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Photo © Bruce Damonte
The zinc-and-wood detailing on the corner of the facade gives the building some flair.


Richardson Apartments

Second Chances: A mixed-use facility provides housing and social services for the formerly homeless.

By Alanna Malone
November 2012
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Location San Francisco (Mission Creek Watershed)

Gross area 65,419 ft2 (6,077 m2)

Cost $26.8 million

Program Studio apartments, social services, and retail


Metal/glass curtain wall NanaWall

Doors Oregon Door

Green roof American Hydrotech

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Richardson Apartments
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Video tour of the Drs. Julian & Raye Richardson Apartments, a housing development by Community Housing Partnership located in San Francisco.

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Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture designed the courtyard and roof deck—both accessible to residents—with permeable paving and several kinds of gardens. The roof deck offers gathering spaces among roof vents screened with composite boards of recycled wood and plastic (for safety). The courtyard below frames an existing mural by well-known artist Josef Norris—a paint-and-glass mosaic of dancers on an adjacent performing-arts garage. The other end of the courtyard has a grand staircase that connects the first- through fifth-floor levels, reducing reliance on the elevator. A large program room on the ground floor opens up to the outdoor space, while the clinic of the courtyard has a custom graphic printed on the glass to provide privacy for clients receiving counseling.

Though some critics may balk at the $26.8 million cost of the facility, Patel says that permanent housing (versus hospitals and other city services) results in an annual cost reduction ranging from $9,000 to $20,000 per individual, potentially saving the city millions every year. He explains that San Francisco has found this to be a good model to reduce costs to the city: "It's the cheapest and best way to help these folks."

Both Baker and Patel believe the Richardson Apartments are the "poster child" for social housing, and many others seem to agree—the requests for tours have been overwhelming, and the mixed-use SRO building has won many accolades, including a 2012 AIA/HUD Secretary's Award. "This project represents the city," Patel proudly proclaims.

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