• 3 individuals holding signs supporting affordable housing

      (L-R) Eric Sunada, San Gabriel Valley Oversight Group; Teresa Eilers, United Way Everyone In Campaign; Sasha Rene Perez, Alhambra resident (Photos – Frank Qiu, Teresa Eilers)

      On September 9, 2019, the Alhambra City Council unanimously voted to pursue an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA), and subsequently a development agreement with American Family Housing (AFH) & National CORE to build a 40 unit affordable housing project on a parcel of city-owned land near downtown Alhambra.  The project will consist of a mix of permanent supportive housing and very low-income housing.

      By Sean McMorris

      According to a staff report, the project, which was the least expensive of the three proposals at just under $20 million, will be financed with a combination conventional loan, LA County funding and a 4% tax credit in the amount of $17,950,634. The City of Alhambra would provide funding of $1,990,669 in the form of a long-term residual loan at 3% interest. The land would remain under City of Alhambra leadership but subject to a long-term ground lease.

      National CORE, a partner in the joint venture, currently provides support services for Marv’s Place in Pasadena, a supportive housing complex for formerly homeless families that received the 2016 supportive housing project of the year award.

      The City invited proposals for the project in July. There were three bids received with each applicant proposing different projects and different financing options. The City Council ultimately decided on American Family Housing & National CORE because their project was all-inclusive and offered the most competitive terms. Mayor Andrade-Stadler also indicated that National CORE’s track record played a role in her support for the project, while Councilman Mejia noted that he liked that AFH was offering one and two-bedroom units as opposed to the studio mix of units offered by Little Tokyo Service Center, the other proposal the City Council seriously considered.

      About a dozen community members spoke in favor of the project. No one spoke out against it.

      Inclusionary Housing may be coming to Alhambra

      Later in the meeting, the City Council directed staff to develop a series of regulations to increase the city’s affordable housing stock, including the development of an Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO). The City Council also directed staff to research short-term rental regulations, deed-restricted ADUs, and the possibility of joining a regional housing trust fund.

      But the primary focus, of both the City Council and the public, was on an IHO that would mandate a minimum percentage of set aside affordable housing in all future housing projects with more than 4 or 10 units. Both Councilmembers Maza and Maloney said that an IHO should be the City’s top priority. Even though city staff presented the possibility of a 10% to 15% inclusionary set-aside, Mayor Andrade-Stadler said “I think we should talk about a minimum 15% set aside, and I think we need to move that first.” She added though, “I think we should strive for 20% or 25%—I want to be better than Pasadena,” a friendly acknowledgement of Pasadena’s successful IHO, which the Pasadena City Council is in the process of updating from a minimum affordable housing set aside of 15% to 20%.

      All four present on the Council (Councilwoman Lee was absent) voted to have staff further research all of the options presented, with a high priority on an IHO, and then come back to the City Council with refined proposals for consideration.

      About 10 community members spoke in support of an IHO and some of the other affordable housing options presented.  No one spoke in opposition to an IHO.

      It takes a village

      Present at the city council meeting were many advocates of affordable housing, including a significant number of people from the faith-based community who have for many years taken on the role of caring for the City’s homeless. Also present were members from local and regional organizations who support solutions to the area’s housing and homelessness crises, like Everyone In United Way, Grassroots Alhambra, the San Gabriel Valley Oversight Group, Family Promise., and Making Housing and Community Happen.

      Teresa Eilers, Field Organizer for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles’ Everyone In Campaign, was encouraged by the city council meeting. “It is time that smaller cities take ownership of our homelessness and housing affordability crises,” said Eilers, who praised the City Council’s leadership on these issues.

      Eilers added:

      Alhambra is laying down a foundation for other medium and small-sized cities to follow and show just how possible it is to take action on these issues in an effort to end homelessness.

      Jill Shook of Making Housing and Community Happen was also inspired by the progress set in motion by Alhambra City Hall as well as the community support for affordable housing in Alhambra. “What a joy to see folks from Everyone In, First Baptist, Family Promise, Grassroots Alhambra, AUSD and so many young folks coming to speak about inequity and greed and the need for more equality in society,” Shook said in an email to me. She concluded by saying:

      I love seeing passionate young folks exercise their right to participate in democracy. I am so grateful that Alhambra is supporting Permanent Supportive Housing.

      Eric Sunada, founder of the nonprofit 501(c)(3) San Gabriel Valley Oversight Group, was generally pleased with the new direction the City Council was moving on the affordable housing front but was critical of past practices. “For decades, Alhambra has avoided its responsibilities toward affordable housing,” lamented  Sunada. “Instead, city policies and practices have encouraged the hyper-commodification of housing to an exceptional extent, as if the market needs such help in this area. This has resulted in dismal numbers, such as a total of four low-income rental units generated for families over the city’s history.  This in a city of 60% renters and where nearly half the city qualifies for affordable housing.”  Nonetheless, Sunada was cautiously optimistic:

      We still have a long way to go to fulfilling our community’s needs, but this is a start.

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      1. Clara Aburto says:

        A VERY large lot, located at Valley and Marengo is set to build townhouses. Can’t help but wonder how many will be “affordable ” for seniors and single moms/dads.

      2. Tom Topping says:

        What about all the rentals in Alhambra converted to Airbnb? Bring that to a halt and a whole lot of affordable places will be available.

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