ALA’s Janet L. Witkins Center Breaks Ground

Witkin Center RenderingLos Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky joined a long roster of city officials to celebrate the ground breaking of The Janet L. Witkins Center in the heart of West Hollywood on March 15, 2013. Named after the founder of Affordable Living for the Aging (ALA), an organization dedicated to senior housing and also this project’s developer, the center will be the nation’s first sustainably and universally designed home for vulnerable seniors.

Century’s $850,000 acquisition and predevelopment loan helped finance the 17 unit project targeting seniors with incomes at or below 30% of the area median income.

Has the Granny Flat Finally Arrived — as the Graduate Flat?

Lennar, a well-known and fairly traditional home builder active in California, made the news recently because they are offering a new product in their Crescent Heights at Sky Ranch subdivision in Santee, a suburban city east of San Diego.  One of the three models offered incorporates what they are calling their NextGen, Home Within a Home.  Essentially, this is a studio apartment, with a separate one-car garage, included within the same structure as a fairly standard 4-bedroom (plus ‘Bonus Room’), 3-bath, 2-car garage suburban home.  The studio unit has its own separate entrance from the outside, kitchenette and space for a stacked washer and dryer.

The home is priced at $610,000, and has about 3,650 sq.ft. in total, or about $167/sq.ft.  For the San Diego market, it is in about the middle of the price range.

Is there a market for this “new” type of home?  Lennar seems to think so, and the national press has been talking about the demand for multigenerational housing for some time.  CNN Money wrote about it in April 2012, a year ago, the New York Times pointed out that it was a new trend a year before that, a recently published book, Together Again, notes articles going back to at least 2005 on their promotional website, AARP has a whole blog site dedicated to the issue.  It has been discussed in various “learned journals” (I happen to like the article in New Geography). Read more

Affordable Housing Developments Win at the PCBC

Century is always proud to see affordable housing developers receive recognition for the fine work they do, and last week’s Pacific Coast Builders Conference Golden Nugget Awards was another example of the levels of excellence affordable housing developments have achieved.  Many of this year’s Golden Nugget Award winners have been Century partners and clients, and we join with PCBC in congratulating them all for their contributions to their communities.

Affirmed Housing received the Grand Award in the Affordable Housing 15-30 du/acre category for Riverwalk in the Nestor community of San Diego, designed by Studio E Architects and Darsono Design.

 

 

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Century Partners Win Big!

Today, the Los Angeles Business Council announced their 42nd Annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards, and there were several Century partners among the winners.

SRO Housing Corp. was honored for their renovation of the Ford Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles, along with Killefer Flammang Architects and Westport Construction. This six-story residential hotel was remodeled to provide affordable homes for 150 formally homeless individuals along with community space.

Skid Row Housing Trust was honored for the Star Apartments, along with Michael Maltzan Architecture and Westport Construction.  This LEED Platinum certified mixed use new development will have 102 affordable homes and a community hub providing permanent supportive housing in Downtown Los Angeles.  When construction is complete, Star Apartments will also provide a basketball court, track, community gardens, and community space for art, computer lab and kitchen for residents.

West Hollywood Community Housing Corp. and WASET, Inc. were honored for Stovall Villa, along with John V. Mutlow Architects and Alpha Construction Co.  Stovall Villa is a four-story new construction provides 32 units of affordable senior housing along with community amenities including a rooftop terrace.

The City of Santa Monica Housing Division was honored for their work in the Mountain View Mobile Home park, along with Marmol Radzinger and Golden West Homes.  Twenty new modular homes were installed along with solar water heating and photovoltaic systems to provide residents in this 50-year old complex access to the latest in green technologies.

Los Angeles Family Housing was honored for their Palo Verde Apartments in Sun Valley, along with Gonzalez Goodale Architects and Dreyfuss Construction.  This LEED Gold new construction development provides 60 permanent supportive housing units along with a variety of on-site services to meet the needs of the formerly homeless and very low income residents.

Century congratulates these and all of the other honorees.  We are proud to see so many affordable housing developers recognized for excellence in design and hope to see even more next year.

 

 

LEED–Is It Just A Marketing Tool Now?

Or does it still mean something?

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Green Building Rating System™) has been the industry benchmarking standard for sustainable development for over a decade.  Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council, a private nonprofit corporation often mistaken for a federal agency, the LEED standards were developed a dozen years ago, and are widely respected as a way to demonstrate that a development, building or facility meets certain sustainability objectives.  The LEED ratings are often seen in press releases, annual reports, and the entryways to office buildings, residential complexes, and other rated locations.  The LEED standards are undergoing review and comment now, and the new standards should be available soon.

However, in California, there is some question about whether LEED is still relevant.  In 2010, the California Building Standards Commission issued the CALGreen Building Code, which are now effective for all construction in the state.  CALGreen is now fully implemented for new construction and that opens the question, if all construction in California is required to meet the CALGreen standards, what is the role of LEED? Read more

Check Cashing Stores Are Designed Better

Noted bloggers Megan McArdle (The Atlantic) and Felix Salmon (Reuters) recently had a bit of back and forth about payday lenders and credit unions, and as a (former) credit union customer, I was intrigued by the arguments both were making about how credit unions should be making more of the short-term small loans that payday lenders make, but at much less usurious rates. AND that more people should become credit union members. AND that the missing element is education (if only people KNEW how payday lenders and check cashers were treating them, the would ALL flock to banks and credit unions). But who really doesn’t understand that payday lenders charge astronomical interest rates? and that the one benefit of a payday lender over a loan shark is that your thumbs won’t get broken? Is it really an education gap?

Or is it that banks are an unwelcoming place to people who are unfamiliar with them? The 99% Invisible blog and podcast did a  show on the design of payday lending and check cashing stores back in March 2011, and it is worth a listen. As a “retail” operation for a broad client base, banks fail on many fronts. What the bank is offering is not always apparent (other than current CD rates, and maybe not even that); there are almost never prices posted for their services; and you need to have some numbers (a PIN, some balances, something) to get any service. A check cashing store is absolutely transparent about what you can get there and what it will cost. Isn’t that worth something to a customer?