Twenty-Two Annex-Terrace Households at Risk of Losing Hill Homes

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Project X under construction. Photo: Steven Moss

After some delays, the foundation is being laid at Project X, the next step in redevelopment of the Potrero Annex and Terrace housing complexes. Simultaneously, designs have been unveiled for the next stage of the massive renovation, giving a new glimpse into how Potrero Hill’s southeastern slope will ultimately be transformed.

Block B.

Over the next 10 years, Annex-Terrace residents will be moved to newly constructed homes one section at a time, as the aging concrete buildings in which they’re current housed are demolished, replaced by modern ones. When the dust settles there’ll be the same number, 606, of public housing units that exist today, as well as 200 affordable and 800 market rate apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space.

Project X, being built on a vacant lot on the southeast corner of Connecticut and 25th streets, is two months behind schedule due to greater soil elasticity than anticipated. Additional dirt had to be imported to support foundation requirements, according to Dan Adams, project manager for Bridge Housing, the nonprofit that’s in the process of taking over management of the housing.

Air quality issues have also caused delays. Naturally occurring asbestos fibers in the serpentine rock on which Annex-Terrace was built triggered monitors at the site at least eight times, causing work stoppages and prompting concerns from nearby residents. Dust from the excavation may have been kicked up by car traffic on 25th Street, or by heavy winds. According to Adams, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District inspects the location daily. “If we meet an exceedance two days in a row, we shut the site down,” he said, adding that asbestos isn’t considered dangerous unless people are exposed to fibers 24 hours a day over a seven-year period.

Despite delays, which Adams said will be made up with overtime hours, Project X – 1101 Connecticut Street – should be completed on schedule by October, 2018. Terrace residents living in eight buildings located south of 25th Street will then be moved to make way for “Blocks A and B.” Block A, which’ll be furthest to the west bordering an extended Arkansas Street, is to be market rate housing. Block B, in between Connecticut and Arkansas streets, will feature 120 units with a mix of affordable housing and current Annex-Terrace residents.

A looming issue is that Project X will have 72 units; 86 households will have to be moved to clear way for Blocks A and B to be built. In addition, 18 of 72 Project X units are set aside for affordable housing residents new to the neighborhood, as a way to ensure a mixed income population at each building. As a result, 22 households that miss out on the lottery for Project X will have to either be moved to vacant units elsewhere within Annex-Terrace or accept relocation to public housing elsewhere. If they stay on the Hill, they face being moved a second time. If they depart, they forfeit a chance to return.

John W. Smith, council president for Terrace residents, said he’s taking a “wait and see” attitude towards the relocation process.  However, Eddie Kittrell, a former Annex president, has stopped going to the meetings Bridge sponsors to discuss the redevelopment process. Kittrell was a member of a 2008 City task force that studied renovating the existing buildings, but as the project evolved into a larger, mixed income development he felt his input was neglected.

Block B designs were unveiled earlier this summer during a presentation at Starr King Elementary School. An earlier plan calling for seven townhouses was scrapped in place of two larger structures which’ll allow elevator access for handicapped residents. While the buildings will feature the same stepdown heights as the townhouse plan, the interior yard will be leveled off, permitted a small public park and resident-only outdoor community area. There’ll also be a day care center for 60 children and underground resident parking. The design is a joint effort between Y.A. Studio in the Outer Mission and larger Oakland-based HKIT Architects, which completed a modernization at Starr King last year.

During the presentation, Annex-Terrace residents voiced several concerns, one being whether newcomers who qualify for affordable housing would get units with better views. Adams said that’ll not be the case; affordable units will be scattered throughout, not solely on the top floor.

In what’s been an ongoing issue, residents sought clarification on laundry facilities; many have in-unit hookups now.  Meeting participants said they’d been led to believe that the new apartments would include washers and dryers, only to be told later that laundry amenities would be coin-operated and located on each floor. Bridge Housing staff stated that the latter will be the case, with the exception of three-bedroom units, which’ll have their own hookups.

Since underground parking will be limited to one space for every two units, several meeting participants expressed concerns about parking availability. A lottery will be held for the spaces; the number of on-street parking spaces will increase overall with the extension of the street grid.

Designs haven’t yet been completed for Block A, which isn’t slated to begin construction until after B is complete. It’s yet to be determined whether Block B will consist of rental units or condominiums. “We are a good four years off from having our first market rate,” said Adams.

According to Adams, Bridge Housing and its builder, Cahill Contractors, have made progress hiring Annex-Terrace residents. By law, Cahill is required to fill half of work site jobs with residents, but only if qualified individuals can be found. Through the end of May, only two inhabitants had been hired on site; another 40 had been placed at a variety of other locations in the City.

“We expect we will be hiring more as the project picks up speed,” said Adams. Fifty-two residents have registered with Citibuild, a municipal agency that recruits and prepares workers for construction-based jobs, although only one has graduated. Citibuild offers an 18-week training program.

Edward Hatter, Potrero Hill Neighborhood House executive director, worries that the project is a “land grab.” Hatter, who works with teenagers and young adults living in Annex-Terrace who face legal or employment obstacles, is concerned that new or more stringently enforced lease rules could act to evict those in that age group. It’s not uncommon for children to leave Annex-Terrace, to return later without being on a lease. “We could be creating another population of homeless,” he said.