Council Moves Forward on Long-Awaited Heritage South Senior Housing Development

Concept, developer, funding, still to be found

Published : Tuesday, December 18, 2018 | 5:44 AM

Beginning a process that is likely to take at least four years, the City Council Monday approved a recommendation by the Housing Department to develop a mixed use/affordable senior housing project at Heritage Square South.

While 577 affordable units have been built throughout the city since 2001, the development of affordable senior housing at Heritage Square South would result in over-concentration, as defined in the City’s lnclusionary Housing Regulations, said a Housing Department staff report.

Though an overwhelming number of speakers spoke in favor of the project, some feared the overconcentration of such projects in Northwest Pasadena.

But, responded 3rd District Councilmember John Kennedy, who represents the area, said, “I am in favor of these in my district.”

Kennedy also urged other Councilmembers to “offer a parcel of land” for housing.

Councilmember Margaret McAustin explained further: “This project will take four years. We can do this quicker. There are a lot of City-owned properties all over the city.”

Noting the concerns of housing activists who lamented the slow progress of construction, Councilmember Steve Madison told the council audience, “We work on [housing] all the time. 167 homeless people have been housed over the past few years. This is a major priority, and it takes a long time before you become an overnight success.”

The “Heritage Square” site is a 2.8-acre block of parcels bounded by Fair Oaks Avenue on the west, Painter Street on the north, Orange Grove Boulevard on the south, and Wheeler Lane on the east.

According to the Housing Department staff report presented by Senior Project Manager Jim Wong the City divided the site in 2010, with the north portion dedicated to affordable senior housing, and the south portion (“Heritage Square South” or the “Site”) dedicated to commercial mixed-use.

The north portion has been developed, with the Heritage Square Senior Apartments, a 70-unit affordable rental complex for very low-income seniors that was built by nonprofit BRIDGE Housing in 2017.

The proposed Heritage Square South site has an area of approximately 1.3 acres comprised of parcels located at 710-738 N. Fair Oaks Avenue, and 19-25 E. Orange Grove Boulevard.

With the end of redevelopment monies in California in 2012, the development of Heritage Square South ceased. In 2013, the state designated the site as a housing asset of the City Housing Successor.

Under state law, according to the presentation, the development of Heritage Square South must commence by the end of February 2023, and must be used primarily for affordable housing. Otherwise, the Site will be sold through the City’s surplus disposition process and the sale proceeds returned to the Housing Successor’s Low and Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund, which must be repaid to HUD.

The Heritage Square South site is currently zoned to accommodate commercial and mixed-use development. The property has recently been appraised at $5.5 million.

In July, the City Council Economic Development and Technology Committee (“EDTech”) staff presented a discussion of Heritage Square South and possible land-use options.

The committee chose a mixed-use development program with a commercial corner of approximately 10,000 to 15,000 square feet, adequate for two to four retail tenants. The development would also include a residential component with two floors of affordable housing above the commercial space and possibly an adjacent three-story residential building.

Sixty-five to 70 units, would be built to current zoning density limits, plus a 35% density bonus.

As the report stated, “While a particular housing type was not identified, discussion focused on full or partial permanent supportive housing, with a focus on housing for homeless seniors.

According to the 2018 Pasadena Homeless Count older adults, over 50 years comprise the largest group of the homeless in the City, at 253 people.

The group is also experiencing the fastest growth rate among homeless, increasing 65% from 2016 to 2018.

Despite the recommendation, development is still far down the line. As the staff report noted, “The identification of a development concept for Heritage Square South must also involve a consideration of potential funding sources and most advantageous approach to procure a developer. After Council provides direction on the development concept for Heritage Square South, staff will return at a later date as appropriate with business terms, a financing plan, and a developer selection plan.”

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