In San Francisco, Maceo May Apartments by Mithun opens its doors to formerly homeless veterans and their families

To say that San Francisco has a housing crisis would be an understatement. The gilded tech capital fails to house thousands of people—7,754 in total according to recent numbers. It is estimated about 600 of those individuals are veterans.

Maceo May Apartments, a new building by Mithun, a Seattle office, recently opened to help buck this trend. The new building on Treasure Island at 55 Cravath Street offers 104 affordable units and one manager’s unit in a six story, 104,500-square-foot building. It was designed for formerly homeless veterans and their families.

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The white facade is amplified by red casings that surround windows. (Bruce Damonte/Courtesy Mithun)

California-based nonprofit Swords to Plowshares, and the Chinatown Community Development Center, alongside the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, worked with One Treasure Island and Treasure Island Development Authority to bring Maceo May Apartments across the finish line. The building itself is named after Maceo May, a Vietnam War veteran who was Swords to Plowshare’s first housing director.

“Maceo May Apartments is a historic step forward for Treasure Island and the city of San Francisco,” said Michael Blecker, Swords to Plowshares’ executive director. “It transforms a former military base into a restorative place for veterans. It is a fitting tribute to its namesake, Swords to Plowshares’ first director of housing, Maceo May, who was a trailblazer for supportive housing.”

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The volume is broken up between a series of townhouses and a mid-rises. (Bruce Damonte/Courtesy Mithun)

The new $55 million building contains 24 studios, 47 one-bedrooms, and 34 two-bedroom units. The structure marks the first residential and first 100-percent affordable development on Treasure Island—a 393-acre landmass between San Francisco and Oakland that city officials hope to transform into a thriving community.

Treasure Island itself is artificial: It was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the early 1930s to help support operations of the Golden Gate Bridge. Later, it hosted pavilions at the 1939–40 World’s Fair. Afterward, a naval base occupied much of Treasure Island, until that was decommissioned in 1994.

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The building contains 24 studios, 47 one-bedrooms, and 34 two-bedroom units. (Bruce Damonte/Courtesy Mithun)

Amid the Bay Area’s housing pandemic, city officials are looking at Treasure and Yerba Buena Islands for room to grow. SOM completed a master plan for Treasure Island in 2011, which features a variety of tall and low-rise buildings.

City officials hope to deliver 8,000 new homes at Treasure Island (2,200 of which will be affordable); and 300 acres of parks, trails, and open space. There will also be new restaurants, shops, public art installations, and event programming. The first of the art installations, a work by Hiroshi Sugimoto that acts as a sundial, completed last summer.

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There are also communal spaces. (Bruce Damonte/Courtesy Mithun)

“Given that Treasure Island will be under construction for a long time, and that we’re housing a population who bears disproportionate health issues such as compromised immune systems and other effects from having endured trauma, designing for good indoor air quality is paramount,” said Hilary Noll, an associate principal at Mithun.

Mithun’s overall design is thoughtful, colorful, and detail oriented. The white facade is amplified by red casings that surround each window. The volume is broken up between a series of townhouses and a mid-rise. This punctuation further embeds the building within its urbanizing landscape.

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Landscaping was also incorporated into the building and site design (Bruce Damonte/Courtesy Mithun)

Moreover, the building itself offers a bevy of shared services. Its communal area contains backup power generators in the case of blackouts—essential for refrigerating medicine for elderly tenants. In between the mid-rise volume and the townhouses, a verdant garden connects residents with one another. The interior units feature modern appliances, and sweeping views out into the Bay Area.

“Having lived on Treasure Island myself, I understand firsthand what this community means for residents already living here,” said San Francisco Mayor London Breed in a statement. “We need to build more housing at different affordability levels in the City, and we need to build them now. The opening of this housing demonstrates the years of hard work by so many people who care deeply about this community and City, and shows us that if we work together, we can come up with bod ideas to create housing and communities for all San Franciscans,” Breed continued.

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