The Imperial Beach City Council approved a 50-unit affordable senior housing at 455 Palm Avenue, the location of the Imperial Beach Neighborhood Center (IBNC) during its last meeting on Nov. 16. The 65,385 square foot property is in the high density and single family residential zone. The new project plans for the demolition of the current buildings and construction of two buildings. The first building is 50-unit 32,044 square feet affordable senior housing structure (building A) and a 13,002 square foot building (building B) to house the Neighborhood Center. Building A is a three-story structure facing Palm Avenue while Building B is two-story. Vehicle entrance and exit are planned from the existing curb cuts. A walkway connects the two buildings and 42 parking spaces are provided between the two buildings and to the west of building B. Both buildings have elevators and stairwells and opaque fencing around the site for noise and privacy. These two features have been added due to concerns by adjacent property owners. The first floor of Building A includes a waiting room, community room, office space and work/break/kitchen. The height of the building is 37’-2 3/4” to the top, 39’ to the top of the parapet and 46’ -3” to the top of decorative screening. To provide more privacy to the nearby neighbors 12 trees will be planted on the east and west elevations. Building B will house IBNC providing office space, community meeting space, and community services including food distribution program, nutrition education courses, services for residents and living and training spaces for five young adults who will reside onsite. Three trees will be planted along the south side for privacy of the neighbors. Building materials are varied and the facade and screening elements will include murals on some elevations, gray composite or metal siding, decorative stone concrete masonry veneer siding. The project will have 30.1% of landscaping which is double the normal amount required for a commercial site. Each unit has a private patio.
During public comment 40 comments were received between speakers and emails, four comments were not in favor. Some speakers were concerned about the lack of communication and only found out a week prior to the Design Review Board meeting that this project was in the works. Also privacy, sight line, and attracting more people in the neighborhood were concerns. Some of the comments of residents in favor called the project a win for the seniors and underserved, and a win for the whole community. Brian Barreto, board president of IBNC, said onsite programs will focus on food, health, crisis case management, job development, volunteerism and housing services. “The center engages the community to work together to create [a] more unified and empowered neighborhood,” he said.
Councilmember Matthew Leyba Gonzalez said he would like to see locals being hired to build the project. “It would empower people in the construction field that live locally and prevent them from traveling outside the city for work and can cosmetically change the city,” he said. Councilmember Ed Spriggs said the concern of the neighbors is that the project could attract more people who are unsheltered. John Griffin-Atil, IBNC executive director explained that thanks to the young adults who will live onsite, IBNC will be “a thinking hub where community leaders come together and strategically decide how we develop programs throughout the city, not increasing programs… not a lot of people descending on this particulate property… we engage the community, empower the community to do things all over the place [in the city],” he said. There was a question regarding the height of the building and the architect for the project explained that the parapet on the upper level will have equipment hidden from sight and it would not be possible to reduce the height. It was clarified that there will be onsite support services with a case manager, staff, and county contractors which provide services. It was clarified that while the idea is for IB residents to live in the new units, if there is not enough response from locals the search will expand to nearby areas.
“Dozens of senior citizens live by themselves, 50 is not enough. I would like to see more,” said Councilmember Paloma Aguirre. Mayor Pro Tem Jack Fisher asked many questions. He said while he was supportive of the project he is on the dais to represent a group of people who have concerns. He recalled when the Ninth and Palm project was being discussed many meetings were held with the community but in this case there hasn’t been a lot of outreach. He spoke of people’s concerns of the height of the building and privacy. It was discussed that all the windows facing the backyard are turned at an angle to face the IBNC’s own backyard rather than the neighbors, and there is a fence for privacy all along the property. IBNC has partnered with Wakeland Housing and Development Company, a non profit developer for this project. Residents will be 55 and older and have to be income qualified, 13 of the units are reserved for people with chronic disabilities. Also because there will be a request of funds from the county there will be some requirements on their end. This project will partner with PACE program, which is all inclusive care for the elderly, and an alternate system of care that allows seniors to live on their own rather than a retirement home. PACE offers wrap around care on site but also has a shuttle service to its own clinics.
Regarding a question on security Griffin-Atil reassured the council that the five young adults living onsite will keep an eye on things. A concern about the sewer back ups from the property was addressed and it will be fixed as part of the new project.
Mayor Serge Dedina talked about the conditions some seniors live in. “There are a lot of folks in this community living on the edge… we’ve got to do more to improve services and housing. We’ve [got] to build a lot more housing,” he said. Dedina said that Griffin-Atil has worked very hard for the past seven years to make this project happen but he and the city have not received the support they hoped from the state. “We told the governor’s office we’re the only beach city in the state that wants to build affordable housing and their response was ‘drop dead.’ That’s a true story,” he explained.
For more information regarding Affordable Housing, please contact:
Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation
1230 Columbia Street, Ste 950, San Diego, CA 92101