Edwin M. Lee Apartments
Architect: Leddy Maytum Stacy Architects
Owner: Swords to Ploughshares & Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC)
Location: San Francisco, California
Category: Multifamily Housing
Name in honor of the late Edwin M. Lee, the 43rd mayor of San Francisco who adopted the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, this project provides homes for low-income families and veterans in the city's Mission Bay neighborhood. In a city where affordable housing and access to shared community space is exceedingly rare, Edwin M. Lee Apartments boasts nearly 120 units and ground-floor services for residents and the greater community.
The complex is operated by two nonprofit organizations, Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown Community Development Center. It was designed to foster an integrated community while taking a significant step to reduce veteran homelessness in San Francisco. It is the first combined development of its kind in the city and stands as a sustainable and resilient housing model for multigenerational communities.
"The jury loved the kinetic cyanometer facade and the inherent hopefulness it brought to the project's facade, creating a landmark in the community" - Jury comment
The design team carefully balanced the building's civic scale with a sense of home, responding to the dynamic corridor it sits on with a colorful and serrated rainscreen facade. The facade takes its cues from the sky's blue hues, signaling that everyone deserves a dignified home connected to nature. On-site renewable energy, a hallmark of the project and its GreenPoint Rated Platinum certification, is evident in the dramatic solar canopy that flows down the south elevation near the primary entrance.
"The jury loved the kinetic cyanometer facade and the inherent hopefulness it brought to the project's facade, creating a landmark in the community," said the jury. "Allowing the photovoltaic panels to cascade down the south facade does more than add renewable energy capacity; it marks the structure as a sustainability leader."
Inside, the design encompasses many enhanced accessibility features for its older veteran residents. All of the apartments include ample daylight, a variety of views, and fresh air ventilation. When the building opened in February 2020, as COVID-19 emerged and the need for homes was critical, all 62 units reserved for veterans filled quickly. During the pandemic, the building's courtyard has provided vital space for safe socializing and recreation. Many of Swords to Plowshares' programs have been relocated to the area to serve socially distanced groups.
The project was made possible through a public-private partnership and the generosity of several philanthropic partners. It's a fitting testament to Mayor Lee, who was the son of a Korean War veteran and a leader in affordable housing who worked with multiple agencies to broaden access to supportive housing for veterans.