Council Approves Plan for 120 Affordable Housing Units at Former Site of City-Owned Parking Lot

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On Tuesday, the Santa Monica City Council approved a design concept for a project that would bring 120 affordable apartments, 50 of which would include supportive services, at a city owned project at 1318 4th Street where a parking lot once stood. 

Much of the discussion centered around the economics of the project and the long timeline before the project is scheduled to open. The cost per unit is over $100,000,000 per apartment. The total estimated cost of the project is $123,091,277 and includes a ground-level grocery store and 116 parking spaces.

The 100 percent affordable housing project will include 44 studios, 16 one-bedroom apartments, 31 two-bedroom and 31 three-bedroom apartments, with the larger units boosting the total cost to $123,091,277. The development team for the project is headed by EAH properties and includes the non-profit People Concern.

“I understand it’s expensive to build housing in Santa Monica…but I’ve rarely seen a project with this cost per unit,” asked Councilmember Caroline Torosis.  “Is there any possibility to bring the cost down?”

A representative from the developer noted that the costs are just an estimate, and that it includes expected inflation growth. 

Councilmember Jesse Zwick notes that the high cost is a result of the city’s values and policies that are reflected in the project including a mix of unit types (so that it’s not all studios), the city’s environmental standards, parking requirements and hiring practices.

“I’m entirely comfortable with this project,” concluded Zwick.

In addition, construction for the project won’t begin until 2027, an EAH representative referred to the project as in the “schematic phase” before final design. Also, the project is not fully funded and the developers will be seeking grants and other state funding. It is expected to open in 2030.

“Is there any way to do this faster,” asked Councilmember Gleam Davis. “I’m not blaming you, I’m blaming the world. But is there any way to build this faster?”

City staff responded that there are things that have been done to speed up the process, one that has been slowed by COVID and several once-a-year grant processes that the city and developer rely on for funding this process.

The project was opposed by members of the local carpenter’s union who charged that the developer has a history of paying cash to contractors and not hiring union members for skilled workers. In response to questions from Councilmember Oscar de la Torre, city staff assured the Council that the city’s laws regarding hiring processes would be in effect and it includes a requirement that contractors receive a prevailing wage. The developer is required to hire a specialized consultant to monitor the hiring process.

Despite these issues, the council voted unanimously to approve the project 6-0. 

“Moving forward in bringing affordable and permanent supportive housing to city-owned land is a key step in our strategy to fulfill our Housing Element requirements,” Mayor Phil Brock said in a statement provided by the city. “I look forward to the next steps and ultimately seeing families move into these new homes and thrive.” 

During the question and answer session, Brock also asked the developer to ensure that the building has a great external look as well. Research shows that affordable projects that are visually pleasing have residents who are happier with their housing and a surrounding community that is more supportive of the project and future affordable housing projects.

EAH will work with The People Concern to provide general services to ensure that new residents will be able to make rent and stay in their apartments. Fifty of the units will be “supportive” units marked for people experiencing homelessness where extra services will be provided to help them transition to permanent housing.

The development of the site into affordable housing is part of the approved Housing Element and furthers the city’s strategic priority of Addressing Homelessness. It is set to serve individuals and families earning anywhere from 30 to 80 percent of the Area Median Income as well as people experiencing homelessness.

Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.

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