By Aaron Blevins, 1/10/2013
WeHo still moves forward with affordable housing
West Hollywood’s Plummer Park renovation is not the only project in the city to have its redevelopment funding denied; in fact, the state has disallowed the use of redevelopment funding for two affordable housing projects as well.
John Leonard, a West Hollywood project development administrator, said that, in all, the state has denied the city approximately $5.5 million in housing bonds and approximately $27 million in non-housing bonds since the dissolution of the state’s redevelopment agencies last year.
“It’s unfortunate,” he said. “The city thinks these are all great projects.”
The Courtyard at La Brea, which will offer 32 units of affordable housing at 1145 La Brea Ave., was denied a $3.5 million permanent financing loan, though the project will be completed. A beam signing ceremony was held at the future facility’s site last week.
Proposed by the West Hollywood Community Housing Corp. (WHCHC), the project did receive a $2.75 million loan from the city for acquisition and predevelopment. The total cost is approximately $14 million, Leonard said. Some tax credits will be factored in, though, and Los Angeles County has provided some funding.
“We’re thrilled,” said Barbara Hamaker, WHCHC communications and development manager. “First of all, we really are pleased that we have this particular site on La Brea. It’s at the gateway. We’re very, very excited about this. Usually, affordable housing developments don’t go out of their way to be architecturally significant. We have been doing that because West Hollywood wants unique projects.”
Construction began last January, and the structure is scheduled to be completed this fall, Hamaker said. She said WHCHC will begin leasing in the summertime — likely in June — and information will be added to the housing corporation’s website at that time.
Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, spoke at the beam signing event, and said the project is very important, considering the affordable housing crisis in the county. He said it’s also conveniently situated near medical, shopping and recreational venues, and a portion of the units will house homeless individuals.
Yaroslavsky said West Hollywood has been at the forefront of addressing the affordable housing crisis, which is commendable given that the city is quite affluent. The city has added more than 700 units of affordable housing in recent years, he said.
“It has made a difference, and I commend the city of West Hollywood, its city council and its administration for investing their resources, their time and making a political commitment [to add] affordable housing,” Yaroslavsky added. “They haven’t turned their backs on people who are not wealthy or are not upper-middle income. That speaks well for their city. We look for partnerships like that.”
A general project to improve disabled accessibility at various housing corporation sites was also denied. Hamaker said the $6.5 million request did not originate from the housing corporation, and Leonard said the scope of the project had not been finalized. However, the housing corporation is seeking other funding sources for disabled accessibility improvements, Hamaker said.
“Obviously, we’re still going to look for funding,” she said, adding that the improvement would apply only to rehabilitated projects. “There are grants out there.”
While a handful of projects were denied, a $2.5 million loan for the Janet L. Witkin Center at 937 Fairfax Ave. was approved. The center, created by Affordable Living for the Aging (ALA), will offer 17 units of affordable housing, with six units tagged for people with special needs.
David Grunwald, ALA’s president and CEO, said proposed center is a lead platinum design project that serves all levels of frailty. He said it is scheduled to break ground in two to three weeks, with the hope of opening in late 2013 or early 2014.
“It’ll become, probably, a national case study and a future model for seniors,” Grunwald said.
He said it is a legacy project to honor the late Janet Witkin, a local philanthropist who had dedicated much of her life to improving the quality of life of area seniors. Grunwald said the center will also offer some services, such as roommate matching and programs for seniors, and praised the city for lobbying for the redevelopment funding on its behalf.
“It actually went off without a hitch,” he said. “We are so glad that the Witkin Center project will be built. It’s a great project.”