By Loretta Williams. The clean, high-tech design, coupled with a recycled neon sign in the two-story entry lobby, give the impression of an affluent loft project. But the Pensione Esperanza is 110 fully furnished efficiency apartments for low-income individuals. "Initially, the redevelopment agencies were opposed to more affordable housing in this area of the city," says architect David Baker, "but then we won them over with the design concept."

The 43,000-square-foot, wood-frame building envelops a large, south facing landscaped courtyard and gives residents a protected and peaceful space. The units average 260 square feet and rent for $200 to $500 per month depending on income.

Photo: Brian Rose

Category: Focus on Affordability; Entrant/Architect: David Baker Faia and Partners, San Francisco; Builder: Barry Swenson Builder, San Jose, Calif.; Developer: Pensione Esperanza Sro, C/O Catholic Charities, San Jose; Landscape Architect: Cottong and Taniguchi, Burlingame, Calif.