Cam­bria ap­proves af­ford­able hous­ing apart­ment com­plex

The Tribune (SLO) - - Local - BY KATHE TAN­NER ktanner@thetri­bune­

Peo­ple’s Self-help Hous­ing’s sec­ond apart­ment com­plex on School­house Lane in Cam­bria could be ready for low-in­come fam­i­lies to oc­cupy within a few years, ac­cord­ing to John Fowler, the non­profit agency’s pres­i­dent and CEO.

He gave that es­ti­mate June 12, two days af­ter Cal­i­for­nia’s stark need for af­ford­able hous­ing won out over Cam­bria’s water-sup­ply con­cerns.

On June 10, Cal­i­for­nia Coastal Com­mis­sion mem­bers de­nied ap­peals against the project and unan­i­mously ap­proved the Peo­ple’s Self-help Hous­ing (PSHH) plan for the sec­ond apart­ment com­plex near Santa Lu­cia Mid­dle School.

Ac­cord­ing to the cur­rent work­ing draw­ings and doc­u­ments, the apart­ments, which for at least 55 years can only be rented to qual­i­fy­ing low-in­come fam­i­lies, will in­clude 32 units of from one to three bed­rooms, a one-bed­room man­ager’s unit, a com­mon build­ing, a 61-space park­ing lot, and as­so­ci­ated im­prove­ments on a 5.88acre meadow.

For­mer North Coast Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil (NCAC) chair­per­son Su­san Mc­don­ald wrote on Facebook af­ter the hear­ing that the com­mis­sion­ers’ de­ci­sion had made June 10 “a great day for 32 low-in­come fam­i­lies in our com­mu­nity” who can now plan ahead to have af­ford­able places to live in Cam­bria.

Get­ting fi­nal ap­proval has been a long haul: It’s been nine months since the com­mis­sion­ers, in a pre­lim­i­nary hear­ing, called for a full re­view be­fore they de­cided for or against the ap­peals.

Fowler said the ap­peal process is now over, and the com­mis­sion­ers’ ac­tion was the last step in what has been a 15-year process, from prop­erty pur­chase in 2005 to the June 10 de­nial of the ap­peals.

Dur­ing that time, there’s been a “re­ces­sion, a se­vere drought, water is­sues” and other hur­dles, he said, but Peo­ple’s Self-help Hous­ing “waded through all that. We per­se­vered.”

The non­profit “has been here 50 years, and we’re not go­ing any­where,” Fowler said. When PSHH bought the prop­erty, he added, “We knew Cam­bria would be a long road.”

“Now, we’re ex­cited for the com­mu­nity of Cam­bria,” Fowler said, es­pe­cially “the peo­ple wait­ing to live in the apart­ments, peo­ple who’ve been couch surf­ing, or com­mut­ing” to get to their mostly hos­pi­tal­ity-in­dus­try jobs.

He re­it­er­ated that each prospec­tive renter must qual­ify to live in the apart­ments, pass­ing a strin­gent qual­i­fi­ca­tion process, in­clud­ing back­ground checks and in­come ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and that process must be re­peated an­nu­ally for each ten­ant.

Those cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, done by a “full, in-house com­pli­ance team,” are re­quired as part of the non­profit’s fund­ing. If PSHH doesn’t meet those re­quire­ments ev­ery year, he said, “we lose our fund­ing” be­cause those who pro­vide the money would lose the tax cred­its they get from par­tic­i­pat­ing and

PSHH would have to re­fund their in­vest­ments.

“We’ve never had that hap­pen,” he added.

The next steps are “com­plet­ing and sub­mit­ting draw­ings, get­ting the build­ing per­mit and find­ing the fund­ing source,” Fowler said.

In fin­ish­ing the cur­rent work­ing draw­ings, “we’ll share specif­i­cally how we’ll save water and ful­fill the agree­ment,” he said. “We fully in­tend to do ex­actly what we promised the county, Coastal Com­mis­sion, ser­vices dis­trict and the com­mu­nity that we’d do.”

The new project will be sub­ject to the Cam­bria Com­mu­nity Ser­vices Dis­trict’s con­ser­va­tion-retro­fit mea­sures, mean­ing the new com­plex can­not trig­ger a net in­crease in water de­mand. Self-help agreed to com­ply with those re­quire­ments

If the per­mit process goes smoothly, Fowler said he es­ti­mates the apart­ments could be un­der con­struc­tion “in one or two years. That’s our hope. We’re go­ing forth with con­fi­dence, full steam ahead.” HEAR­ING ON CAM­BRIA LOW-IN­COME HOUS­ING PROJECT

Cam­bria res­i­dent Kathy Pres­ci­ado wrote in her de­tailed ob­ser­va­tions about the one­hour com­mis­sion hear­ing that, ac­cord­ing to Ted Har­ris, a consultant to PSHH who spoke there, the project has 48 low­in­come fam­i­lies on the wait­ing list for the 32-new apart­ments. Pre­sum­ably, there could be many more wait­ing in the wings.

The hear­ing was broad­cast on Zoom.

Five peo­ple spoke against the project, cit­ing con­cerns about water sup­ply, fire pro­tec­tion and the se­lec­tion of res­i­dents for the apart­ments. Those in­cluded the three women who had ap­pealed pre­vi­ous countyleve­l de­ci­sions to ap­prove the project — Mary Webb, Chris­tine Hein­richs and Les­lie Richards.

Through­out the process, they’ve chal­lenged staff con­clu­sions and in­di­cated they did not be­lieve that the apart­ment com­plex would be able to save as much water through retrofitti­ng as has been pro­jected.

How­ever, Fowler said June 12 that the ap­pel­lants had ex­pressed to him that “they love what we do,” and they wish they didn’t feel they needed to be “on the other side of this,” due to their con­cerns about Cam­bria’s water sup­ply and other is­sues.

Three peo­ple spoke in fa­vor of the PSHH project, in­clud­ing Ted Siegler, an­other for­mer NCAC chair­per­son, who de­tailed his view of how the water retrofitti­ng would work and would save water.

Brian O’neill, plan­ner for the com­mis­sion’s Santa Cruz staff, called the pro­posal a “bona fide” af­ford­able project and said the apart­ments would be for qual­i­fied ap­pli­cants.

In their com­ments be­fore the unan­i­mous vote, some com­mis­sion­ers cited “so­cial jus­tice,” the af­ford­able na­ture and com­mu­nity-char­ac­ter build­ing to en­cour­age di­ver­sity and com­mu­nity re­siliency within Cam­bria. They said that PSHH should make ac­com­mo­da­tions within the project for charg­ing elec­tric ve­hi­cles.

“We want to be a great com­mu­nity neigh­bor and part­ner,” Fowler said, “build­ing some­thing beau­ti­ful that’s well main­tained pro­tects the re­sources and gets this much­needed hous­ing done.”

For more about Peo­ple’s Self-help Hous­ing, go to Kathe Tan­ner: 805-781-7904, @Cam­bri­are­porter


The apart­ments, which for at least 55 years can only be rented to qual­i­fy­ing low-in­come fam­i­lies, will in­clude 32 units of from one to three bed­rooms on a 5.88-acre meadow.


Peo­ple’s Self-help Hous­ing’s sec­ond apart­ment com­plex on School­house Lane in Cam­bria could be ready for low-in­come fam­i­lies to oc­cupy within a few years.

John Fowler

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