First published in the March 26 print issue of the Glendale News Press.
When ground broke last week on a new apartment building, it opened the floodgate for what figures to be an unprecedented moment in Glendale’s affordable-housing initiative.
On an empty lot at 900 East Broadway, the new Citrus Crossing complex will have 127 low-income senior units. Practically next door, Harrower Village will take over as an adaptive reuse of the historic building that once housed Harrower Lab, adding 40 low-income senior units.
Assuming funding comes through as anticipated, a massive project being planned at 515 Pioneer Drive will provide 340 low-income senior units.
In total, that’s 507 new affordable housing units targeted to seniors.
“It’s an obscene number, to be honest with you,” said Mike Forney, principal housing project manager for the city. “I don’t think in the history of the city — certainly not within the last 20 years — we’ve never had more than 180 units in development at one time.”
Forney, whose work almost entirely concerns affordable-housing developments in Glendale, said the city expects to get word regarding its tax credit financing application for the Pioneer project soon. Meanwhile, crews are now working on the Broadway sites. If all goes according to plan, all of these new units should be available by the end of 2024.
Citrus Crossing, which had a formal groundbreaking with the city on Tuesday, March 15, is being developed with funding that includes more than $15 million from the city’s Housing Authority. Nearly $10 million from the authority will fund the Harrower Village project and more than $24 million from the city is currently set aside for the Pioneer project.
Much of this funding comes from local sources that include the Measure S sales tax, which for years has helped to fill in for the now-dissolved state Redevelopment Agency.
“(The agency) was the lion’s share of our affordable-housing dollars, so when the state killed that in 2012, we weren’t producing much in affordable housing. Nobody was,” Forney said.
He added that Glendale had proactively taken out a large amount of bond dollars to continue development work.
“We had program income coming in, and we get a dose of federal home dollars, so we were kind of shoe-stringing it a little bit, but we also acquired some property before redevelopment went away,” he said.
The developer Meta Housing is shepherding Citrus Crossing with support from Western Community Housing, which has also received funding and financing through Bank of America and Citi Community Capital.
The 142,550-square-foot complex will include open courtyards, indoor and outdoor amenities, a public pedestrian paseo and two levels of underground parking.
The project’s tenants will be 62 years old and older and have incomes between 20% and 70% of the area median income. Residents at Harrower Village will make between 30% and 60% of the area median income, while residents at the Pioneer project will make between 30% and 80% of the area median income.
The projects will bolster a growing portfolio of affordable-housing projects in the Jewel City, which Glendale officials have committed to through the city’s Housing Element.
“We can’t turn on the news or read a newspaper without hearing about the housing crisis,” said Councilman Ardy Kassakhian, who is currently vice chair of the Housing Authority. “There is a great housing shortage, and we have to find ways to address this in all regions, all cities. This is a statewide crisis.
“We have a lot of catching up to do,” he added, noting that the state has experienced housing shortages since the 1960s. “One of the ways we are doing it is right here today.”
Allison Levy, a project manager with Meta Housing, hailed all of the involved parties for how well they have worked together to assemble the Citrus Crossing project and other projects in Glendale and said last week’s groundbreaking was unlike others, where developers often breathe a sigh of relief that the day materialized at all.
“This is not one of those ground-breakings,” she said. “This is one of those ground-breakings where all of the people and all of the parties, from the very first day, have had such a vision and such a commitment to this project. We knew we would be here, and we knew we would be celebrating.”
Sonia Rahm, a director at Citi, said it was especially meaningful for her to work on financing for this project because she grew up, went to school and still lives in Glendale.
“This project is extra special to me,” she said. “It’s really special to me to be able to finance projects right here at home.”
Moving forward, the city is “kicking tires” on three potential project sites — one Habitat for Humanity home, one an adaptive reuse of a senior assisted-living facility and one ground-up construction project. Forney said he expects to continue targeting seniors as well as small families in these housing developments.
“The demand is so overwhelming that we’ll fill it,” he added. “The demand is there for seniors, but it’s also there for small families. The demand for large families — five members or more — that’s not as strong. We’re not building too many three-bedrooms anymore.”
Kassakhian said affordable housing was perhaps the strongest way Glendale shows its “compassion” to the community, which, like much of Los Angeles County, has struggled with rising living costs and a worsening homelessness crisis.
“If we are going to be truly a city that has compassion, it’s not just about telling people that we feel their pain, so to speak, but it’s also doing something about it,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way of doing that than putting a roof over their heads.”