two THINGS immediately struck Highridge Costa Housing Partners president Michael Costa when the Ocean Breeze Apartments project first crossed his desk in 2006: The community represented an unbelievably rare opportunity to develop in downtown Santa Monica, Calif., and the project—at 20 units on a 7,500-square-foot land parcel—would be the most compact community the Gardena, Calif.-based affordable housing developer had ever taken on.
“It’s the smallest site we’ve ever dealt with, and the smallest we’ve ever developed in terms of the unit count,” Costa says. “But it was a challenge we couldn’t pass up.”
Teaming with Los Angeles-based architecture firm atelier V: architecture, Highridge Costa also broke out of its traditional California Mission design palette, offering up a contemporary, urban style to a community that houses low-income seniors earning 30 percent to 60 percent of area median income for Los Angeles County. “We haven’t had the opportunity to work on a community incorporating contemporary design, and it was really fun,” Costa says.
Not as fun? Navigating the financial realities of developing in California during a recession. The underlying land alone was $200,000 per unit, commanding a layered capital structure backing the development that includes a $3.3 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (one of the first multifamily projects in the country to receive federal stimulus funds); $7.76 million in construction and permanent financing from the City of Santa Monica Redevelopment Agency; a $997,000 proposition 1C infill/infrastructure grant from the California Department of Housing and Community Development; and $3 million in combined construction and permanent loans from Citibank.
The firm’s tenacity for project success is mirrored in its plentiful resident amenity package: 100 percent occupied at completion, Ocean Breeze offers access to grocery stores, restaurants, retail, health care, entertainment, and, of course, the iconic Santa Monica pier at the beach just blocks away—all of which continuously help improve life for residents. “For seniors, location is really important to them, and this location is unmatched,” Costa says. “If I were 62, I would definitely love to live here.”
Costa may want to get a head start on that wish—a waiting list for future vacancies is the only thing growing long and old here.