Photo of Jewish Home of San Francisco
Photo of Jewish Home of San Francisco
Photo of Jewish Home of San Francisco
Photo of Jewish Home of San Francisco
Photo of Jewish Home of San Francisco
Photo of Jewish Home of San Francisco

Jewish Home of San Francisco

Aging with Grace

A person’s wellbeing relies not only on their physical health and safety, but on their social and emotional health too. The senior living nonprofit Jewish Home of San Francisco recognizes this truth. It’s part of what guides their mission to help people age gracefully. Understanding this, we helped Jewish Home of San Francisco transform their nine-acre, 130-year-old urban campus into an oasis. Three concepts—discovery, equity, and beauty—underpin our work, as expressed through two new aspects and a comprehensive campus plan. The Frank Residences building serves memory care and assisted living with 190 units. Byer Square is the campus’s new community center, open to the public. The project’s urban design, three distinct parks, and highly visible green spaces, were developed with VMWP and refined with community stakeholders. This renewed campus for Jewish Home of San Francisco serves as a refuge and social hub, strengthening ties between the nonprofit, residents, and the surrounding community.

San Francisco, California
  • 190 units
  • 7 stories
  • 290,000 sq. ft.

Senior Communities




Not for Profit


Architecture: Jason Erdahl

Interiors: Beth Rear

Architecture Story

Place and Purpose

Careful design weaves the Frank Residences and Byer Square into the neighborhood streetscape and link them to campus grounds, while providing the privacy and safety necessary for the senior residents. With VMWP and community input, we developed a highly visible urban park and newly revived campus gateway on the corner on Mission Boulevard. Here, well-lit natural areas to sit, people-watch, and gather stand in visible contrast with the surrounding urban hardscape. This new community center is built around social, physical, and mental wellness. For residents, this means design that serves programs in nutrition, entertainment, arts, and day-to-day senior support. Common areas include a fitness center, dining space, an auditorium, library, craft room, and a pool; clinical support is offered in an adjacent building. The underlying placemaking goal of Byer Square: to encourage activity and get people out of their homes. Social and community spaces are concentrated at the heart of the campus, accessible from multiple directions and encircled by three beautiful parks. Our design for the Frank Residences building responds to these green spaces, framing views of the central park and the smaller, Lawrence Halprin-designed fountain courtyard, shortening walking distances, and creating opportunities for spontaneous interaction. Units include assisted living in studios, one-, and two-bedroom apartments, as well as memory care. Neighbors can join as community members, enjoying the amenities while reinforcing their relationships with the seniors living at the Jewish Home. Abundant glazing on the building’s park sides brings the outside in; façade treatments respond to the neighborhood on the street sides. Common spaces, linked to the three parks, provide places to read, take classes, make art, and exercise. Our design imbues the building with a sense of discovery. Each space reveals itself gradually as occupants circulate through the building, moving among rooms built for specific activities to more flexible spaces that allow social activities to spontaneously spill out onto outdoor patios. In the private rooms, high ceilings and large windows expand residents’ personal spaces outward, from the green spaces surrounding the park area—gardens, the pet area, bocce court, and common areas—to the campus beyond. Self-expression and participation in community life should be attainable across all levels of care. Our design expresses equity throughout, from the outdoor areas surrounding the Frank Residences to the diverse spaces of Byer Square and the smaller common areas on resident floors, adapting to each person’s physical abilities and security needs while affirming their place in the larger community.


Interior Story

Discovery, Equity, and Beauty

We wanted people to feel energized and excited, motivated by both our architecture and the spaces within: this is one of the most playful and modern senior living communities we’ve ever designed. Jewish Home of San Francisco wanted simple, sophisticated, and high-class materials applied in a contemporary way, with lots of color and texture. Each floor of the Frank Residence tells a bold story in bright turquoise, gold and yellow, rusty orange, neon green. This is far more than aesthetic. As people’s vision weakens over time, strong and bright colors become easier to see. And bold colors help residents engage more fully with their space. We designed the studio, one-, and two-bedroom assisted living units in Frank Residents for aging in place—that is, staying in one apartment that adapts to your needs as you age. Playful centralized common spaces, inside and out, keep residents connected to each other. We place special focus on accessibility, particularly in the units’ kitchens and bathrooms, by designing for wheelchairs, easy-use fixtures, roll-in showers, task lighting, countertop height, and easy-to-clean finishes. Even the hydronic heating systems provide radiant heating, a healthier option than forced air. Each memory care unit is designed for safe, engaged living in smaller social groups, with shared outside spaces. Their layout, lighting, and color design help memory-care residents with wayfinding and daily self-care; accent paint, for example, or backlit toilets. Our design serves both caretaker and resident needs: people need furniture and objects that remind them of home. Staff need an environment designed for safety, where people won’t accidentally hurt themselves (throughout the entire project, an alert system lets residents get help from anywhere). To connect memory care residents to each other at mealtime, and to the full-sensory experiences of cooking, each dining area includes an open, residential-style kitchen. When they don’t want to prepare their own food, an onsite chef will cook for a resident at any time. Separate living and dining rooms—these resembling residential dining rooms, each with a family table—are designed for quality time with each other and their visiting families. The lobby of Frank Residence, open to the park spaces, serves as a meeting place for residents and the public. Here, amid beautiful artwork, tall windows and plenty of natural light, some people socialize and mingle; other residents work in the shared business center. Common spaces provide places to read, take classes, make art, and exercise. A sleek, through-wall fireplace, tiled in vibrant fireclay, connects the living room space to the dining area, where upholstery translates colors throughout the building. The cafe amenity is a vibrant, active, and multigenerational space. To create an ongoing sense of discovery throughout, and pragmatically, to prevent circulation on the main level from falling into static patterns, the meandering layout introduces curvilinear elements and highlights outdoor spaces as visual landmarks along the way. We removed barriers to the outdoors, with expansive glazing and frequent patios drawing indoor activities out, among the beautiful green spaces. In each private room, high ceilings and large windows provide abundant daylighting and expand residents’ personal spaces outward, from a single room to the entire campus and beyond. Useful beauty permeates our entire design. Through color, texture, sound, and light, aesthetically and experientially rich spaces adapt to people’s various emotional needs and activities. To complement Byer Square’s focus on lively socializing, we designed plenty of opportunities for restoration through more intimately scaled natural rhythms and sensory experiences. Our attention to serving people’s many needs and modes of engagement reflects, finally, our deep belief in equitable design. At Jewish Home of San Francisco, we created opportunities for everyone to express themselves and participate in community life at every level of care, from the diverse outdoor spaces of Byer Square to the shared amenities on each resident floor. Our senior living design not only adapts to people’s needs, regardless of where they are in life, it affirms their place as people, each one an essential part of a larger whole.