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Alhambra Council Votes to Open Up Proposals for Affordable Housing Project

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 United States

The City Council voted Monday night to open up the bidding to build an affordable housing development in downtown Alhambra.

City staff presented a potential project at the May 28 City Council meeting for an affordable housing complex that would be built by American Family Housing, a non-profit that has experience in affordable housing development. The location would be the parking lot between 1st and 2nd Street in downtown Alhambra just south of Main Street. The site area is 0.42 acres and is the only city-owned parcel large enough for such a development, according to a city staff report.

The city decided to open up the bidding and send out a request for proposal to other developers after the Little Tokyo Service Center, a community development organization, also expressed interest in the project. The City Council vote was four to zero in favor of sending out the request for proposals. Councilmember David Mejia was not present for the vote.

Developers who submit a request for proposal would be required to include the project scope, including total number of proposed units and the mix of income categories those units would cover; the expectations and qualifications of the project; and the amount of funding required of the city of Alhambra. The deadline for proposals is Aug. 22.

The city of Alhambra had been in talks with American Family Housing to develop the city-owned parking lot. The City Council learned on May 28 that their project would likely cost the city $5.75 million, with the rest of the estimated $25 million price tag being funded by state and county subsidies. Those subsidies would kick in if 50 percent of the units are for low-income tenants who make up to 60 percent of the area median income for Los Angeles County. The other 50 percent are permanent supportive housing for tenants who make up to 30 percent of the area median income.

The $5.75 million would come from the city’s former redevelopment agency income, which could go towards low and moderate-income housing projects. The redevelopment agency was dissolved in 2012 and properties under the agency were sold over the next several years. The city now administers income from those sales.

American Family Housing would explore using prefabricated shipping container units to save on construction time, and possibly cost. They had participated in a similar development in Orange County in 2016.

Since the May 28 meeting, the Little Tokyo Service Center, which provides community development services mainly in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo neighborhood, has expressed interest in developing the site, according to the staff report. A request for proposal would also gauge the level of interest from other developers.

Four people spoke in favor of the project during public comment at the City Council meeting, saying that opening the project for bid would ensure that Alhambra gets the best affordable housing project possible.

“It’s not always going to be the one who comes in with the lowest bid,” said Alhambra resident Chris Olson, who suggested working with Pasadena Housing Director William Huang and other experienced officials to put together a formula for determining the best project.

Councilmember Jeff Maloney also expressed his support for an open bid process.

The City Council also approved a $250,000 contract with Union Station Homeless Services for the shelter to conduct homeless outreach, case management and find housing for Alhambra’s homeless population. This contract would increase from $200,000 to $250,000 for the 2019 fiscal year ending June 30, 2020. The money would go towards funding a housing navigator for the city of Alhambra and for case management and other support services conducted by Union Station, said Julio Donayre, a management analyst for the city of Alhambra.

This contract with Union Station has been in place since 2017, and has resulted in permanently housing 17 people, providing crisis housing to 79 people, and providing outreach to 131 individuals, according to a city staff report.

The City Council also unanimously approved a three-year contract renewal for the city’s Department of Housing and Urban Development consultant, Veronica Tam & Associates. They also decided to review her progress after 11 months, after Mayor Adele Andrade-Stadler expressed concern that the city’s HUD-funded programs were not as productive as she had hoped.

She praised the city’s progress during this year in certain programs. This progress includes serving 150 case management clients, investigating 877 code enforcement complaints and serving 364 clients through the Housing Rights Center. For the city’s affordable housing programs, this included four homeowners participating in the city’s major rehabilitation program and three participating in the minor rehabilitation program. She added, however, that “we should be further along.”

Grassroots Alhambra president Eric Sunada*, who also serves on the citizen advisory committee for Alhambra’s HUD programs, wrote an email to the City Council opposing the renewal of Tam’s contract, saying that both her and city staff’s performance when it comes to the city’s HUD programs are insufficient.

Andrade-Stadler suggested renewing Tam’s contract for only one year, but City Manager Jessica Binnquist said that Tam was the only bidder on the current contract, and that she had been working with the city at least in the 10 years that Binnquist had been employed in Alhambra.

Binnquist added that Tam’s main role was to write up the plans for how HUD money would be distributed, as well as progress reports, and that they’re subject to staff and City Council approval. Any success or failure of the programs would be the responsibility of staff, since they implement the programs.

Maloney suggested reviewing Tam’s progress after 11 months, since the contract has a 10-day notice period for termination. The City Council unanimously voted for this action.

The City Council also unanimously approved a one-year city contract with Gibson Transportation Consulting to conduct traffic modeling studies, transportation engineering, design services and project evaluation for the city’s I-710 traffic projects in an amount not to exceed $136,720.

All of these items, including opening the affordable housing development to bid, were on the City Council’s consent agenda, but were pulled for separate votes.

An appeal hearing over the Planning Commission’s denial of a permit for a property to build a three-story condominium complex on 3rd Street was continued to the Sept. 9 City Council meeting.

*Full disclosure: Eric Sunada is a member of the Alhambra Source advisory board. Advisory board members have no editorial control or access to stories before publication.

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