Builder Joey Toboni was swimming in the bay a few years ago when he looked back at Aquatic Park and took in the scene.
Among the walkers and joggers he noticed a class field trip led by a few teachers. There was a home health care aide pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair and a crew of National Park Service workers doing landscape work. He thought about the wide range of jobs that it takes to make a city function — and the wide gap between what those jobs pay and what it costs to live in the city.
“It dawned on me that none of these folks had a path to stay in San Francisco,” he said.
While that revelation was hardly groundbreaking in one of the world’s most expensive cities, for Toboni it become the seed of an idea he couldn’t shake. “In that moment I realized there was nothing preventing me from being audacious and trying to tackle that problem,” he said. “I went home that night and started writing a business plan.”
What Toboni, 37, settled on was an idea maybe as challenging as it was simple: to build workforce housing for the middle class without accepting the sort of public subsidies — tax credits and affordable housing bonds — that finance most of the city’s affordable housing. In bypassing the red tape required for public subsidized housing, he figured he could be nimble and streamlined.
Toboni came up with a name — the Affordability Project — and scoured the city for a site on which to launch the concept. He enlisted fellow city native Tim Szarnicki — they played basketball at St. Ignatius College Preparatory — who had spent seven years in various leadership roles at Immaculate Conception Academy, a low-income Catholic school in the Mission District.
On Thursday the Planning Commission voted 6-1 to support the Affordability Project’s debut offering: a 100 unit rental project at 5250 Third St. in the Bayview District.
Tim Szarnicki (left) and Joey Toboni, who basketball together in high school while growing up in San Francisco, have started a new affordable housing development company that does not take public money.
Lea Suzuki/The Chronicle
On paper the project looks like a typical HOME-SF project — a density bonus program where developers get an extra two floors of heights in exchange for making 30% affordable to a range of low- and middle-income families. What makes the project unusual, however, is that …….