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Rich Sorro Commons — a trail-blazing affordable housing site and neighborhood keystone


150 Berry St, San Francisco, CA 94107

Residential Population
Families and people with AIDS/HIV

Number of Units

Property Management

Caritas Property Management


Rich Sorro Commons, the first affordable family housing development in the Mission Bay neighborhood, opened July 2002. The $21-million construction took only 18 months. The goal: to deliver an attractive and well-planned building that blends in context with the neighborhood of market-rate and high-end housing anchored by Oracle Park.

Rich Sorro Commons was designed by Paulett Taggart Architects in association with SMWM Architecture (Linda Sobuta, principal — now Perkins & Will) and built by Nibbi Brothers General Contractors.

The 158,000-square-foot, four-story Type V wood frame structure over a concrete podium contains 100 rental units, an 85-car parking garage, ground floor retail/commercial space, a childcare center, and management offices. The property contains 240 bedrooms and based on typical apartment occupancy limits, Rich Sorro Commons is home to as many as 472 persons when fully occupied.

Design features

Rich Sorro Commons features a higher-than-usual degree of design, innovation, and high-end finish work for affordable housing. At 168 feet long, the building occupies one-half of a city block, formerly a parking lot. The entrances on both King and Berry Streets help integrate the building into the surrounding streets and neighborhood.

The Rich Sorro Commons courtyard space is landscaped, with trees planted in raised beds and a small play area. Photo: Nibbi Bros.

The amount of air and light in the building is maximized to the fullest. The design is a cross-section of stacked townhouses on the Berry Street side, eliminating the need for dark corridors, and had two-bedroom apartments on the first level open out onto the garden entrance, with planter boxes positioned to provide privacy.

The three- and four-bedroom duplexes on the top-floor create badly needed space for families. Each living room in the duplexes has a floor-to-ceiling glass window, which alternates with a bedroom featuring a vertical window set in brick. The tall windows and the double-height entranceways echo the vertical vibe of most San Francisco blocks. Each lobby is a soaring space, two stories high, with windows providing glimpses into the garden level up above.

Unique features of the complex: 10,000 sq.ft. of common open space, extensive landscaping in the central garden areas, built-in play structures, and planting areas set aside for vegetable gardens for the residents.

The courtyard space is landscaped, with trees planted in raised beds and a small play area. A community center is housed in a single-story building in the garden area. The center has large doors that open for indoor/outdoor activities, a kitchenette and a classroom/computer center.

The residents of Rich Sorro Commons have easy access to public transit via the CalTrain San Francisco Station at nearby 4th and King Street Station. Also, MUNI bus routes and the 3rd Street Light Rail traverse the immediate area.

Green Building features

Solar hot water, minimal and drought tolerant landscaping, paints and stains with low volatile organic compounds (VOC).

Commercial spaces

There is 10,000 sq.ft. of commercial space along the King St. side of the structure. To date, these spaces are occupied by a diverse mix of retail operations enjoying brisk business and making outstanding contributions to the fabric of the community. The market-rate leases fund resident services in the building, such as the Rich Sorro After-School Program, operated in partnership with the YMCA.

A historic namesake

“Rich Sorro was a leader in the Mission Coalition Organization — an important organization in the history of the Mission neighborhood and the city. The Mission Coalition Organization grew out of the Mission Council on Redevelopment, formed in 1965 to either control or stop a plan to make San Francisco’s Mission District an urban renewal area. San Francisco’s low-income communities had already experienced the bulldozer approach of federally-funded urban renewal and had learned that early community action was the only way to halt the bulldozers.”

— by Mike Miller, excerpted from “People Power In San Francisco: The Mission Coalition”.

Funding programs

Rich Sorro Commons was developed using and operates with Federal housing financing. The property utilizes the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Federal housing program to make rent affordable to lower income tenants. This program incentivizes investors to inject capital into rental apartments for lower income Americans. The property, at the time of the tax credit allocation, was located in a Difficult Development Area qualifying it for additional tax credit financing.

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