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Hunters View housing project reopens [Correction]

Overhaul of 1950s-era public housing began in 2004, promising new homes for existing residents

Photo by Bruce Damonte, courtesy of Paulett Taggart Architects/David Baker Architects JV

On Wednesday, San Francisco leaders, including Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Mayor London Breed, went to the Hunters View housing project in Bayview for a ceremony marking the end of phase two of the rehab of the once decrepit development.

“I grew up in public housing, I know firsthand that the many of these locations were deeply in need of an upgrade,” said Mayor London Breed in a statement beforehand, praising the “years of perseverance and determination” from Hunters View residents.

The resurrection of Hunters View began in 2004, just weeks into the mayoral administration of now-Gov. Gavin Newsom, who pledged to rebuild Hunters View without displacing existing residents.

Built in 1957, Hunters View was 267-units (designed to be temporary) on a 20-acre site. By 2010, when construction on the overhaul began in earnest, only 148 of those units were occupied because the remaining housing stock was in such poor condition.

The mayor’s office now cites “disconnected streets, poor public transportation, and steep inclines” that made housing in Hunters View feel isolated and unsafe.

The city vowed that, in addition to new affordable and market-rate housing at the site, the Hunters View rebuild would replace all 267 public housing units and reserve the new homes for longtime residents.

The city partnered with the John Stewart Company on the development. Seattle-based design firm Mithun’s SF office created the new master plan for the site.

News outlets reported that phase two of Hunters View—which marks the completion of the public housing element of the plan—wrapped up in 2017.

Courtesy PTARC.

But Max Barnes, spokesperson for the San Francisco Office of Community Investment and Infrastructure, tells Curbed SF that was a bit premature, as only two-thirds of the project was actually finished at the time and events at the site were arranged by residents rather than the city.

Tuesday marked official completion of phase two of the project, with 71 new units added since 2017.

[Correction: Construction of the additional 71 units also wrapped up in 2017, albeit after the celebration marking nominal completion. The grand opening was nevertheless delayed until 2019 for unspecified reasons, possibly relating to the death of Mayor Ed Lee in late 2017.]

As the city promised, former residents in the housing project may return to claim new homes inside the complex.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported in 2017 that fewer than two-thirds of former Hunters View occupants planned on taking up the offer, with the remaining residents having since relocated to more affordable nearby cities like Vallejo.

(Barnes now tells Curbed SF the figure is about 70 percent.)

Theo Miller, director of HOPE SF (the city’s program to renovate public housing), claimed at the time that “the typical rate of return at rebuilt public housing projects around the country is just 15 percent.”

Miller added that onetime residents who left simply didn’t believe that the city would follow through on its promise not to displace them.

Phase three of Hunters View is set to break ground in 2020.