2016 MFE AwardsSenior Housing, MeritMonteverdeDahlin Group
Douglas Sterling Monteverde

When the city of Orinda decided to build a new library, a deed restriction required that the former site be reused for “public benefit.” It remained unused until the city and a project team petitioned that a senior affordable housing project could meet that criterion and also fulfill demand in the affluent area, where many older residents find it hard to remain given the high housing costs.

Project Details

Location: Orinda, Calif.
Developer/Builder: Eden Housing
Architect: Dahlin Group
Opened: December 2014
Number of units: 67
Unit mix: One-bedrooms (plus one two-bedroom manager’s unit)
Rents: $747

After market-rate developer Wilder Ranch paid a $2.5 million inclusionary fee to the city for the land, plans for the new project moved forward. Architects at Dahlin Group developed a novel solution in the face of another big challenge—the site sloped with a 40-foot grade change, not ideal for a senior cohort. The firm’s design masterfully features a series of different-height and different-color units linked together to resemble an Italian hill village.

Steps with secure railings and meandering paths connect residents to nearby public transportation, a community church, a park, the new library, a grocery store, restaurants, and a downtown plaza—a vital feature, since feeling connected, not isolated, is important for this population. In addition, residents can till vegetable or flower gardens in raised planters so they needn’t bend, and they can savor views of area foothills.

Inside Monteverde, spaces allow for a range of supportive services and enrichment programs, including exercise, nutrition and cooking, the arts, and green topics, that enable residents to remain engaged and continue to learn.

The building’s Green Point Rated score of 150+ stemmed in part from its solar hot-water and photovoltaic systems.