The phrase “I pity the fool” became commonplace as Mr. T burst on the scene with the premiere of hit TV show “The A-Team” in 1983. It was also the year when we learned that “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” as Cyndi Lauper’s infectious anthem climbed the charts while Sally Ride made history as the first American woman in space aboard Space Shuttle Challenger.
In 1983, AND began work on a series of improvements to single-room occupancy (SRO) residences that continues to this day, most notably the Swiss American Hotel in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Tenants of the hotel, living in squalid, unsafe conditions, banded together to call a rent strike, forcing landlords to make needed repairs.
The building was later sold to the Chinatown Neighborhood Improvement Resource Center, today known as Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC). CCDC relocated residents to other locations while a full 'gut' rehab was undertaken of the SRO units.
AND and CCDC used the opportunity to replace interior finishes and make significant architectural improvements, raising quality of life for the hotel’s residents, many of whom were elderly. The reconstruction added community rooms as well as major upgrades to individual units.
Community kitchens were consciously designed by AND to include space for woks, storage for fresh produce and other amenities needed to accommodate the cultural needs of the largely Chinese tenants. On the ground level, CCDC leased storefronts to community-minded businesses, including the Beat Museum.
In recognizing the project with a Certificate of National Merit for Urban Development Excellence, HUD said of AND, “Your innovative project has greatly enhanced the quality of your community’s life. Your strong leadership, vision and public-private partnerships have demonstrated how to use creatively the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program.”
The Swiss American is a model of well-designed and sensitively managed housing in a shared living environment. AND and CCDC continue to work together to create affordable housing for San Francisco’s most vulnerable; revitalize and build healthy, safe and equitable communities for all.