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By Jorge Casuso

October 8, 2020 -- The site of an old Japanese community center in the Pico Neighborhood is on its way to becoming a 58-unit affordable housing development for the homeless that will cost some $34.2 million.

The development -- leveraged with a nearly $12 million Housing Trust Fund loan from the City -- includes 57 studios and a two-bedroom unit that will cost an average of $590,383 per unit.

Proposed homeless housing development at 1413 Michigan Avenue
Proposed homeless housing development at 1413 Michigan Avenue (Courtesy City of Santa Monica)

EAH, a non-profit affordable housing developer from the San Francisco Bay area, used a $8.3 million loan commitment from the Trust Fund to purchase the site at 1413 Michigan Avenue in May 2019, according to a staff memo to the City Council Wednesday.

The balance of the $11,742,234 loan will fund predevelopment expenses for the proposed project, which grew from an original 42 units after the State legislature increased the density allowed for 100 percent affordable housing projects.

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The developer will use the City’s Trust Fund loan "to leverage approximately $22.5 million of affordable housing funding through competitive applications administered by the State of California," according to City staff.

City loans that fund affordable housing developments of more than 50 residences must be presented to City Council as an Information Item and do not require a Council vote, staff said.

The project will help reduce the number of homeless individuals living on the streets of Santa Monica by providing "affordable, permanent, supportive housing," said Jim Kemper, the City's Housing Program manager.

The project was granted administrative approval by the zoning administrator on August 18 and the following week the Landmarks Commission approved a Certificate of Appropriateness for the proposed development, which incorporates the single-story historic structure on the site.

The single-story commercial building was home to Nikkei Hall, a community center established for Japanese-Americans after World War II.

"The Santa Monica Nikkei Hall is significant for its association with the City’s Japanese American community for approximately 60 years," staff wrote in their report to the Landmarks Commission August 24.

"The modest one-story social hall and residence was designed by Y. Tom Makino, a popular architect among the Japanese American community who also designed other extant Buddhist temples and churches within the Los Angeles area."

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