SHARP (the Sunset Heights Association of Responsible People) was founded as the Sunset Heights Improvement Club in 1910, according to a plaque in our archives. The San Francisco Call and other newspapers of the time refer to The Sunset Heights Improvement Club as far back as 1897. SHARP adopted its current name and incorporated under it in 1976.
The founding members had the foresight to realize the value of owning their headquarters. Around 1910, they bought the lot on which our building stands today. A one-story building, a “shed,” stood on that site. We don’t know whether the club erected that building or whether it was already there when the club bought the property.
In 1951, the club acquired the adjacent south lot and a one-story auto repair shop there. Eventually two passage doors were cut into the interior sidewalls to make the two buildings into one. The facade was modified so that the premises looked like one 50-foot-wide building from across the street, although the combined structure occupied two lots.
By the mid 1990s, with the cost of maintaining the old structure growing each year, we decided that it would be better to demolish the building and replace it rather than to continue to patch it. After many hours of discussion and planning by the Board and membership, we adopted a plan for a 50-foot-wide, four-story building with eight two-bedroom apartments for senior citizens, a two-car garage, and a complex of rooms for community use on the grade level. The childcare center that had been our tenant for 20+ years was eager to return as the full-time tenant in the new building.
Around 2004, SHARP received unanimous approval for the plan from the City Planning Commission. But to our great dismay and frustration, banks would not loan us the million dollars we needed to erect the new building, even though we owned the land free of any debt and some Board members offered to personally guarantee repayment of a construction loan. We were also unable to secure any loans or loan guarantees from the federal, state, or city governments, as they deemed our project too small to fit into any loan guarantee programs. Faced with no better alternative, we reluctantly decided to sell the south lot and create a plan for what would be our new building.
It still wasn’t easy. Most banks would not talk to us, finding community organizations such as ours too risky. Oceanic Bank came to our rescue, extending a loan to fund the construction costs that exceeded what we realized from the sale of the south lot, $690,000.
Our old building was demolished in 2008, and the new one was dedicated on August 30, 2010 (see the construction photos). Our new building resembles many of the other two-unit buildings in the area with small “penthouses.” The room on the ground floor is SHARP’s meeting space. Special thanks go to our contractors: Mr. Kieran Keaney, who built the structure, and Mr. Ze Sheng Liao, who did the interiors.