Developer wants to build 65 affordable housing units underground in San Francisco's Mission District

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The housing crisis is a major challenge anywhere you live in the Bay Area, especially in San Francisco.

"How do we fix this crisis? One of the things is that we need to put massive amounts of public investments into affordable housing," said Fernando Marti, co-director for the Council of Community Housing Organizations.

A Kansas based developer says he has an idea for a new apartment complex on 15th Street and Van Ness Avenue in the Mission.

Chris Elsey says his company's project will include, 219 market-rate housing units, along with 154 of those being above ground micro-units. However, here's the catch, 65 affordable housing units will be underground.

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"What would you rather have? What's the more pressing concern? A place for people to sleep or a place to park your bike?" said Elsey.

Elsey wants to use the basement of the building to create sleeping pods. Each will cost between $1,000 to $1,375. But some in the neighborhood don't see this as the solution to the housing crisis.

"That's affordable? That doesn't sound affordable to me. That sounds terrible. The last place where I lived didn't have much natural light and it was looking at a wall and it was very depressing. Big reason why I moved," said Mission District resident Alisha Foster.

On Dec. 30, the San Francisco Planning Department sent back the plans to the developer stating:

"Habitable rooms (excluding kitchens, home offices and media rooms) within a dwelling unit or congregate residence shall be provided with natural light by means of exterior glazed openings."

Elsey says he fixed that recommendation by adding a courtyard where natural light will hit the pods, but some see a bigger issue.

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"Part of the problem is creating what use to be called a poor door where you would have one door for the poor people and one door for the rich people and I think that's what's happening here," said Marti.

"They are getting less but they're paying less. There paying like $1,000 instead of $3,000. So that's the question. Hey are you willing to sacrifice some of your privacy to live in a congregate living arrangement," said Elsey.

He says his project won't break ground until possibly two years from now.

Meanwhile, he's in communication with local housing activist and says he's listening to their concerns.

ABC7 News contacted the planning department for comment and haven't heard back.

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