Mayor London Breed Celebrates Completed Rehabilitation of Two Historic Residential Hotels in San Francisco's Tenderloin

The Ambassador and Ritz hotels offer 224 fully renovated permanent homes with wraparound services for low-income and formerly homeless residents
April 02, 2024

San Francisco, CA — Today, Mayor London N. Breed joined City officials, community leaders, and housing advocates to celebrate the rehabilitation and re-opening of the Ambassador Hotel and Ritz Hotel, two historic residential hotels serving more than 220 low-income and homeless individuals, including those living with chronic health concerns. Located in the heart of the Tenderloin, both properties have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places - Uptown Tenderloin Historic District since 2009. 

“In order to deliver critically needed housing for our most vulnerable populations, we need to be a City of yes; we can’t do the same things we have been doing for decades,” said Mayor Breed. “The renovation of the Ambassador and Ritz hotels is a very-welcomed milestone as we work to serve low-income and homeless individuals who are in desperate need of a place to call home. I want to thank TNDC and our local partners for helping us preserve these two historic buildings as we write the next chapter of our City’s work to provide affordable housing for our residents and workers.”  

The renovated Ambassador and Ritz hotels are two of a number of new and improved affordable housing developments in the Tenderloin. Since 2018, the City has completed and/or renovated approximately 1,000 affordable homes in the neighborhood, with an additional 269 affordable homes currently under construction or renovation across four properties.  

The Ambassador Hotel 

Built in 1917, the Ambassador Hotel was established in the early 1920s as a residential hotel offering affordable lodging. At the onset of the AIDS crisis, Hank Wilson, a longtime housing and AIDS activist who managed the residential hotel, opened its doors to low-income people living with AIDS. The building effectively functioned as an emergency shelter from the mid-1980s to at least 1996, pioneering a model of treatment that brought AIDS services to the building rather than requiring residents to travel to health clinics.  

The Ambassador Hotel was acquired in 1999 by Tenderloin Neighborhood Development Corporation (TNDC), a non-profit developer that has built and managed more than 44 buildings located in the Tenderloin and across seven other San Francisco neighborhoods. This is the second major renovation the organization has performed on the Ambassador Hotel, after the initial renovation was completed in 2002 when TNDC acquired the property. This recent renovation, completed in 2023, addressed essential seismic upgrades and the conversion of 14 units to 100% ADA accessible apartments. Additional improvements included new interior finishes, electrical updates, modernized elevators, lobby remodel, new roof, and updates to both Wi-Fi and security systems. Residents benefit from on-site resident services and support networks, including social services provided by TNDC, SRO units with private baths, community kitchens, and laundry rooms.  

The Ritz Hotel  

Build in 1910, the Ritz was acquired in November 1991 by a non-profit corporation formed by TNDC and Chinese Community Housing Corporation. TNDC oversaw the renovation and manages the 100% Section 8 building, which is home to 90 adults with mental or physical disabilities.   

This Beaux-Arts era building underwent a seismic retrofit and comprehensive general rehabilitation in 1993 to address years of deferred maintenance under the previous ownership. This new phase of rehab projects involved $16 million to   significantly upgrade the hotel’s seismic and structural resilience, while also rehabbing unit interiors, upgrading the heating system, adding more community spaces including a laundry room, and bringing new fixtures, paint, and finishes throughout the building.  

“The completed renovations to the Ritz and Ambassador Hotels will vastly improve the lives of the people living in these buildings, which date back to the early twentieth century. To rehabilitate and preserve classic residences is to preserve neighborhoods,” said TNDC Chief Operating Officer and Interim CEO Katie Lamont. “In the case of the Ambassador, it also means preserving an important part of San Francisco history. The Ambassador stands as a monument to radical acceptance for its role as a safe space during the height of the AIDS epidemic when the residence was managed by activist, Hank Wilson. TNDC is proud to be the caretaker of this legacy.”  

The multi-phase rehabilitation of the Ambassador Hotel and Ritz hotels began in September 2021 and concluded in late 2023. The development costs for the $116.6 million projects were financed through a hybrid, scattered-site tax credit syndication. This approach allowed TNDC to leverage both 4% and 9% tax credits and historic tax credits, while recasting existing debt with the City and County of San Francisco and the California Department of Housing and Community Development. Additional funding was provided by a new $12.3 million loan through the Mayor’s Office of Housing and Community Development’s Preservation and Seismic Safety (PASS) Program. U.S. Bank provided the construction loan and tax credit investment that helped make this project a reality.  

“We are excited to celebrate the reopening of the historic Ambassador and Ritz Hotels with TNDC, city leaders, and the community, with renovations that will improve the lives of low-income residents in these SROs,” said District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston. “These hotels have provided respite to people in need of supportive care and services for decades, including essential homes during the AIDS crisis. We appreciate all the hard work that went into renovating these District 5 buildings for the benefit of low-income San Franciscans for years to come.”  

Increasing housing affordable to lower-income and vulnerable residents is a key priority in the City’s Housing Element which calls for additional funding for affordable housing production and preservation, as well as Mayor Breed’s Housing for All Executive Directive that sets out the steps the City will take to meet the bold goal of allowing for 82,000 new homes to be built over eight years.   

The City expects the completion of 1,323 new units of affordable housing in 2024 alone, with an additional 1,573 units either breaking ground or expected for ongoing construction through the end of this year.  

The renovation of these two properties reflects the City’s continued commitment to, in addition to building new affordable homes, ensuring San Francisco’s existing affordable housing stock is well maintained and continues to serve some of the City’s most vulnerable residents.