San Francisco’s Worst SRO Renovated To House 130 Homeless Veterans

On any given Friday, around 5:00 p.m., if you take a quick stroll down Kearny Street, on your way to Montgomery BART/Muni Station, you will almost always notice Rickhouse and sometimes even stop for a drink.

How could you resist? Mixologists cater to your every handcrafted demand. The interior of exposed veteransbrick and wood liquor shelves, high enough the bartenders need library sliders, gives the feeling of being inside a whiskey cask. You have a choice: you can stand on the bottom level and listen to the sublime sounds of the blues age back from the dead; or you can grab a loft upstairs with some friends and enjoy a nice conversation while watching the other patrons bustle below. It’s no mystery as to why Rickhouse is considered one of the top ten bars in San Francisco.

So it’s hard to imagine that above this yuppie watering hole is an SRO, considered to be the worst SRO building in the city.

In 2010, BeyondChron reported visiting the SRO, where the reporter encountered enough terrifying evidence to justify the building’s nickname: the “Horror Show SRO.”

According to the article, the building is largely empty, except for the few tenants living on the fourth and fifth floors who have to climb steep flights of stairs. The elevator has not been in operation in almost a decade.

The living quarters are even more frightening. Rats and bedbugs share tenancy with the occupants. The public bathtub is beyond repair, with thick black mold covering the entire tub, the means of which would need to be chipped off with an ice pick. Needless to say, over the years the building has accrued numerous violations with the city and rent board – the landlords were even sued by the City Attorney where they had to pay over $127,000 according to BeyondChron.

However, if you have walked down Kearny St. recently, you may have noticed the large gray plywood protrusion covering half of the bar’s entrance and the entrance to 250 Kearny, the SRO. This is because the property has been sold.

According to SFGate, the property was bought out by Sam Patel and Sam Devdhara and after nearly $10 million in renovations, the soon-to-be state of the art building will be home to 130 homeless veterans.

The Long Road To Veteran Housing At 250 Kearny

The project, known simply as “250 Kearny” is part of the city’s plan to eventually end homelessness for veterans by the end of 2015, a challenged issued to mayors across the U.S. by President Barack Obama. Indeed this is quite a step in the right direction – Mayor Ed Lee said this was the largest number of homeless veterans housed at a single time in San Francisco’s history.

We have previously referenced the most recent homeless count in San Francisco, and that same document showed that out of the almost 6,500 homeless individuals living in San Francisco, more than 700 of them were veterans.

When 250 Kearny was acquired by Patel and Devdhara, it was still in shambles. After contributing millions of their own money, Bevan Dufty, the Mayor’s top homelessness staffer, connected the duo veteransto the city government to turn the building into a new home for homeless vets.

In addition to these private funds, SFGate reported that about 73% of the costs were covered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

This is not the first time Patel and Devdhara have contributed to these types of ventures. Recently, Patel did a major renovation on his 5th Street property and leased it out to the Community Housing Partnership. Years before, he took the Pierre Hotel at 540 Jones, which was at the time subject to a city attorney lawsuit, and upgraded it before leasing it out to the Tenderloin Housing Clinic as part of the Care not Cash program, according to BeyondChron.

The Future of the Project

It’s not set in stone yet as Mayor Lee is scheduled to present the entire lease agreement to the Board of Supervisors at next week’s meeting. If the Board of Supervisors approves the legislation, veterans may be able to move in as early as November 1st of this year.

The area at 250 Kearny is unique for this type of project, as it is not in a lower income area as one may expect. This was not an accident. Lee stated that the size of the building itself provided a rare opportunity to house this many veterans all in one move. The location is ideal because it will give the occupants a chance to thrive downtown, and will hopefully keep them away from things like drugs and alcohol and other burdens of war they may be enduring, most of which are prevalent in lower income neighborhoods throughout the city.

As for who gets to stay in the SRO, according to the Mayor’s office, those who are deemed the most vulnerable, and who have been homeless the longest will be ideal tenants in the project.