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Alhambra City Council Chooses Affordable Housing Project After Open-Bid Process

A illustration of a proposed affordable housing project from American Family Housing and National CORE. Photo courtesy of Alhambra's Department of Community Development.

Location

Alhambra , CA

In a key decision involving affordable housing in Alhambra, the City Council voted unanimously Monday to accept a proposal from the developers American Family Housing and National CORE for an affordable housing development on the site of a city-owned parking lot between 1st and 2nd Street in downtown Alhambra.

The council voted 4-0, with Councilmember Katherine Lee absent, after considering three proposals for the project.

The accepted proposal calls for a five-level structure, with four levels of affordable housing units and a ground level with parking, a lobby, and services along the 2nd Street frontage. The building would have 40 units of housing, with two-thirds being one-bedroom apartments, and one-third being two-bedroom apartments, which would be suitable for families, said Director of Community Development Marc Castagnola. The project would be a mix of supportive housing for people making up to 30 percent of the area median income, and low-income residents making up to 50 percent of area median income. There would be 20 spaces of private parking, and 20 spaces of public parking.

The development is estimated to cost a little under $20 million, with the city subsidizing around $1.9 million. The rest would be financed through loans, county and federal grants, and a four percent tax credit. Thirty percent of the apartments would be supportive housing and 50 percent would be for very low-income residents. The development could accommodate up to 178 people.

The City Council also considered a proposal from the Little Tokyo Service Center, which submitted plans for a development with four stories, three levels being residential and the ground floor featuring parking and wraparound services. There would be 48 housing units. Fifty percent would be supportive housing, with a mix of studios and one-bedroom apartments. And 50 percent would be for very low-income residents, with a mix of one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments. The development could accommodate up to 170 people, and cost a little over $25 million, with the city providing $3.5 million. The rest would be financed through county and federal grants, plus a four percent tax credit.

The Little Tokyo Service Center proposal included a provision where the city would sell the land of the housing development to this organization for $1, but Takao Suzuki, Little Tokyo Service Center’s director of community economic development, clarified that they would ask for a ground lease instead.

The third proposal came from Affirmed Housing Group, which proposed building a seven-story building of 86 apartments that’s not only income restricted, but restricted to senior renters. There would be seven stories, with two stories of parking and five stories of apartments. There would be a mix of studios and one-bedrooms for extremely low-income, very low-income and low-income tenants. The development would cost a little over $33 million, with the city subsidizing $5.5 million. However, the development would be able to house up to 290 people. The project wouldn’t qualify for federal or county grants, but officials could apply for a nine percent tax credit and loans.

Several people spoke in support of the city bringing affordable housing to Alhambra, with the majority supporting the first two projects, because of its inclusion of supportive housing for the homeless. Teresa Eilers, field organizer in the West San Gabriel Valley for the United Way’s Everyone In Campaign, said that supportive housing has made a dent in reducing homeless counts in Pasadena and Pomona. She said the same could happen in Alhambra, whose homeless population increased from 52 people in 2018 to 68 people in 2019.

“This is a manageable number of people to house,” Eilers said. “We cannot wait more for the homeless population to grow more before we take action.

Some public speakers pointed out that the majority of Alhambra’s affordable housing stock is restricted to seniors, and that there’s a need for this new project to not have age-restrictions.

The City Council also expressed interest in the American Family Housing and National CORE proposals, as well as the Little Tokyo Service Center proposal. Maloney said he preferred working with Little Tokyo Service Center, since he was already familiar with their work and knew that they would build and manage a good project. However, Mejia said he preferred the American Family Housing and National CORE project, since it had more one and two-bedroom apartments, and would be better for families, rather than the studios Little Tokyo Service Center proposed.

The American Family Housing and National CORE project would involve prefabricated units, a good approach for this site since it’s small and in the middle of downtown, and would make construction more efficient. Both American Family Housing and National CORE said they were experienced in this type of construction and would be able to build a high quality project.

This past Spring, the Council initially heard and expressed interest in a proposal made solely by American Family Housing. This summer, the city decided to the open the project up for bid, issuing a request for proposal for additional projects.

After deciding to go with American Family Housing and National CORE’s proposal, the city will present an exclusive negotiation agreement for the Council to approve at a later date.

Castagnola also presented options for to the City Council for Alhambra to increase its affordable housing stock. These options include an inclusionary housing ordinance, which would require developers to set aside a percentage of units at affordable rates. Castagnola said that these ordinances generally apply to developments with at minimum four to 10 units, and that the set-aside rate is 10 to 15 percent. Developers are usually allowed to pay an in-lieu fee if they don’t set aside units.

Other options also include regulating short-term rentals, which usually take apartments or homes off the long-term rental market. Regulations could include taxation and registering these rentals. Alhambra currently doesn’t have any regulations, and is estimated to have 350 unregulated short-term rentals. Castagnola also said that accessory dwelling units and junior accessory dwelling units can be deed-restricted to only be rented out at affordable rates, especially if homeowners take subsidies to construct them. And Castagnola said that Alhambra can join the San Gabriel Valley Regional Housing Trust Fund, which would allow cities in the region to collaborate in applying and distribute funding. This fund was introduced as a bill by State Sen. Susan Rubio, and has passed the California legislature.

Several public speakers expressed support for these options, with some advocating for a moratorium on large developments until an inclusionary housing ordinance is passed, and requiring at least a 15 percent set-aside rate. The City Council expressed support for gathering more information on all of these options.

Read our previous reporting on Alhambra’s senior housing, and watch our video below.

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1 thought on “Alhambra City Council Chooses Affordable Housing Project After Open-Bid Process”

  1. This is important. Let’s hope the city council continues to pursue soltions to the City’s affordable housing crisis. It’s long overdue. This project and a meaningful inclusionary housing ordinance will go a long way in addressing the crisis over the long-term and help a lot of Alhambrans who are struggling to get by.