Edwin M. Lee Apartments

Architecture Firm: LEDDY MAYTUM STACY Architects, Saida+Sullivan Design Partners

Owner: Chinatown Community Development Center and Swords to Plowshares

Location: San Francisco

Project site: Previously developed land

Building program type(s):  Residential – Multi-Family 5 or more units, Residential – Mid-Rise/High-Rise

Edwin M. Lee Apartments, the first combined homeless veteran and low-income family development in San Francisco, has established a new definition for integrated, equitable, and resilient living. The design balances a civic scale with a feeling of home, responding to the Third Street corridor with a colorful serrated rainscreen façade while offering an oasis-like restorative landscape within. The dramatic solar canopy that cascades to the south entrance is a proud demonstration of low-carbon design.    

Operated by nonprofits Swords to Plowshares and Chinatown Community Development Center, Edwin M. Lee Apartments provides 62 apartments for formerly homeless veterans and 57 apartments for families earning between 50% and 60% AMI. The building provides ground-floor counseling and career services for veteran residents, and Swords to Plowshares operates a kitchen offering free meals in the community room at the center of the building, adjacent to the courtyard garden. The project is named after the late San Francisco mayor, Edwin M. Lee, the son of a veteran who dedicated his career to affordable housing and ending veteran homelessness. The project’s climate-responsive massing and organization allows for families and veterans to form a new community centered on the shared gardens and common areas. The façade design integrates daylight access, views, and opportunities for regenerating an ecology on a previously paved site. The integrated design creates a healthy, energy efficient, resilient, and regenerative complex that provides social, economic, and environmental value to the residents and the greater community.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2018

Year of substantial project completion: 2020

Gross conditioned floor area: 104,210 sq ft

Number of stories: 5

Project climate zone: ASHRAE 3C

Annual hours of operation: 8,760

Site area: 46,050 sq ft

Project site context/setting: Urban

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $59,700,000

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 1,400

Project team

Acoustic Consultant: Papadimos Group

Associate Architect: Saida+Sullivan Design Partners

Building Maintenance: Access Systems & Solutions

Corrosion: JDH Corrosion

Developer: Chinatown Community Development Center  

Co-Developer: Swords to Plowshares  

Engineer - Civil: Luk & Associates

Engineer - Electrical: E Design C

Engineer - Mechanical & Plumbing: Tommy Siu & Associates

Engineer - Structural: KPFF Consulting Engineers  

Fire Protection: Pacific-Allied Fire Protection

General Contractor: Nibbi Brothers

Green Rater/LEED: Association for Energy Affordability

Landscape Architect: GLS Landscape Architecture  

Lighting Consultant: ALD

Waterproofing Consultant: Steelhead Engineers  


Margaret Cavenagh, AIA, Chair, Studio Gang, Chicago

Angela Brooks, FAIA, Brooks + Scarpa, Los Angeles

Nakita Reed, AIA, NOMA, Quinn Evans, Baltimore

Z Smith, FAIA, Eskew Dumez Ripple, New Orleans

Image credits

View down Third Street toward ballpark.

©Bruce Damonte

Detail of integrally colored rainscreen facade.

©Bruce Damonte

Flexible community room where meals are provided to wider veteran community.

©Bruce Damonte

Colorful facade creates a kinetic experience.

©Bruce Damonte

Corten steel surface connected to building structure using “hinge slab” detail.

©Bruce Damonte