Tom Thurston: Why I killed Amber Tree Apartments

Amber Tree Apartments lay behind a fence along 200 feet of the south side of Foothill Boulevard between 25th and 26th Avenue. I first noticed them last summer when I was on a walking tour of the 23rd Avenue area with other members of the Central City East Redevelopment Project Area Committee (CCE PAC). Walking west, the sidewalk abruptly narrows to accommodate the first of two motel-like structures. We look down the cluttered central courtyard and saw that the properties suffered from great disrepair. Staff members Theresa Navarro-Lopez and Doug Cole agreed to contact code compliance about the property.

City inspectors found the property in worse shape than we could determine from the street. They red-tagged the property and the remaining tenants were relocated. The property has stood closed up and vacant since August. But this is not how I killed Amber Tree Apartments.

Every fall, the CCE PAC hears proposals for affordable (meaning not simply inexpensive but deed-restricted based on HUD guidelines) housing. On October 5, East Bay Asian Local Development Corporation (EBALDC) came with a proposal to purchase Amber Tree and convert it into affordable housing. We learned that the owner of this long-neglected property recently died. Ownership transferred to the spouse. It has been in foreclosure but JP Morgan Chase is hesitant to take possession of the property because of its condition. EBALDC was negotiating to buy the property. Tom Herr of EBALDC reported that at least one private party is also negotiating for the property. EBALDC operates two other affordable properties within a quarter mile of this one.

EBALDC proposed to spend $11,557,507 rehabilitating the 61 units, or just under $190,000 per unit. The proposal looked viable if they could attain the funding, beginning with $2.9 million from Redevelopment. They showed their competence in managing other properties; that was not in dispute.

At the November 2nd meeting of the PAC, we had to make our recommendations to Council. We favored both of the projects that came up before Amber Tree, each without serious dissent. Kathy Chao of the nearby Lao Family Services and Ross Ojeda of the Unity Council both asked critical technical questions, but said nothing negative about the proposal. As chairperson of the PAC, I observed the protocol of mediating the discussion, and reserved my comments until the end. No one had voiced a strong opinion for or against the project.

Finally, I told the PAC that I opposed the project. First, that neighborhood did not need another affordable housing project. Besides the two nearby EBALDC projects, another project about a mile away was also on our docket for that night, requested by RCD.

Second, the project was not currently bound by the deed restrictions of HUD affordability. We should consider what kind of property we want to add to the affordable housing stock, since it could well keep the affordability restrictions for 55 years. New construction affordable housing often has many elements to enhance the neighborhood. The design of this project detracts from the neighborhood. Clearly the property needs someone to turn it around. Just because someone’s single, that doesn’t mean I should marry them.

Third, we should consider the impact of this property on Foothill Boulevard. The development of this commercial corridor is crucial to redevelopment in Central City East. The project’s two buildings look inward and away from the street. They do not form the “hard urban edge” we would to see along a commercial corridor. A more appropriate design would, after a reasonable set-back, run continuously along the street with better controlled entry and no hiding places. Windows would face the street so misbehavior on the sidewalk is less likely because someone might be watching—the cherished “eyes on the street” of New Urbanism.

Finally, removing this property from the tax rolls would be an opportunity lost. The property is perhaps 40,000 square feet. Such large, well shaped properties are rare in this part of the city. Redevelopment and the neighborhood might benefit more if a developer tore it down and started over. The lot is big enough that a developer could actually find this worthwhile when the economy recovers. This will never happen if the property becomes affordable.

I saw no further comments on the proposal so I called the vote. Ten voted against this project and two voted for it with four abstentions.

The project seemed dead at this time. I learned from District 5 Council Aide Claudia Burgos on November 19 that EBALDC is still pursuing the project. Affordable housing is commonly funded by tax credit financing. With investors carrying abundant losses and less tax credit money available, this funding is difficult, even for popular, better designed projects. In the absence of a private developer, this property is likely to sit vacant for years while EBALDC tries to get sufficient financing.

Tom Thurston is an East Oakland resident and Chair of the Central City East Redevelopment Area PAC.

49 thoughts on “Tom Thurston: Why I killed Amber Tree Apartments

  1. Patrick

    Ridiculous! The last thing that neighborhood needs is more affordable housing, especially when it would require $190,000 per unit. There are decent single family homes available in Oakland for less than that! And that complex is dreadful from every point-of-view: it’s “architecture”, the relation to the street – that neighborhood would benefit greatly if it were torn down. We need tax revenue, not more affordable housing in an area that’s already blanketed with it.

  2. Ralph

    The last thing a neighborhood with an overabundance of affordable housing needs is more affordable housing.

  3. Born in Oakland

    But why not more, I may ask? We have an abundance of available services nearby including; about a dozen free food distribution centers, half way houses for parolees, hundreds of section 8 and dreadful OHA buildings, a methadone clinic on E. 14th, alcohol recovery centers, cheap motels, liquor stores, drug hot spots, prostitution day or night between 18th and 20th Ave on E.14th, Highland Hospital ER if you OD and even a regional State Employment Office in case you want to try to try a lifestyle change. Lots of churches too which can provide memorial services as well as assistance to recent immigrants. And all of this because other ZIP codes have not wanted to provide these amenities, With this kind of synergy, is there any possibility hard working folks in this area have a chance to resist more cheap housing for the “people”? Come on
    Rockridge, Piedmont and Montclair. Step up and also provide some affordable housing and needle exchange facilities.

  4. Patrick

    If you haven’t had the pleasure of viewing this architectural masterpiece, you can view pictures I took this morning, here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/44916248@N03/ I’ve never used Flickr before, so you might have to create an account, haven’t figured that out yet. Please also note that photos #11 and #12 appear first.

  5. Jason

    Tom, how did YOU kill the project when the vote was 10 to 2 against? I get all the arguments against, but don’t understand the title of the post.

    What’s the plan for it now? What private party is going to step up and invest anything in it? You may not have to marry someone just because they’re single, but if they’re the last person on earth, you should consider it.

  6. James Robinson

    I’m just curious, how helpful is affordable housing for senior citizens? And considering the aging of the U.S. population, will there be more demand in Oakland for such housing?

  7. Ralph

    BiO, you need help :) . Thankfully, my coffee cup is empty.

    Patrick, danke. Those overhead wires need to be killed.

  8. Chris Kidd

    James,
    The coming demand for senior housing is going to be HUGE. 2010 marks the first year in which the leading edge of the baby boom generation hits 65. Currently, there are about 240-250 senior citizens for every 1000 workers in the United States. By 2030, it’s going to be somewhere around 450 seniors for every 1000 workers. This is going be a gigantic problem. It’s one of the reasons the gov’t needs to fix healthcare right now, but I digress….

    Even though the vast majority of soon-to-be retired baby boomers will want to hold on to their homes until the very end, the sheer volume of retirees coming are going to cause a huge demand for senior housing, affordable and otherwise. Placing these facilities in urban areas that will be in close proximity to the services they’d require without forcing them to drive is probably the optimal option.

  9. livegreen

    PAC’s: What about funding PACs approve that doesn’t get spent? Who’s following up to see if the recipient’s are spending the funds or pocketing the difference? I’m not saying it happens in all cases, but who’s to know if there’s no mechanism or Audits in place…

  10. Naomi Schiff

    LG–I don’t know if it is still this way, but when I was on this type of board, they did go back through a hearing process in order to reprogram funds, and they had to be voted upon again by the redevel agency (city council) after receiving the committee’s recommendation.

    To the comments above: there is a huge difference between the badly-run and badly-built Oakland Housing Authority residential units that have given public housing a terrible reputation and some of those nonprofit-run ones which are responsibly designed, cared for, and staffed with onsite management. In many neighborhoods, I think people find it easy to distinguish between good affordable housing and bad. I believe a blanket attack on all affordable housing is not helpful. I also believe that a strong neighborhood demand for quality construction, firm and responsible management policy, and good maintenance is very reasonable. Private owners are entirely capable of running badly maintained, crime-prone housing too. We’ve had as many examples of that around where I live as we have of the publicly-subsidized type.

  11. Livegreen

    But we need more housing for the middle class too. If we’re primarily doing housing for the poor, then Oakland will both be a magnet primarily for the poor, and won’t build a solid enough middle class to pay for low income housing, City taxes or core services, much less all the additional wealth-transfering measures.

    While I’m not against low-income housing I AM for it being balanced with middle class housing so we can pay for it. I think that’s the debate Oakland needs to have along with facts and figures…

  12. livegreen

    Q. for Tom & CCE PAC: I used to know a young man who lived at 8603 Hillside Ave. Earlier this year he & his family were involved with a landlord-tenant dispute because of repairs not affected on their apartment. He showed me pictures which showed the property was in total disrepair, inside & out.

    A quick search reveals the owners of this property received funds from CCE PAC for making just such repairs, in July 2008!:

    http://74.125.155.132/searchq=cache:wYVnDRcaGycJ:clerkwebsvr1.oaklandnet.com/attachments/19759.pdf+8603+Hillside,+Oakland,+CA&cd=3&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us&client=safari

    What system is in place for monitoring how the funds are spent by the recipients to spend the money as intended?

    This example appears to demonstrate a major flaw in the use of Redevelopment Funds on several levels:
    –No effective 3rd Party Independent verification that funds are spent as intended (only the assurances of the recipient);
    –No effective on-sight inspection of property;
    –No notification to low-income tenants that such repairs are to be made, or who to contact if they are not.

    The oversight of PAC funding appears to often (if not always) to be self-regulated by the recipients of such funds. Is self-regulation official policy of the CCE PAC, and the City of Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency?

    If not, what is the regulation policy, both stated and practiced?

  13. Naomi Schiff

    I think if you look at the statistics during the recent boom you will find that quite a lot of market rate housing was built. Some of it is still empty, though. Of course the condos that are unsold are being rented out, but they are expensive enough that some are still vacant. No matter what planning decisions we make, creating market-rate housing is dependent upon the ability of developers to get financing, not so much upon what the city does. When people propose market-rate housing the city is generally very eager to see it happen.

    In the meantime, if there is money for affordable projects, at least we can get some construction jobs and some units will be built in the meantime. For the sake of our neighborhoods we certainly should work to make sure that anything new is of decent quality, is well-run, and continues to be well-maintained–no matter what kind of ownership it is under.

  14. Born in Oakland

    My point was not to attack affordable housing per say but to claim there is a proliferation of such housing in the flats, as well as liquor stores, proliferation of section 8, proliferation of under performing schools. Just say “no” to more housing schemes below 580 unless other ZIP codes put on the harness as well.

  15. livegreen

    For some reason cutting & pasting the previous link did not work. A quick search of this address will reveal the document from the Redevelopment Agency showing the CCE PAC grant to the owners of the property who received the City CCE PAC funds…

  16. Patrick

    Seriously, when half of the area below 580 is a slum, how much more affordable can you get? NO NO NO more.

    Where is the affordable housing in Berkeley, San Leandro, El Cerrito, Hayward, Lamorinda? Why, it’s all here, in Oakland! We MUST have a balance – unless there is sufficient market rate housing, there is no one to pay for the affordable housing. Enough!

  17. Patrick

    I moved to Oakland partially because it was “affordable”. But if my taxes keep jacking up, it will cease to be. So, who is going to pay for everyone else’s “affordable” housing in Oakland, when fully middle-class people like me move out to avoid the tax hit? Again I say, I was a bleeding heart liberal – and then I moved to Oakland.

  18. James Robinson

    I agree with Patrick!

    For one thing, Oakland needs to stop being the dumping ground for the East Bay’s poor. Let Berkeley take up some of the slack, since they want to be so “liberal.” And let’s try to grow a middle class in Oakland.

  19. len raphael

    Naomi, the small sample of OHA buildings that i’ve seen in Temescal and just above Bway near 44th st, are well maintained. A plumber buddy who works all over oakland for OHA agrees that their maintenance quality is quite good now. The exterior design details of the small project above Bway was darn nice. (somewhat marred by the tennants laundry hung out in front, but heck that’s green so its ok).

    The problems at the medium size temescal site on Manila and 49th, are greatly reduced from what they were a August 08 (which was a low point featuring a driveby down 49th street).

    That doesn’t mean i think OHA should expand. My impression is they have a high cost of maintenance and construction, in part because they pay union scale.

    -len

  20. Ralph

    Senior housing is not what it used to be. As JQ correctly pointed out during a Life Enrichment Cmmttee mtg, senior are moving to mixed urban city centers because active seniors want to be be where the action is.

    With that said, I think that the DTO lack medical facilities for seniors and for the young alike. There is much that the city can and should do with regard to senior housing that will benefit us all. As an example, more centralized medical services should reduce the paratransit costs.

  21. len raphael

    Tom, didn’t occur to me, but is all affordable housing exempt from real estate taxes, or just those held directly by non profit orgs and government entities?

    -len

  22. Naomi Schiff

    Patrick and James,

    Berkeley has built quite a bit of affordable housing. I think AHA and RCD both started out in Berkeley.

    http://www.ci.berkeley.ca.us/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=10502

    Hayward has built quite a few units, and has inclusionary zoning legislation (not to get you too excited) in place as well. Check out Eden Housing for example.

    Part of the reason it seems we have a lot of affordable housing is that we have a pretty large city. Many of the other communities you are listing are much much smaller.

  23. livegreen

    It would be nice to see how we compare in % both in the amount of poverty, middle class, affordable housing, and middle class housing compared to these other cities…

    SF shouldn’t be exempted. I think V had a post a few months ago about how Oakland builds it’s quota of Affordable Housing, but many other cities do not. That would automatically displace more poor to where they can find the housing, and that is here. Anyway a comparison of the #’s above would be helpful.

  24. len raphael

    “most affordable housing is owned by limited partnerships in which the managing general partner is a 501c3 non profit so property tax exempt; local business taxes depend on the wording of the exemptions.”

    wow. that does add a whole new dimension to the social costs and benefits of affordable housing deals.

    which is to say that affordable housing projects get same tax free ride as non profit hospitals, schools, religious institutions, social service groups that seem to thrive in Oakland like bamboo in a rain forest.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  25. Naomi Schiff

    Len, I was amused by your mention of laundry. When I was a kid in Ohio our apartment didn’t allow laundry to be hung out, and my mother was not happy about it. My parents, who had been hanging out laundry for years, as we moved from state to state, found the prohibition to be some sort of crazy affectation. In the end they had to cave in and buy a dryer, an extravagance for them at the time.

    It is good to hear that the OHA housing in that neighborhood is being better maintained. It is my impression too that they have been making more effort recently.

    Re: tax loss due to nonprofit status–I’ve wondered about the number of huge government buildings in the downtown redevelopment area, for the same reason. Here we establish a redevelopment area in order to capture the “tax increment” and then build some institutional thing that doesn’t contribute. I know that the rationale has to do with attracting jobs and the resultant business activity, but I don’t think I have ever seen a good analysis of what it means for the redevel. budget. Some of these are very large–and one would think valuable–pieces of land.

  26. Born in Oakland

    I lived in Berkeley as a young man, renting from a liberal Stevenson Democrat who lived in the hills. An issue came up about building a large apartment complex on a vacant piece of land, He asked me to go to Berkeley City Council to protest, along with other neighbors. “If they want to build this kind of crap, let them put it in Oakland,” he emphasized to me. This was about 1966, the same time I was working for Ron Dellums for Berkeley City Council, his first elected position. Here we are 50 years later and Berkeley and its snotty, “of class” pretentious, academically inclined movers and shakers continue to dump on Oakland. Want affordable housing? Put that junk in Berkeley. The time has come for true fair housing and economic diversity, on a regional basis.

  27. len raphael

    Naomi, i think the economic eir for encouraging non profits to grow anywhere in oakland is that they’re better than vacant buildings iff they don’t bring more city service consuming residents to live here, even middle class worker bees.

    but yes, eg i would assume that a large chunk of the new kaiser complex gets a free ride for all taxes except sales taxes. the part that might be owned by the for profit part of kaiser (doctors?) would pay various taxes.

    we have to look into imposing impact fees on new developments especially those owned by non profits.

    -len

  28. Ralph

    to say that non-profits don’t pay taxes is not quite fair. while some avoid your basic real estate taxes they do make pymts to the city in which they are located.

  29. len raphael

    Ralph, though i remember UC Berkeley always points that out that they make in-lieu-of tax payments, have not heard that in Oakland. What line item on the city revenue budget would that fall into?

    -len

  30. Ralph

    I don’t know what line item it is but Kaiser and the Cathedral both make pymts. I am sure others do but I just don’t follow it that closely.

  31. David

    $190K/unit???????????????????????????????

    WHAT THE heck? There’s NO WAY it could cost that much to rehab the units. Period. What a joke.

    It costs less than half that to gut rehab an entire house.

    I call BS.

  32. Ralph

    i stand corrected the Cathedral and Kaiser pay taxes. so, i would check the property tax line. i knew they made pymts.

  33. len raphael

    wikiped i think has it correct:

    “Kaiser Permanente is a consortium of three distinct groups of entities: the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and its regional operating subsidiaries, Kaiser Foundation Hospitals, and the autonomous regional Permanente Medical Groups.

    The Health Plan and Hospitals operate under state and federal non-profit tax status, while the Medical Groups operate as for-profit partnerships or professional corporations in their respective regions.”

    did you get the 150Mill from alameda county assessor’s site, and a listing for the Foundation as owner? i wouldn’t expect all the equipment and offices to be owned by the Foundation.

  34. Ralph

    Yep, that looks correct. I always forget about the medical groups. I don’t think the assessor site list the owner. as far as i know the only way to get the data from the assessor site is to use either an address or an apn. because, i care, i scoured city financials for this data. 10 years ago it was a mere $90MM

  35. ener

    dear mr. thurston,

    thank you for your thoughtful post on the amber tree, and for your service on the cce pac. my name is ener chiu; i am a resident of downtown oakland , and also an ebaldc employee. i’m not currently staffed on amber tree, but i came across your abo post, and thought it was a good opportunity to open up a dialogue about the development. this response is a personal one, and is not intended to represent the opinions of the ebaldc board or management.

    first, i agree that the neighborhood has a significant amount of affordable, deed restricted units. ebaldc owns and manages three buildings within eight blocks of the site: hismen (2555 international), oak park (2618 e.16th st.), and 7 directions (2946 international). hismen and 7d are new construction, and oak park is a gut rehab similar to what we have proposed for amber tree. there are two reasons we tend to cluster our sites. first, market rate development tends to crowd us out, not the other way around. in investment desirable neighborhoods, land tends to get snappedup at prices higher than we can afford. as a result, we have traditionally been pushed into areas that are tougher, on more difficult sites, where larger developers don’t want to go (yet). we would welcome the opportunity to bring dignified, professionally managed affordable housing development to neighborhoods like rockridge or montclair , and hope that if that chance ever comes up, we would be able to count on citizens like yourself and others responding to your post, to help us educate the nimbys who are oposed to any affordable developments in their neighborhood. (as an aside, i personally own a condo and live across the street from an ebaldc affordable housing development, and am excited about the possibility of more well-run affordable housing in my neighborhood.) the second reason we cluster sites is because we find that it benefits the residents, building operations, and neighborhoods. we often have unique services at each building. for instance, at 7 directions, we are able to offer low-cost medical services at the clinic. we have childcare at hismen. and we have financial literacy programming at oak park . this community hub provides easy access to services for residents of all three of our buildings, while allowing us to keep our service budget manageable. we also offer and advertise these services to nearby residents who don’t live in our buildings.

    to address your second and third points, i concede that indeed, it might be more ideal to tear down amber tree and start over. as you pointed out, the design of the building is both dated and lacking in a strong street presence. however, i doubt that any financially responsible developer or investor would demolish and rebuild this site, even as market rate rental or for-sale residential and expect to make a profit, and i don’t believe the site is well situated for a retail development within the next ten years (though i could be wrong – i’m not an expert in small scale commercial development). it would be extremely difficult, maybe impossible in the current environment for ebaldc to raise the funds to demolish the building and create a new building. that’s not to say the site is a total loss as a rehab. i think we can address some of the street presence issues that you brought up with a rehab. if you’ve been in the area for more than ten years, you may remember what the old oak park apartments were like before we took them over. if you’ve seen oak park recently, i think most reasonable people would conclude that we accomplished something more than just putting lipstick on a pig when we rehabbed it. we also helped to catalyze a reduction in crime in the immediate vicinity and bring some new homeowners to the area who have bought homes nearby, and started a church/childcare center next door.

    lastly, your comment regarding the loss of the property as a tax generating source does have some validity. as affordable housing, the site would generate less property taxes for the pac than other uses. however, by effectively improving the blighted property, the site would more likely attract other development and investment (and homeowners) to the area and raise the values of the surrounding properties, thus generating more taxes overall in the area. as an empty, boarded up site for a long period of time, it would most likely become an attractive nuisance and lower property values around it. again, i would point to what ebaldc accomplished at oak park as an example.

    thanks again for your insight. i hope that i have the opportunity to meet you in the future, and continue this conversation so that we can learn how to create a better development that more fully meets the pac’s goals.

    and v, thank you for providing this excellent forum for exchanging ideas about oakland . this is a good reminder for me to finally make my donation to your great efforts. thank you!

    ener

  36. Andy Panda

    OHA & section 8 are what stink up my neighborhood. Between OHA & section 8 crapholes, it makes any kind of developement w/ an affordable housing component a pretty tough sell, as, as has been mentioned in the thread, there are plenty of low income housing opportunities all over the place, & the tenants of these buildings really help to drive out the people I would like to have as neighbors. I think Ambertree should be bulldozed.

  37. Patrick

    Sorry, ener – not buying it. Market rate development does not “crowd you out” as much as “affordable housing” creates a permanent slum. When did we become the lowest common denominator? The city of Oakland is the most affordable city in the inner bay area. All I see is “touchy-feely, blah, blah, blah.” Oakland has plenty of affordable housing – we don’t need yet another quasi-governmental group to further ruin our naturally improving neighborhoods. Sorry. Look elsewhere. PLEASE.

    These schemes are nothing but the “projects” of our time. The high-rise “clusters” of the 1960′s? Razed. The low-rise “courtyard-communities” of the 1970′s? Razed. The mixed townhome/single family planned – communities of the 1980′s? Abandoned. The “inclusionary villages” of the 1990′s? Half empty. The “work-play-live” developments – and the required percentage of “affordable units” – of the 2000′s? Just look around you.

  38. Born in Oakland

    Tough love for Oakland, tell it like it is boys! Just say no to “affordable” housing below 580. Put it in Berkeley, Montclair and see how the local pols flinch and the neighborhood screams. There is plenty of affordable housing in the flats and with a lot of hard work, sweat equity and a strong stomach, anyone with an 8th grade education can stake a claim. Don’t wait for CEDA or some other gov’t asistance, get your neighbors and friends to invest with you. But you have to put down the weed and the booze. You need to get up in the morning and get to work.

  39. Ralph

    BiO, unfortunately because the city is hooked on dope revenue and anyone old enough to walk and talk can get a script, it appears that getting high will become easier and easier. you know why little johnny can’t buy a house, never got an education – turns out he never went to class, he could have cheated and he could have passed, but he never went. You know why? Because he got high. Roll another blunt!

  40. Born in Oakland

    Unfortunately Ralph, you speak the truth. I have seen it happen several times right here in River City, right in my hood. Parents had the equity, could have helped, kids were getting stoned. Couldn’t finish school, couldn’t keep a job, now they are getting older , have a predisposition to violence and anger. They can’t be reasoned with because they can’t think. They are cannon fodder for prison. But they do like girls, all shapes and all sizes. They can’t wait to prove their “manhood” and they think using condoms is unnatural. I feel particularly saddened by the plight of many young women, the object of this dysfunctional culture. We should build housing for these poor women and their progeny, just not in Oakland, or at least the flats, anymore.

  41. Oaktowntom

    In response to livegreen’scomment on 8603 Hillside Ave., Redevelopment does not simply hand out money with no accountability. Recipients must follow CEDA guidelines and report back to staff the use of funds. During my term as Chair (October ’08 to present) I have tried to establish procedures for greater accountability of the staff to the PAC. Now our January and July meetings are budget reviews and updates on PAC projects and accomplishments. Members of the public who want to know what happened to the taxpayers’ money are welcome to attend these meetings. If they want to ask about any specific project, sign up for open forum regarding that agenda point.

    Specifically on 8603 Hillside, that property had more than a few problems. Some investors from the east side of the hills bought it a few years ago, thinking they were getting a bargain, and got more than they bargained for. The property was in disrepair and had significant security problems. They sunk far more of their own money in than the anticipated, and came to the PAC for help. The owners impressed us as trying to do the right thing. If people are calling Code Compliance on the owners, that means they care about the property, and that’s a good thing.

    Regarding ener’s comments, I would have been more sympathetic toward the project if the proposal included redesign to create a strong street presence. It did not.

    In response to Jason, I said that I killed Amber Tree because I was the only person who made a clearly negative statement about the property. PAC members from other areas look to those more directly concerned or affected by a proposal and often give significant consideration to their opinions.

    On the issue of affordable housing above 580, studies have shown that small to mid-size affordable projects do not have a negative affect on affluent neighborhoods. On the other hand, there’s a financial Catch-22. The bigger the project, the easier it is to make the financing work,due to economies of scale. But bigger properties are not available above 580, or not available at a price that would attract a non-profit developer. A solution would be greater subsidies per unit.

  42. livegreen

    Oaktowntom, Thanks for the follow-up. However what I pointed out is that a significant # of these repairs have actually NOT been done. (Isn’t this called “Theft”?). This leads me to believe:

    –The verification system, if any, is not thoroughly carried out, or is otherwise flawed (IF PAC or CEDA staff actually goes to the property, they don’t actually look in detail at the repairs. Like the Sheriffs visiting Phil Garrido).

    –On top of it the owners have refused to do repairs to the tenants property. These are the same repairs the PAC loan was for. The tenants had no idea the City had loaned money to the owners for this repair. They just wanted repairs to be made because the conditions were so bad.

    –I never mentioned anybody had called Code Compliance. Residents of the property had no awareness of the PAC’s, CEDA’s, or the City’s involvement with the property. (Again, shouldn’t residents be notified about repairs to be made? That would help both tenants AND the PAC ensure money you’ve loaned is actually being spent instead of pocketed. Unless the system is honor code, or self-enforcement, as this makes it appear).

    –On top of it the tenants ended up taking the owners to court, on their own time and dime. If the PAC is defacto outsourcing Code Compliance to tenants you should at least compensate them for it…

  43. Larry Rice

    Don’t be fooled by the notion that affordability restrictions will expire in 55 years. What typically happens is that a nonprofit manages the property, and eventually applies for NOFA funding, ostensibly for fix-up, but also in order to snag the 10% or so in “administrative fees” they are allowed to include. Once further city funding is granted, the affordability clock is reset and runs for a new 55 year period. Therefore, once the property is restricted for affordable housing, it is likely to stay that way forever.

  44. Naomi Schiff

    Interesting, Larry. How many of our units are more than 55 years old? Where has this happened? I only know about the Pacific Renaissance case, where when the affordability period ran out (it was much shorter, only ten years I think) the owners cheerfully evicted a bunch of hapless ninety year olds, and triggered a huge flap and lengthy lawsuit. Didn’t seem obvious at all that it would remain affordable. That story is particularly convoluted, but I don’t think many other units around here have hit 55?