s a small building with just six 2-bedroom units in North Beach. It needed some serious repairs and a soft story retrofit. We’re fixing it up through the small sites program and keeping the long term families that have been living there. They were also threatened with displacement and I am so happy that we can repair and fix up the building too and keep it as affordable housing for those six families. I wish we could fix up more small buildings but it costs a lot and we don’t have that much money to do it. Chinatown CDC began its work helping to save these small buildings and SRO buildings and it seems that we are doing it again, slowly. I have included pictures of the improvements at 462 Green and we still have a lot of work to do before the families return.

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Preston Lam, Chinatown CDC staff and former Small Sites Project Manager

462 green street

462 green street

We plan to do a few more small sites buildings in the near future but not too many as it is really hard work and costly to repair old building - but it is great for the long term low income residents and families that live there. I am so proud of the staff of Chinatown CDC that work so hard. Some people and even landlords ask me on occasion, can we buy this building or another building – but the price is usually just too high in San Francisco. We do this kind of housing work to save big and small buildings for our low-income seniors and families, but the owners cannot expect to make so much money or the communities will lose. Many Chinatowns across the country have less and less of the community living in their Chinatowns. We want to keep this Chinatown vibrant with our families and seniors living here. I sure hope that the families moving back to their remodeled units whether at the “Big Pings” or a small building will be happy.

Originally published in Sing Tao Daily on April 7, 2019

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