BEACH FLATS AFFORDABLE HOUSING, CHILD CARE, AND COMMUNITY CENTER PROJECT
Updated 12/05 - Project Completed 12/03
Nueva Vista Apartments
Jorge A. Astacio
136 Leibrandt Avenue
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
The Redevelopment Agency, Planning Department, and the City Council worked for a number of years to develop a feasible and socially responsive affordable housing project in the area of Santa Cruz known as Beach Flats. The small triangular, largely residential, district right in front of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk was targeted for improvement by the City/Agency's Beach/South of Laurel Comprehensive Area Plan of 1998. The Agency's Implementation Plan, 2005-2009, and the most recent Annual Report continues to target the Beach Area for continued Agency efforts for developing much needed affordable housing.
The Beach Flats has the highest rate of renters in the City (99%), and is the most densely populated neighborhood (Beach South of Laurel Plan, 1998 45). The Beach/South of Laurel Plan states that "...the Beach Flats must become a more livable neighborhood where local residents eagerly choose to reside, with safe and secure streets and vested resident inhabitants" (1998, 17). This philosophy drives the Agency's and City's efforts to spearhead the development of safe, affordable, and attractive housing for this area of Santa Cruz which has for several decades consisted of transient housing patterns, dilapidated rental units, and absentee landlords.
In October of 1999 the Agency/City Council identified several properties containing existing substandard rental housing for acquisition in order for the Agency to acquire the necessary land with which to build a new affordable housing development. These properties included: 131 and 133 Leibrandt Avenue, known as the Rex Court; existing rental housing at 136 Leibrandt Avenue known as the "Dolphin Apartments"; and existing rental housing at 124-126 Leibrandt Avenue, known as the "Lee Apartments". Over time and with much negotiation, these properties were acquired, the tenants either temporarily relocated if they expressed a desire to return to the new development or, for those not meeting eligibility requirements, provided permanent housing in other locations.
The conditions of these rental units on the properties were extremely poor, having been long neglected by their previous ownership. The Rex Court units were in such poor condition upon acquisition, the vacant units were ordered to be demolished by the City's Chief Building Official. The remaining properties were in such poor condition that it was not feasible to rehabilitate them and were demolished as well to provide a site for the new 48-unit development. However, the residents were able to continue to occupy the units under the management of Mercy Housing until the non-profit developer was ready to begin construction.
Relocation Prior to Redevelopment
The existing residents had a strong sense of place and community in their neighborhood, despite the substandard housing conditions. As such, it was the Agency's goal to ensure that as many of these residents as possible would be welcomed back to the area after construction of the new housing. Every effort was made to insure this. In the mean time, the Agency provided relocation services to find residents either replacement housing throughout the County or temporary housing paying for their rent while in temporary quarters.
California Law has very strict guidelines for relocating residents who are displaced due to a redevelopment project. These guidelines can be found in Section 33410 et. seq. These guidelines require several things. Among them are the following:
The New Project
- First, a "replacement housing plan" must be drafted and adopted by the Agency which specifies where dwelling units housing low and moderate-income households will be rebuilt following their removal from the City's housing stock. In the case of this specific project, the housing to be demolished was 46 dwelling units. The new project includes a minimum of 48 dwelling units. Therefore, 100% of all existing dwelling units will be rebuilt, as is specified in the project's adopted Replacement Housing Plan.
- Second, a redevelopment agency must either find new housing for a displaced resident, or provide cash payments to cover the cost of relocation and to pay rent. The Agency contracted with a relocation specialist to coordinate this process.
Working together with Mercy Housing, historically the City's partner in affordable housing development, Mercy Housing engaged Devcon Construction to construct the 48 units using 9% tax credit financing together with a long-term loan from the Agency for additional construction funding. The housing development was completed in December 2003.
The new project consists of the three properties identified above. In addition, a portion of Leibrandt Avenue which dead ended was abandoned and included as part of the land for the project in order to have sufficient square footage to include a needed community center and a child care facility along with the housing.
The project land is owned by the Redevelopment Agency and has been ground leased to Mercy Housing for 60 years. The finished project consists of 48 units of low and very-low income housing, a child care center, and a community center, for a total of 131 bedrooms.