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First homeless housing hotel gets approval in Crocker-Amazon, but bigger battles loom

First homeless housing hotel gets approval in Crocker-Amazon, but bigger battles loom
Photo: Andrew D. via Yelp
By Joe Kukura - Published on October 06, 2021.

San Francisco’s southernmost hotel will not be a hotel much longer. The Crocker-Amazon’s Mission Inn, some 2000 feet from the Daly City border on Mission Street, is one of the four hotels City Hall proposed to buy for homeless housing. And it became the first to get approved for that purpose at Tuesday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, at a purchase cost of $17.34 million, and with 52 units of housing intended to put a dent in the city’s homelessness problem.

“This is the moral obligation of our time, to move as aggressively as we can to house people that need supportive housing,” said Supervisor Ahsha Safai, whose district contains the Mission Inn. He hailed the move as “taking advantage, in a positive way, of something that COVID has handed to us in the downturn in our real estate market.”

The facility has already been used as transitional housing throughout the pandemic, with several previously homeless veterans housed there through a Swords to Plowshares program. The tenants' rent is highly reduced, though not entirely free, and Safai added that buying these hotels comes at just half the cost of constructing the same type of affordable housing.

He also noted that “A cherry on top, just for cinematic value, Pursuit of Happyness was filmed at this location. Even Hollywood saw the value of using this location to underscore how important it could be in the future for our city.”

There are three other hotels up for approval as homeless housing in the legislative pipeline. The board will vote next week on approving the Eula Hotel at 16th and Mission Streets, already approved in subcommittee with little opposition.

But the others face much tougher prospects. The proposed purchase of the Panoramic apartments at Ninth and Mission Streets generated a ton of neighborhood blowback, which may or may not hinder its subcommittee approval at Wednesday’s Budget and Finance Committee meeting. (Update: It was approved.)

And the proposed city purchase of Japantown’s Kimpton Buchanan Hotel seems all but dead at this point, with even that district's supervisor Dean Preston, normally an ardent backer of supportive housing, calling for other hotels to be purchased in its place.

Time is of the essence in these hotel purchases. The city must buy them by the end of 2021 to receive reimbursement through the state’s Project Homekey program. While they can still apply to receive reimbursement for hotel purchases in 2022, that reimbursement is less of a sure thing next year, and the city could end up absorbing more substantial costs while housing fewer people.

In terms of the Mission Inn, its approval still requires the technicality of a second approval at the board next week, and Mayor Breed’s signature. Both of these are foregone conclusions. The board was unanimous in its approval Tuesday night, and Breed herself proposed the purchase. She is going to sign the legislation, and the city will buy and convert that facility.

So what becomes the southernmost hotel in San Francisco if the Mission Inn is no longer a hotel? That distinction goes to the Mirage Inn & Suites at 2600 Sloat Boulevard, right across from the San Francisco Zoo.