By Tom Erikson
Although commissioned in 1939, wartime priorities delayed completion of Valencia Gardens. A large chunk of the Mission neighborhood had to be removed to prepare the site and by opening day 1943 every unit was already promised to a war worker or returning soldier. Not one of the block’s former inhabitants was provided with an apartment. The twenty-two reinforced concrete structures were made almost at their budget, for a total cost of $845,000. All the dreams and careful planning of architect Wurster and landscape architect Thomas Church, who had gone to Scandinavia to research model housing concepts, were compromised by the limitations on room size and design detail that the budget cap imposed. A stopgap measure was conceived to offset some of the omissions in the courtyards when several of the large animal sculptures of Benjamin Bufano were taken out of wartime storage and installed in the gardens.