City Council Approved Contentious Senior Housing Bond

Friday, 15 Apr 2011, 12:35:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

Despite opposition from local residents and groups, three planned senior housing projects in the Pico-Euclid neighborhood may receive up to $9 million in tax exempt bonds thanks to the Santa Monica City Council’s unanimous decisioon to allow affirming a private developer to seek such funding from the relevant state sources.

FAME Santa Monica Redevelopment Corporation, a non-profit organization, and developer Gary Squier, requested from the council the opportunity to pursue the tax exempt bonds to build the senior housing projects at 1754 19th Street (owned by the First African Methodist Episcopal Church), 1924 and 1930 Euclid Street, and 1753 18th Street (owned by the non-profit redevelopment firm), respectively. Council specified the bonds would come from the California Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA). The planned 49-unit project in the Pico-Euclid neighborhood is expected to cost about $16.9 million.

“We think that the FAME affordable senior housing is an important project. It’s the only affordable senior housing that’s in our current development pipeline,” Andy Agle, director of Housing and Economic Development, told the council.

With the council’s action, the bond measure will allow the developer and redevelopment corporation to fund its senior housing projects with as much as $9 million in tax exempt bonds from a state agency for the building of about 49 “affordable senior residences” at the properties located on Euclid, 18th, and 19th Streets.

The City would not be on the hook for any of that money.

“The City would neither issue nor hold the responsibility for repayment of the bonds, though the bonds would play an important role in leveraging the City’s investment in the proposed affordable housing (project),” Angle said, alluding to the fact that the City helped fund FAME Santa Monica Redevelopment Corporation’s purchase of the properties on Euclid and 18th Streets with a $4.4 million loan.

“The repayment of bonds will be the sole obligation of FAME Santa Monica Senior Apartments LP. The sources of repayment are private investor equity from the sale of federal low-income housing tax credits, and a housing trust fund loan from the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Santa Monica.”

Tabled from the council’s March 22 meeting due to concerns raised by local residents about the project, the issuing of state bonds to a private redevelopment firm certainly met its fair share of opposition when the agenda item was brought up at City Hall on April 12. Those who spoke in opposition urged the council not to move forward with the bonds as it would promote a redevelopment project that was too big and costly.

Another concern was whether the project would meet the needs of seniors, particularly those in need of low-income housing, while others thought senior housing would be a burden on the immediate community.

Beverly Collins, a long-time member of First AME Church, said she is not even sure whether FAME Santa Monica Redevelopment Corporation is even legally authorized to move forward with the senior housing project to begin with.

“This is not a church project. This project was pastor-generated. He did not get the approval of the trustees and he’s working with FAME Redevelopment, and they are acting as a face … to have this affordable housing,” she said. “The pastor cannot do that by himself. The trustees’ signatures are supposed to be on some of these papers.”

However, the council ultimately decided in favor of allowing FAME Santa Monica Redevelopment Corporation to pursue the tax exempt state bonds, stating senior housing was a necessary element to include in the City in light of a burgeoning senior citizen population.

“It’s very important to have housing opportunities for seniors,” Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis said, stating projects such as this one are a necessity. “These are the kinds of projects we need to integrate into the fabric of our community. I think these less dense areas are the perfect place for them. It’s something the community needs.”

Council member Bobby Shriver made a candid comment to the concerned residents in the gallery, stating the Council does not have jurisdiction over the building of the senior housing project.

“The council, as it’s sitting here, has no jurisdiction over whether this project can be built,” Shriver clarified. “What we’re deciding tonight is not whether this project can be built. All we’re deciding … is whether the state agency that issues bonds for these types of projects can issue the bonds for this.”

According to the supplemental staff report, “the City has provided an affordable housing loan in the amount of $4.4 million for acquisition and predevelopment.” Even more, $7.1 million is committed “for construction and is contingent upon the developer obtaining $9.5 million of construction financing and $5.3 million in permanent financing.”

Council member Kevin McKeown was not in attendance at the April 12 meeting.

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