School of Architecture Executive Director Mimi Sullivan's Firm Wins Local & National Awards

Saida + Sullivan Design Partners are recognized for their contribution to affordable housing project


Academy of Art University's Executive Director of the School of Architecture, Mimi Sullivan. Photo by Bob Toy.

The American Institute of Architects – San Francisco recently awarded a Commendation for Social Responsibility to Saida + Sullivan Design Partners (SSDP) and LMS Architects. This award demonstrates a high standard for design excellence and social responsibility. SSDP’s principal Mimi Sullivan also serves as the executive director to the School of Architecture at Academy of Art University. Saida + Sullivan Design Partners served as the Executive Architects for the 474 Natoma affordable family housing community. SSDP worked in collaboration with LMS Architects and BRIDGE Housing, a San Francisco-based property development firm focused on expanding low-income and affordable urban housing options. Nibbi Brothers were the contractors on 474 Natoma.

The San Francisco AIA chapter awarded this project a Special Commendation for Social Responsibility based on the project’s goals of making high-quality affordable spaces for at-risk families. The project was also lauded for meeting both project budget guidelines and sustainability standards, with the project earning the equivalent of a LEED silver rating. The 474 Natoma project features 60 units with multiple bedrooms, and is geared toward low-income families. The units were awarded in a lottery that had more than 2500 applicants, which demonstrates the lack of affordable housing for vulnerable populations in San Francisco. The project is part of San Francisco’s SOMA Redevelopment Area plan, increasing high-density affordable housing options along planned development corridors. According to BRIDGE Housing, the project is “poised to be a catalyst for neighborhood revitalization along the 6th Street corridor.” The 474 Natoma project received the AIA Special Commendation because the project successfully served the need to achieve design goals within a tight budget, using funding responsibly and still getting the most units possible, all while providing a high quality of life for residents in terms of both livability and quality of construction.

SSDP also won a San Francisco AIA Citation for Architecture for the Rene Cazenave apartments. This project was also produced in a team with LMS Architects, BRIDGE Housing and the Community Housing Partnership. Cahill Contractors were the contractors on this project. The building, located at 25 Essex Street in San Francisco, features 120 units comprised of both studios and one bedroom apartments, in approximately the same footprint as the 474 Natoma project. While the 474 Natoma project was aimed at families, the Rene Cazenave apartments are designed as transitional housing with support services for formerly homeless and vulnerable people. While designed as transitional housing, often times the residents’ life on the streets has created ailments and physical challenges, which necessitates they will age in place. The apartments have been designed to offer high quality living spaces within a modest budget, maintaining dignity, independence and quality of life for residents. Both the 474 Natoma project and the Rene Cazenave apartments are fully occupied. The AIA’s Committee on the Environment also listed the Rene Cazenave Apartments in their national top 10 award for sustainability and occupant health for 2016.

In addition to her design and project management duties for the two sites, architect Mimi Sullivan has also volunteered her time and materials to help set up rooftop community garden boxes at 474 Natoma and to teach residents gardening techniques. Sullivan has offered practical classes in both how to grow vegetables and how to select and grow flowers to beautify the garden plots. Both sets of classes are popular and oversubscribed. The rooftop garden has boosted residents’ self-sustainability and access to fresh fruits and vegetables, at the same time as improving the sustainability of the overall projects.

Sullivan is humbled by the awards, but the greatest achievement for her is the service the buildings offer to vulnerable people who need stable and livable homes: “When we see these projects occupied and residents’ lives improved, that’s our sense of accomplishment.”


To view photos of the two projects, please visit