Valencia Gardens — a legacy affordable housing site revitalized with new construction
390 Valencia St, San Francisco, CA 94103
Families and Seniors
Number of Units
The 16-building Valencia Gardens complex is on a five-acre site between Valencia, Guerrero, and 15th Streets in San Francisco’s Inner Mission District. Completed in September 2006, the 300,000 square foot development consists of 218 family flats and town house apartments of 1, 2, 3, and 4 bedrooms and 42 one bedroom senior apartments. There is a private drive (Rosa Parks Lane) that dissects the property, connecting Valencia Street to Guerrero Street. Valencia Gardens was designed by Van Meter Williams Pollock architects and built by Nibbi Brothers General Contractors.
The development is professionally managed by The John Stewart Company, the largest manager of affordable housing in California with a significant portfolio of HUD-financed projects, including three major public housing redevelopment projects in San Francisco.
All family units have individual front doors facing the street and secure backyards or upper rear decks. The design provides individual “ownership” of each home’s space. The site includes a community center with property management offices, tenant association offices, a multi-purpose room, a day care center and a learning center. The non-institutional setting is similar to the housing stock found in the rest of the neighborhood. Urban art is incorporated into the public spaces.
The residents of Valencia Gardens are stabilized and empowered by a wide range of services, such as:
Weekly food pantries
Monthly USDA Food Box delivery
Community Access Ticket Services (CATS)
Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP)
Monthly informational community meetings
Weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings
Community resource center
Monthly wellness seminars
In 2011, Valencia Gardens became one of three Mission Housing properties to align with San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee’s Green Retrofit Initiative. Water–saving kitchen and bathroom fixtures were installed. The hardware was donated by the Alcanzando Suenos con Moen program of Moen Incorporated.
In 2012, Mission Housing brought in Ecoplexus — a leader in the development, design, construction, and financing of solar power projects — to make Valencia Gardens Apartments one of the largest residential multi-tenant solar projects in the U.S. The 700KW undertaking covers 19 buildings with solar panels and high efficiency solar inverters.
As of this writing, the solar panel array on Valencia Gardens is the second-highest concentration of panels in one San Francisco location.
Valencia Gardens won the 2008 AIA/HUD Housing & Community Design Award, Creating Community Connection Award for incorporating housing within other community amenities. Other recognition includes:
San Francisco Business Times, Affordable Housing Project of the Year, 2007
Golden Nugget Award of Merit, Best Affordable Project—30 du/Acre or more, 2007
AIA San Francisco Urban Design Special Commendation Award, 2007
The original 246 unit Valencia Gardens was built in 1943 under the U.S. Housing Authority’s slum clearance program. This was only the fourth housing development by the Housing Authority of the City and County of San Francisco (SFHA). After 60 years, age-related problems plagued the site: deteriorated/obsolete systems for sewage, plumbing, and electrical. Dysfunctional unit designs. Deteriorated landscaping. Lack of usable community facilities. Rodent infestation. Inoperable fire ladders. Site security was problematic and did not meet HOPE VI Revitalization grant or SFHA design goals of providing defensible, safe spaces.
In 1999, after Mission Housing Development Corporation was awarded the contract to revitalize Valencia Gardens, workshops and task force meetings allowed occupants and neighborhood stakeholders such as businesses, service providers, and residential neighbors to weigh-in on the new design. The old site was demolished and new construction completed in 33 months.
The new Valencia Gardens contributed to re-establishing Valencia Street as a retail corridor, reviving the Mission District. Valencia Gardens is a shining example of the impact that well-managed affordable housing can have on communities all over San Francisco.
The Valencia Gardens Oral History Project
In the spring of 1996, the San Francisco Chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIASF), the San Francisco Housing Authority and the Valencia Gardens Resident Council created a partnership to work toward the rehabilitation of Valencia Gardens.
A unique resident participation effort was devised. The ORAL HISTORY PROJECT involved numerous Valencia Gardens residents. The goal: To convey information about residents to the people who would be working on the rehabilitation of Valencia Gardens. The pilot project completed a seven minute tape of interviews with 12 Valencia Gardens residents. This tape helped secure funding of a full scale oral history project.
The results of the one year oral history project were displayed at Valencia Gardens. The work helped convince the San Francisco Housing Authority to apply for the $23.2 million Hope VI Grant which funded the rehabilitation of Valencia Gardens.
The Valencia Gardens site – a storied piece of San Francisco history
The five-acre Valencia Gardens site has been an outlier of the surrounding neighborhood for centuries.
Lake, farm land, vegetable garden, baseball field. The history and transformation of the site into one of the first housing developments in San Francisco is explored in a white paper called “Valencia Gardens, An Unsettled Community within an Architectural Legacy.”
Benny Bufano sculptures
The granite-on-concrete sculptures in the lobby and the courtyard of Valencia Gardens are works by Beniamino “Bene” (Benny) Bufano, the “patron saint” of San Francisco sculptors.
Bufano created many pieces around San Francisco while contracted by the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression. Eight Bufano sculptures were added to Valencia Gardens shortly after construction was completed in 1943. The collection was relocated during the rebuild of the property, then returned.
The Valencia Gardens Bufano sculptures are part of the City and County of San Francisco Civic Art Collection.