The first phase of Paradise Creek, a 201-unit affordable housing complex, opened in National City this week.
By Mark Armao, Daily Transcript
The first phase of a 201-unit affordable housing complex opened in National City on Tuesday.
Developed by local nonprofit affordable housing developer Community HousingWorks, in partnership with Related California, Paradise Creek represents a long-awaited project, intended to add low-income housing to National City's westside while cleaning up the contaminated soil left over from years of light industrial uses at the site.
Photo courtesy of Community HousingWorks
National City officials joined community groups and business leaders Tuesday to celebrate the opening of phase one, which includes 109 affordable apartments.
"This is a much bigger celebration than only very needed affordable apartments," said Mary Jane Jagodzinski, vice president of development at Community HousingWorks. "This is really a community revitalization effort that started with grassroots community leaders in the Old Town neighborhood of National City more than 10 years ago."
The event also served as a groundbreaking for phase two of the project, which is being developed through a public-private partnership between the City of National City and the developers.
Phase two will comprise 92 more affordable apartments and a four-acre park.
Both phases are on six acres of city-owned property, at the intersection of 22nd Street and Hoover Avenue. The development straddles Paradise Creek, a small tidal creek that flows into San Diego Bay.
The project, which required substantial remediation work, broke ground in December of 2014. The general contractor was VCC, which has a satellite office in Irvine.
Designed by Oakland-based Pyatok Architects, the first phase contains two residential buildings and a 6,000-square-foot community building that houses leasing and management offices, social services programs, a fitness area, a computer center and a multipurpose room.
The development contains one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments that will be rent-restricted for families making 30 percent to 50 percent of the area median income.
Depending on household income, monthly rents for the one-bedroom units range from $435 to $750, and from $600 to $1,040 for three-bedroom units.
Phase one was completed in December and fully occupied in February. During construction, an interest list was circulated for prospective residents. More than 3,600 residents had submitted pre-applications when the list closed four months later.
Calls to redevelop the land, which was formerly used as a public works yard, began in 2005 under the leadership of the Environmental Health Coalition and the San Diego Organizing Project. The groups worked with the city to create the Westside Specific Plan, which included a vision for a pedestrian-friendly community with new affordable housing, creek preservation, a public park and improved infrastructure.
Prior to construction, the site underwent extensive environmental remediation with clearance and supervision from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
"It was challenging to turn this area - which did have contamination and needed a great deal of remediation - into a thriving residential area and soon-to-be park," Jagodzinski said.
The more than $100 million project was financed through a variety of sources, including local, state and federal agencies.
With a 99-year ground lease agreement, the city contributed money through bonds and other sources.
The state awarded more than $9 million for the project through multiple grant programs, and $9.2 million through the state's cap-and-trade program.
The project was subsidized through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Low-Income Housing Tax Credit Program. It was also selected as a pilot project for a sustainable communities program administered through a partnership between HUD, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation.
Jagodzinski said the National City council deserves credit for seeing the project through the decade-long planning and development process.
"There were people in town that said that this wasn't going to happen - it was too big," she said. "But, the council really embraced the vision, made it theirs and put their money down... they deserve a lot of kudos today."