Fernando Marti
Neighborhood Design (2004-2006) and Mission Housing Development Corporation (2003-2004)
San Francisco


"This is the challenge: how do we make development issues — what gets built where, who decides and who benefits — real for people? During my Rose Fellowship I had the opportunity to focus on these issues, practicing a community architecture that respects all involved."

A licensed architect, writer and artist, Fernando Martí brought multiple talents to his fellowship with Asian Neighborhood Design (AND). For the Mission Anti-Displacement Coalition (MAC), he designed multi-lingual popular educational tools and developed alternative zoning and housing policies for MAC's People's Plan/Plan Popular. In his role as architect, he also completed the renovation of a 21-unit apartment building in San Francisco’s Chinatown in partnership with the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT) and Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC). This project was SFCLT’s first building and the first project of its kind in San Francisco. It held particular meaning for Fernando, as he was one of the founders of SFCLT. 

Fernando received a joint Master of Architecture and City Planning from UC Berkeley. He has taught design studios at University of San Francisco and at UC Berkeley. Fernando’s myriad contributions also included an award-winning artists’ housing proposal for the Octavia Boulevard San Francisco Prize competition, in collaboration with Rose Fellow Daniel Adams. Today, Fernando Martí is co-director of the Council of Community Housing Organizations (CCHO), a coalition of 23 housing and community development nonprofits, fighting for more just housing and anti-displacement policies in San Francisco. He serves on the board of environmental justice organization PODER and the steering committee for the UrbanIDEA think tank, and is a member of the JustSeeds Artists Cooperative. An immigrant from Ecuador, he has made his home and built community in San Francisco since 1992.

fmarti-columbus-avenue.jpg53 Columbus Avenue

8,500 sq ft gross site area
3 stories + basement
31,717 sq ft gross project area
21 affordable home ownership units
Common residential amenity room (8,152 sq ft)
Non-profit space21 affordable home ownership units
Common residential amenity room (8,152 sq ft)
Non-profit space

Residential Unit Profile:
Located in San Francisco’s Chinatown, the Fong Building at 53 Columbus contains 21 apartments housing 80-plus tenants, primarily elderly Chinese immigrant families. Despite the cracked walls, mold, and dry-rotted windows, the tenants are proud of their homes. When in 1998 a local college bought the building with the intention of demolishing, the tenants organized to defend their rights and fight the eviction. Eventually the college determined that “necessary seismic upgrades” would make building at the site infeasible, and began looking for a buyer. In response the tenants decided to buy the building themselves, but escalating land costs meant they would need help.

In stepped the San Francisco Community Land Trust (SFCLT). Land trusts are nonprofit, democratic, resident-control organizations that own land for use by the community, and, as in the Fong Building case, buy, rehabilitate and build affordable housing to be owned by the tenants themselves. In an agreement with the tenants, SFCLT purchased the building for $1.5 million.

The trust is retaining control of the land under the building, while selling the apartments to the tenants as a cooperative. Resident-owners will own a limited-equity stake and can sell their units, but the resale price is limited so the units can remain affordable in perpetuity. In addition to the mortgage funds, SFCLT has secured a $2 million loan from the city to pay for the seismic upgrades, as well as support from the City’s Lead Program; from a new program to support housing cooperatives; and from the Mayor’s Office of Housing. In addition, tenants have agreed to a five percent rent increase and a $5,000 down payment.

In an interesting twist, Rose Fellow Fernando Martí was among the founding board members of the SFCLT and the Fong Building is now the Land Trust’s first project. Martí, working with his partner organization Asian Neighborhood Design, is overseeing the renovation design, as well as working with SFCLT to identify sources of gap funding. Besides the basic seismic upgrade, the work will involve a new heating system, new kitchens and bathrooms, and the installation of a new lobby and limited-use lift to provide access for elderly residents. An exciting part of the design is closing off the narrow alley in front of the building as a pedestrian shared-street opening onto Columbus Avenue.

1,500,000 Acquisition (land)
2,000,000 Hard (construction)
500,000 Soft (all other)
4,000,000 TOTAL

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