In 2013 Forge began to explore alternative approaches to building housing in San Francisco given the spiraling cost of development in the City. In reviewing the many different ways to make development more efficient (prefabrication, affordability by design, greater lot coverage, etc.) Forge found an underutilized planning code designation: Group Occupancy
What is Group Occupancy?
The Group Occupancy designation allows for greater flexibility and innovation in development by relaxing some of the building code restrictions usually imposed. Forge saw an opportunity to use this innovative Group Occupancy designation as a springboard to create and develop affordable Essential housing for the middle income consumer in the City of San Francisco who could no longer afford to live there.
Research showed that over the past decade and a half, the City had created only~1,500 units of middle income housing. Forge saw a real need and opportunity to service this “missing middle”. Forge then embarked on a multi-year development and outreach program to educate ourselves as well as the stakeholders on how Group Occupancy could be used to help spur the development cycle, foster housing development, and allow for the creation of true Essential Housing for the middle income workforce of San Francisco.
City Government Outreach
Forge took its outreach directly to the policy and decisions makers in theCity government and the City Permitting and Entitlement agencies (the Planning Department and DBI). Over the course of the last 9 years, Forge has had ongoing meetings with the Planning Department staff and director to craft a project that fit our innovative Group Occupancy development model. That project became our reference model for our 361 Turk and 145 Leavenworth building projects.
The Planning Department, Department of Building Inspections, Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, the Mayor’s Office of Housing, and the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development were all instrumental in crafting changes to our development model to better suit the City and its goals for housing stock and production.Their contribution and support has proven invaluable.
With a development model in hand, Forge began extending its outreach to all of the community stakeholders for their input and feedback. Community, its lifestyle and wellness in all its projects has always been a cornerstone of Forge’s corporate mission from its founding.
Over the past 9 years Forge met with community stakeholders including TNDC, THC, Faithful Fools, Central City SRO Collaborative, Alliance for a Better District 6, the Tenderloin Peoples Congress, Glide, Churches in the neighborhood, Code Tenderloin, and many more. With valuable feedback and insights, Forge was able to craft its building projects to better serve the community in which it builds.
Moreover, as a further commitment to outreach, Forge has actively started to engage our immediately adjacent neighbors at the Curry Senior Center, Oasis Inn, the Mosser Towers, Page Hotel, and Kelley Cullen Community Center.
While each of these neighbors had different concerns, Forge was able to incorporate their feedback into our project to minimize the impact the development would have on the quality of life of their residents. Forge has established very amicable relations with all of its neighbors resulting in agreements of community and neighboring benefits with most of them. Forge’s successful outreach has earned them the unanimous support of these neighboring entities for its project.
In addition to community stakeholders and neighbors, Forge talked to more regionally focused groups to promote its concept of an innovative Essential Housing development for the middle income consumer in downtown San Francisco. Groups like SFHAC, YIMBY, CARLA, and all their affiliates were excited to hear Forge’s plans and how they could help be apart of it. Their support and feedback further helped reinforced in our minds that our revolutionary and progressive approach to middle income housing was the right one. Forge has partnered with the Architectural Foundation of San Francisco to support their programs for high school students on an ongoing basis. We also hosted a design competition in conjunction with the Ruth Asawa School of the Arts in which the students designed the facades of the two projects at 361 Turk Street and 145 Leavenworth Street. We chose two winners who will be working with our team to implement their vision and design on the two buildings,which are currently under construction.
"Missing Middle" Outreach
The people who need to live in San Francisco can’t afford to live there. Since the Forge project is aimed directly at alleviating the housing shortage among the middle-income consumer, Forge reached out to the Police Union, Firefighters Union, Teachers Union, and Boys and Girls Clubs of San Francisco to gauge their interest in such a project.
Forge’s outreach confirmed that they are the most adversely effected by the lack of middle income housing in San Francisco.We heard multiple stories of police officers and teachers with multi-hour commutes just to get to their job in the City and the impact on the quality of life that brings with it.
The Forge Commitment
Forge is committed to use Group Occupancy as an impetus to change the development model in San Francisco from luxury or low income housing to one that targets the middle-income consumer. A group that is hardly ever targeted in San Francisco. They are the “Missing Middle”.
As part of Forge’s commitment to this middle-income segment, Forge,and its partner, Bridge Investment Group,has voluntarily elected to restrict 51% of the units in two of our active projects to 80% AMI and below. This was supported by Forge’s financial partner on the project. This isa HUGE win for workforce housing and the Forge model in the City of San Francisco.
The reference model was finally approved with support from City government staff, the Community, and its Neighbors. Forge has begun the task of delivering what we had promised to all stakeholders in the City.
This is only the beginning.
The outreach with all of the stakeholders, policy makers, community advocates, department staff, and the Mayors Office continues as new building projects and opportunities from Forge develop. It is Forge’s hope that it can substantively effect a change in focus and in the amount of Essential middle income housing in the City of San Francisco. Forge is underway with three housing projects in the Tenderloin neighborhood that will add 500+ units of critically needed housing. The first two buildings anticipated to open in Spring 2022.