Transit-oriented, multigenerational affordability in Southern CA
LEED platinum apartment building brings seniors and children together in a downtown infill location.
Courier Place in Claremont
Claremont, a leafy, academically oriented city of about 35,000 at the base of Southern California’s San Gabriel Mountains, takes sustainability and affordable housing seriously. Those priorities are exemplified by the Courier Place Apartment Homes, a multigenerational development on 3.4 acres adjacent to the transit station and the Claremont’s Village Expansion downtown area.
Close to shopping, schools, parks, and entertainment, this workforce housing completed in 2012 provides a much-needed residential component to the city and to downtown.
At a density of 22 units per acre, the three-story Courier Place encompasses 75 affordable apartments arranged in three residential buildings and a 3,000 square-foot recreation center including a multipurpose room, kitchen, restrooms, and computer lab. Outdoor amenities include a swimming pool, patio dining area, a tot lot, and covered parking with photovoltaic (solar) panels. The property also features an internal network of landscaped courtyards, a walking path, and resident common areas.
Built by Jamboree Housing Corporation, one of California’s largest nonprofit affordable housing developers, Courier Place has been certified LEED for Homes Platinum by the US Green Building Council, one of only a few LEED Platinum affordable housing developments in California.
Courier Place’s green design includes optimum water efficiency, increased wall insulation, highly efficient windows and glass slider doors, energy efficient lighting, and ENERGY STAR appliances in each apartment — helping to reduce residents’ utility bills. Most of the energy for the property’s common areas is generated by photo voltaic cells situated atop the carport roofs.
Courier Place has low-VOC carpeting, underlayment, and adhesives, and no-VOC interior paint for healthy interiors. Low-flow plumbing fixtures and tankless water heaters in all apartments ensure water conservation. The site uses less than half the water of traditional landscaping — 66 percent of plants are drought tolerant — coupled with highly efficient drip irrigation in many of the plant beds.
To control storm water runoff, the Courier Place site is served by an underground water retention/detention system that consists of three plastic pipes that measure 60 inches in diameter and 112 feet in length that are buried contiguous to one another about 25 feet under the parking lot. All storm water runoff from the Courier Place site drains into the system, which is designed to accommodate a theoretical 50-year storm. The polyethylene pipes contain the water, which drains through perforations into a six-foot deep gravel bed, and then into the ground.
Courier Place is one of only a few affordable, multigenerational, multifamily housing developments in California. It is also the first affordable, multigenerational project developed in the County of Los Angeles and the City of Claremont.
Multigenerational living is an increasingly popular lifestyle concept based on the idea that the blending of families and seniors builds a stronger community and offers a lifestyle that enhances health and happiness. In a mature community such as Claremont, with thousands of long-term residents who want to age in place, the mix makes perfect sense. “It is only recently that we have started to see these projects become more popular in California and only a few have been affordable,” says Laura Archuleta, Jamboree’s president.
The property includes a distinctly designed apartment building for senior citizens and two buildings for families — as well as a shared community center and pool. Seniors live in 38 one-bedroom apartments in their building with a third-floor deck patio and a two-story recreation space. Family apartments are encompassed in two buildings with 36 two- and three-bedroom, two-bath apartments.
The average age of seniors in this new TOD property is 75 years, and the 36 families living here include 66 children. Residents earn between 30 percent and 50 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI).
Because seniors have their own building, they can live quietly or interact with families in the community center, playground, pool, or patio dining areas.
Unlike other senior communities that limit children’s visits or access to common areas, the “separate yet integrated” multigenerational design of Courier Place gives seniors the opportunity to invite their children and grandchildren to enjoy all the amenities.
To enhance interaction between the generations, programs include shared field trips to museums and cultural attractions for educational purposes; mentoring programs for seniors and youth to work together; and classes for seniors that are led by teens to help seniors better understand and utilize technology.
A Prototype for Future Housing
Former Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza, who was mayor during the entitlement, planning and development of Courier Place, emphasized at the grand opening, noted that the city wants to share its experience in building this prototype project.
Courier Place also exemplifies redeveloping an infill site that might otherwise sit unused. The site was previously occupied for many years by the Claremont Courier community newspaper, hence the name (the newspaper relocated.) Courier Place’s proximity to employment helps reduce local and regional traffic congestion by allowing low- and moderate-income workers to live closer to their jobs. Courier Place is currently home to 22 residents who work in Claremont, several of whom can walk to work.
The development’s transit-oriented location also responds directly to California’s greenhouse gas law SB-375 that requires new residential projects to be built near public transportation to reduce vehicle miles traveled and therefore carbon emissions. More than 350 bus or Metrolink commuter train rides are available daily to residents within a half-mile of the site.
With its distinct design and many positive sustainable and lifestyle attributes, Courier Place has earned accolades from the National Association of Home Builders, the Pacific Coast Builders Conference, and the city’s Architectural Commission.
A Public/Private Partnership
The $21.36 million financing is the type of public/private investment that can create new opportunities for affordable housing development, especially in light of the loss of redevelopment funding in California.
Courier Place received $2.75 million of HOME/City of Industry Funds from the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission, and the City of Claremont provided $4.91 million. Other financing consisted of 9 percent Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC) purchased for $13.3 million by WNC & Associates, the equity investor; and a $13 million construction loan from US Bank. Jamboree purchased the land from the Claremont Redevelopment Agency and Golden State Water Company.
Claremont citizens also played an important public role in allowing Courier Place’s design and development to move forward. Generally, small design-related projects are reviewed and acted upon by the planning staff. Larger projects such as Courier Place are reviewed and acted upon by the City’s Architectural Commission.
Larry Schroeder is mayor of the City of Claremont