a man in a hard hat examines blueprints
Joel Roos with blueprints for the new construction at San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living (Photo/Gabe Stutman)

Massive renovations at S.F. Campus for Jewish Living nearing the finish line

Joel Roos, tasked with overseeing the largest renovation project in the history of the San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living, paced over a smooth cement floor, in a room with no walls.

“This is the reception area right here,” he said over the sound of a shrieking buzz saw, in an orange hard hat and vest. “A living room is straight ahead, with a beautiful fireplace over there.”

“It’s stunning, really,” he said, conjuring the finished space. “It’s where I’m going to want to be.”

To the untrained eye, the new Frank Residences is still a work in progress. But three years after a ceremonial groundbreaking for the $140 million project, the heavy lifting is done, said Roos, SFCJL’s point-man for supervising construction and the many contractors involved.

The SFCJL anticipates moving people into the studios, one- and two-bedroom units and memory-care wing starting early next year.

J. got a hard-hat tour of the new facility on Sept. 5. During peak hours, about 150 people — laborers, foremen, engineers, electricians, plumbers, painters and the like — are working on-site, Roos said. Cahill Contractors took over the project in September 2018, and since then “they’ve put in an enormous amount of work in a short period of time,” he said.

A draft rendering of the Frank Residences (Photo/Courtesy)
A draft rendering of the Frank Residences (Photo/Courtesy)

Now in its final phase, the five-story residence and community center has materialized in the middle of the 9-acre campus on Silver Avenue. For the first time since its founding in 1891, the nonprofit San Francisco Campus for Jewish Living (formerly the Jewish Home of San Francisco) is expanding from providing skilled nursing care to offering independent and assisted living for adults over 60, one of the biggest growth industries in the senior living market. A community center, called Byer Square, will serve people inside and outside the SFCJL. It will be like a JCC, only “on a smaller scale,” communications director Staci Chang said, with a theater, fitness center with therapy pool, a hair salon and a café.

Named for philanthropist Lynne Frank and her late husband, Dr. Roy M. Frank, the new residences will have the feel of an apartment complex but with added features such as widened hallways, accessible bathrooms and the option of professional assistance as needed. It also has its own snazzy new address: 1 Avalon Ave., with a new street-facing entrance.

“Anybody who is of age and would like to live here can move in,” said Chang. “When you need assistance, we give it to you. When you don’t need it, you live here and enjoy yourself. So there’s a wide spectrum.”

Along that spectrum are adults with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Of the 190 units, 77 are in a specially designed, separate memory-care wing. Rooms are grouped into “neighborhoods,” with a shared family-style kitchen for light cooking, mainly for therapeutic purposes. Meals will be provided in separate dining rooms.

The units are not full apartments but more like hotel suites. “You don’t want them to stay in their rooms,” Chang said. “You want them to be engaged.”

SFCJL leadership was heavily involved in making sure the memory-care unit was state-of-the-art, Chang said, and traveled to Europe and different U.S. cities to study this aspect of care.

Look north into San Francisco from the roof of the Campus from Jewish Living's construction site (Photo/Gabe Stutman)
Look north into San Francisco from the roof of the Campus from Jewish Living’s construction site (Photo/Gabe Stutman)

The independent and assisted-living apartments will start at $5,400 per month, which includes meals, transportation and a number of programs and activities, Chang said. Memory-care units will start at $8,500 per month.

The renovations represent an important new revenue stream for the SFCJL. In the past, the organization relied heavily on government funding sources like Medicare and Medicaid, which cover skilled nursing care. But those sources can be unstable, CEO Daniel Ruth told J. in an interview last year.

“Talk about having all your eggs in one basket,” he said.

In 2013, the organization faced a 30 percent reduction in government health care payments and had to cut $10 million from its operating budget, leading to layoffs, Ruth said. The SFCJL earned $14 million in revenue in 2016, according to the most recent available tax filings.

Going forward, the SFCJL hopes to serve more than 1,300 people per day, including residents throughout the campus, nonresidents in the short-term rehab center, and community members who visit Byer Square. It will also rent out street-front retail space — 6,000 square feet of it — which was a prerogative of city planners, to improve the look and feel of the streetscape outside the campus, Roos said.

“Imagine now,” he said, gesturing toward a large swath of dirt and gravel behind the Frank Residences building that will become a courtyard, “this will all be landscaped, a gorgeous landscape garden right here.”

“When the home was built in 1923, it had kind of an institutional feel. It was fenced off,” he said. “Now it will be plugged in, with a new face for the community. It will have a brand new vibe.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is a J. staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.