Santa Monica Lookout
|64-Unit Affordable Housing Complex Proposed for Downtown Santa Monica|
By Niki Cervantes
October 21, 2015 -- With a dearth of housing funds, Santa Monica is turning to private developers to build projects such as the proposed 64-unit affordable housing development reviewed by the City's Architectural Review Board (ARB) on Monday.
The proposed project at 1626 Lincoln Boulevard – just blocks from the future Downtown Expo light rail terminal – is part of a proposed development agreement for a seven-story mixed-use project at 500 Broadway that would include 262 new market rate residential units and 39,600 square feet of ground floor retail.
Last October, the City Council voted unanimously to negotiate a development agreement with DK Broadway LLC. (“Santa Monica City Council Votes Unanimously to Move Forward with Major Development,” October 17, 2014)
The off-site affordable housing complex two blocks away on Lincoln would be operated by Community Corporation of Santa Monica, the nonprofit agency that manages most of the City's affordable housing projects.
“It’s going to be great,” said Sarah Letts, the agency's executive director. “We’ll be serving a lot of families. It’s close to the high school, to the Boys and Girls club down the street, close to a Vons. In my opinion, it’s a great project.”
The five-story, 55-foot high proposed development near Lincoln and Colorado Avenue includes 29 one-bedroom apartments, 17 two-bedroom apartments, 17 three-bedroom apartments and one studio apartment, according to the City staff report.
Also included are a grocery store, a fitness center and lease space for local small businesses on the ground floor facing Lincoln and a two-level subterranean parking garage with 64 parking spaces, officials said.
The development also features rooftop solar panels and a ground-floor garden court yard, staff said.
The ARB's task Monday was to provide input only, and no action was required. The proposal now goes to the City Planning Commission and will return to the ARB for a second review under a newly implemented City process.
Board member Craig Hamilton said the project would help on-going efforts by the City to transform Lincoln from a congested corridor of trucks, work vehicles and buses to one that is more visually appealing, walkable and inviting to mixed uses.
The project fits into the “context of what they are trying to accomplish there,” Hamilton said. “It’s good to have an affordable housing project.”
However, concerns were expressed about whether the project’s height would blend in with the neighborhood, and staff noted inconsistencies regarding, among other items, sidewalk standards.
In that part of the city, standards focus on creating an inviting pedestrian zone with such features as awnings, entries and fenestration, staff wrote in its report.
“Staff will continue to work with the applicant on the proposed ground floor uses as they relate to pedestrian walkability along the project frontage on Lincoln Boulevard, which currently lacks pedestrian activity,” staff said.
Still, the project is a rare foray into affordable housing after the City’s primary source of funding for those developments was lost with the dissolution of some 400 redevelopment agencies across California in 2012.
The resulting lack of funding for affordable housing has been a major concern for the increasingly upscale beach City, where only one-third of the housing stock is now affordable to those making $75,000 or less, according to a recent report issued by the City.
Last November, voters rejected a ballot measure that called for an increase of the tax on real estate transactions of at least $1 million that would have helped replenish the City's affordable housing after voters narrowly approved earmarking the funds for that purpose.
City Councilmembers have contemplated placing another affordable housing measure on next year's ballot. (“Majority of Santa Monica City Council Wants 2016 Ballot Measure for Affordable Housing,” March 6, 2015)
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