Demolition Begins at Sunnydale

Demolition Begins at Sunnydale

This month, wrecking crews began to knock down the worn-out barrack style structures that have been home to Sunnydale residents for over 75 years. These buildings, which were meant to be temporary housing for war workers in the 1940s, have long been in desperate need of replacement. Now, after years of planning and collaboration with community members, neighbors and project partners, these tangible signs of progress are most welcome.

This demolition has been a long time coming. Some residents have been waiting for over 30 years since they were first promised new homes in the 1990s. This first attempt to rebuild the neighborhood was short lived. After two buildings were torn down and replaced, neighbors woke up to find the construction crews had left, never returning to finish the work.  Since then, many people living in Sunnydale had given up hope that their homes would ever be repaired.

Demolition Begins at SunnydaleIn May of 2008, when Mercy Housing first began hosting community gatherings, they were met with justifiable skepticism. People were not able to trust or believe that change was coming at last. Over time, Mercy Housing has built solid relationships in the community and cautious optimism has started to grow. Every week, Sunnydale residents participate in activities with Mercy Housing staff and partners, like maintaining the community gardens, volunteering with the Youth Leadership Initiative, or participating in planning meetings for the revitalized neighborhood.

Before demolition and reconstruction could begin, residents met together and discussed what the new neighborhood should look like. They chose what kinds of amenities they would like to see in the shared spaces and what kinds of resources would help their children grow and thrive. With their advice and support, a plan is now in place to remove all 775 homes and replace them with 969 to 1,006 affordable rental homes. Our general contractor Nibbi/Baines has attained 30% local hires, employing 11 local residents on the initial demolition work.  In addition, they are hiring local subcontractors such as Baseline Transport, LLC, which was hired to remove demolition debris.

This first portion of the demolition will remove 120 homes that are spread out over 5 acres in 16 buildings. The families who used to live in those homes have moved to other vacant units in the neighborhood, or to Mercy Housing apartments in San Francisco. When construction is finished, they have the option to move into these new homes.

Just before demolition began, neighbors gathered together in a small ceremony to mark the end of an era. Pastor Robert Cowan led the event by blessing the site and telling about his childhood in the neighborhood before inviting others to do the same. Residents spoke and made connections with each other, remembering the neighborhood back in the day. They laughed together about the good times and comforted each other over some of the more painful memories.

After the ceremony, people walked up the hill to the existing community center for a planning meeting with the architects.  They shared a meal and collaborated on artwork that will be used to decorate the fences surrounding the worksite. Architects set up displays at each of the tables so that people could choose the materials that will be used to finish the floors, countertops and kitchen cupboards inside the new homes built on the demolition site.

By the end of 2019, demolition of this portion of the neighborhood will be complete and construction started. We hope you join us at the end of 2021 when we welcome residents into their new homes.

To learn more about the work that Mercy Housing is doing in Sunnydale, explore our Sunnydale Magazine.

Read a deep, hopeful, and wonderfully written piece about Shelia Hill, a long-time Mercy Housing resident, inspired by our own Sister Patsy. Shelia navigates many twists and turns of life as she inspires others to get their GED/high school diploma and continue education at Five Keys charter school. Author Elizabeth Weil lives in SF, writer-at-large for NY Times Magazine.