Bay Area/ San Francisco/ Real Estate & Development
Published on September 01, 2021
Affordable housing battle brews in Diamond Heights, as a nonprofit looks to sell landImage: Google Street View

For a neighborhood with such spectacular views, Diamond Heights is surprisingly full of affordable housing. Nearly 25% of that neighborhood’s housing is affordable stock. That number could tick down, though, as a housing nonprofit is trying to sell the unused patch of land seen above that they own.

But the neighborhood is up in arms, as the Chronicle reports the nonprofit wants to sell the land to a developer that plans to build some pretty pricey market-rate housing. The nonprofit Cesar Chavez Foundation has an interested buyer, Emerald Fund, that would build 24 townhomes — valued at $3 million a pop.

The outrage comes from the fact that the Cesar Chavez Foundation used public money to buy the property, in the form of tax-exempt affordable housing bonds provided by the state, and is now trying to sell that very land to a developer. An opposed resident group called 1900 Diamond for All argues that this “seems tantamount to theft of public funds and an illegal use of property designated for affordable housing.”

Emerald Fund principal Marc Babsin argues the city needs more three-and four-room homes. He told the Chronicle the project “strongly aligns with San Francisco’s goal of creating family housing near transit, shopping and parks. We have these wonderful classic San Francisco neighborhoods that haven’t built a single project with over 20 units in 40 years. This is where we should be building housing.”

There, however, a clause in Cesar Chavez Foundation’s deed saying the property must remain as affordable housing for 55 years. The foundation argues that the clause no longer applies after they subdivided the property in 2019. The city attorney is evaluating that deed restriction, and that decision will likely determine the course of this property.