“The solution to homelessness is a home,” says David Schnur, director of housing development for the San Francisco–based nonprofit Community Housing Partnership (CHP), while sitting in the courtyard of the new Richardson apartments. “This is not transitional housing—it is permanent. As long as someone pays their rent and follows our basic house rules, they can stay here for life.”

Designed by local firm David Baker + Partners, the Richardson was developed in collaboration with another nonprofit—Mercy Housing—but is owned and managed by CHP. It provides 120 300-square-foot studio apartments as well as a medical clinic and psychological counseling services for the formerly homeless and for those in danger of becoming homeless.

The five-story, U-shaped building hosts glass-fronted retail spaces at the corner and along one street edge. Its massing is carefully controlled by shifts in surface and materials on the façade, moving from zinc cladding with recycled wood insets, to simply detailed white stucco, to a carefully calibrated chartreuse paint. “We expected the zinc piece to get value-engineered out,” says project architect Amit Price Patel, “but the slow economy worked in our favor. We got to keep it along with a lot of other more refined and durable materials and surfaces.”

And durability is key. Behind its gracious urban façade, the building houses a community that can be rough on a building: Many residents have physical or psychological disabilities, while others have been on the street so long that they have forgotten how to care for a permanent home. “As the owners of our buildings, we prefer to upgrade materials to maximize life-cycle and maintenance costs,” Schnur says. “A well-designed and maintained building also adds dignity to the lives of our residents.”

Security is necessary, but is not overbearing. Discreetly placed cameras scan the exterior of the building. No resident has a key to the front door. Instead, they are buzzed into a secure lobby by the front desk—staffed 24 hours a day by trained personnel—before being admitted to the rest of the facility. But nothing about the entry sequence feels institutional: the custom-designed front desk and mailboxes would not be out of place in a high-end loft building. Generous windows connect the lobby with an adjacent lounge, fostering community while allowing oversight.

A landscaped central courtyard features custom-designed tables and seating, and allows residents to gather outside, away from the street. Foldable glass walls in the ground-floor multipurpose room open onto the courtyard. On the other side, the clinic takes advantage of the daylight but still maintains privacy with a patterned glass wall. Anchoring one end of the courtyard is an open-air staircase. “I like to put these exterior stairs in,” design principal David Baker, FAIA, says. “They … foster chance encounters between residents.”

On the four apartment floors, what might have been drab, double-loaded corridors instead are deftly designed with brightly painted light coves carved into the ceiling at the unit doors. The efficiently laid-out apartments come with durable custom furniture and basic kitchen equipment.

The Richardson sits just two blocks from the gilded dome of San Francisco City Hall. The project initially provoked a NIMBY response from residents of the rebounding neighborhood, necessitating extensive work with various community groups to assuage concerns. The city, however, was a huge advocate for the project from the beginning. The site was granted to the developers by the Redevelopment Agency, and the city waived parking-space requirements.

The Richardson cost $26.8 million to build, and that price tag seems high with rents set at just 30 to 50 percent of the income of each resident. Schnur maintains that the quality of the architecture was eminently important in winning over the neighbors. In addition, he says, “Our tenants feel good living in good architecture. They are motivated to keep their lives together so they can stay.” And the Richardson will save the city money as well. Dr. Joshua Bamberger, medical director of the San Francisco Department of Public Health ran the numbers using records for the 120 Richardson residents. Last year, they used $2.4 million in city and other services. With the on-site clinic alone, it is expected that these costs will be drastically reduced. Bamberger looks forward to doing the math again next year, and in so doing, prove the value of housing the homeless.

Project Credits

Project Drs. Julian and Raye Richardson Apartments, San Francisco
Client Community Housing Partnership, Mercy Housing California
Architect and Interior Designer David Baker + Partners, San Francisco—David Baker, FAIA (design principal); Peter MacKenzie, AIA (principal-in-charge); Amit C. Price Patel, AIA (project architect); Brit Epperson, Amanda Loper, AIA, Sara Mae Martens, Angela Thomson, John Thompson, AIA
M/P Engineer Tommy Siu and Associates Mechanical Engineers
Electrical Engineer FW Associates
Structural Engineer Structural Design Engineers
Civil Engineer Sandis
General Contractor Cahill Contractors
Landscape Architect Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture
Lighting Designer Horton Lees Brogden
Affiliated Government Agency San Francisco Redevelopment Agency
Owners’ Representative Design Studios Gonzalo Castro
Associate Architect Baker Vilar Architects
Security Systems Teletech Security
Solar Sun, Light and Power
Interiors Furnishings and Equipment Fee Munson Ebert (common spaces); Market Design (residential units)
Public Art Evelyn Reyes/Creativity Explored
Clinic/Health Services UCSF Citywide Case Management Program; San Francisco Department of Public Health
Work Training Toolworks
Acoustical Engineer Wilson Ihrig & Associates
Waterproofing Consultant Gale Associates
Size 65,419 square feet
Cost $26.86 million (construction)

Materials and Sources

Acoustical System Tectum tectum.com
Adhesives, Coatings, and Sealants BASF basf.com; DAP Products dap.com; Dow Corning Corp. dowcorning.com; DuPont www2.dupont.com; General Electric ge.com; Hilti hilti.com/holcom; RD Taylor and Co. rdtaylor.co.uk; Sherwin-Williams Co. sherwin-williams.com; Sika Group sika.com; SurTec surtec.com; 3M 3m.com; USG Co. usg.com
Appliances Asko Appliances askousa.com; Broan broan.com; General Electric ge.com; MicroFridge microfridge.com; Summit Appliance Division summitappliance.com; Whirlpool Corp. whirlpool.com
Casework Armstrong armstrong.com; Glacier DRS glacierdrs.com; Pacassa Studios
Carpet Bigelow bigelowcommercial.com; Mannington Mills mannington.com; Mohawk Carpet mohawkgroup.com
Ceilings Dietrich Metal Framing dietrichindustries.com/products; Georgia-Pacific Gypsum gp.com/gypsum
BASF basf.com; Hanson, part of HeidelbergCement heidelbergcement.com; Headwaters Construction Materials headwaterscm.com; U.S. Concrete us-concrete.com; West Coast Aggregates wcagg.com;
Exterior Wall Systems Fortifiber Building Systems Group fortifiber.com; Fry Reglet fryreglet.com; Georgia-Pacific gp.com; Stockton Products stocktonproducts.com; Sto Corp. stocorp.com; Structa Wire Corp. structawire.com; Western Metal Decorating & Finishing western-metal.com; VaproShield vaproshield.com; Vycor by Grace Construction Products www.na.graceconstruction.com
Fabrics and Finishes
Evan Shively; Smith & Fong Co. plyboo.com
Flooring Daltile daltile.com; Dex-O-Tex by Crossfield Products Corp. dex-o-tex.com; Forbo forbo.com
Baltix Sustainable Furniture baltix.com; Emeco emeco.net; Mueller Nicholls mnbuild.com; Ohio Design ohiodesign.com; Pacassa Studios; Steelcase steelcase.com
GlassImaging Sciences International imagingsciences.com; PPG ppg.com; Safti First Fire Rated Glazing Solutions safti.com; Technical Glass Products fireglass.com
Gypsum Georgia-Pacific Gypsum gp.com/gypsum
Danfoss North America danfoss.com; FAMCO famcomfg.com; Greenheck Fan Corp. greenheck.com; Laars Heating Systems Co. laars.comModine Mfg. Co. www.modine.com; Runtal North America runtalnorthamerica.com; Twin City Fan & Blower tcf.com; United Enertech unitedenertech.com; US Aire metalindustriesinc.com/usaire
Insulation Johns Manville jm.com; Monoglass monoglass.com
Lighting Control Systems Pass & Seymour by Legrand legrand.us/passandseymour.aspx; Wattstopper wattstopper.com
Lighting Birchwood Lighting birchwoodlighting.com; B-K Lighting bklighting.com; Brownlee Lighting brownlee.com; Cooper Lighting iO cooperindustries.com; Dasal Industries dasalindustries.com; Evergreen Lighting evergreenlighting.com; HK Lighting Group hklightinggroup.com; Holophane holophane.com; Lithonia Lighting lithonia.com; National Specialty Lighting nslusa.com; Philips Day-Brite daybrite.com; Prudential Ltg. prulite.com; Sea Gull Lighting Products seagulllighting.com; Spectrum Lighting speclight.com; W.F. Harris Lighting wfharris.com
Masonry and Stone
L.M. Scofield Co. scofield.com; Stepstone stepstoneinc.com
Metal Rheinzink rheinzink.com
Millwork Glacier DRS glacierdrs.com
Paints and Finishes Sherwin-Williams Co. sherwin-williams.com
Photovoltaics or Other Renewables Heliodyne heliodyne.com; Roy E. Hanson Jr Mfg. hansontank.us; Sharp Mfg. Co. sharpmanufacturing.co.uk
Plumbing and Water System American Standard americanstandard-us.com; Delta Faucet Co. deltafaucet.ca; Elkay Mfg. Co. elkay.com; Florestone florestone.com; Jay R. Smith Mfg. Co. jrsmith.com; Laars Heating Systems Co. laars.com
American Hydrotech hydrotechusa.com; Johns Manville jm.com; Zurn Industries zurn.com
Eggli Landscape Contractors egglilandscape.com; Green Waste Recycle Yard/Custom Metal Manufacturing www.greenwasterecycleyard.com; Modern Outdoor modernoutdoor.com
Site and Landscape Products
Concreteworks concreteworks.com; Creative Pipe creativepipe.com; Forms+Surfaces forms-surfaces.com; Rasmussen Iron Works rasmussen.biz
Walls Wilson Partitions wilsonpart.com
Wayfinding Garnett Sign Studio garnettsign.com
Windows, Curtainwalls, and Doors
Arcadia Architectural Products arcadiaproducts.com; Door Components doorcomponents.com; NanaWall Systems nanawall.com; Oregon Doors oregondoor.com; Safti First Fire-Rated Glazing Solutions safti.com; U.S. Aluminum www.usalum.com

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