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Council Approves Bonds For Senior Housing Development  

By Jason Islas
Special to the Lookout

April 14, 2011 -- On Tuesday, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved up to $9 million in tax exempt bonds from the California Statewide Communities Development Authority (CSCDA) for the construction of low-income senior housing in the Pico Neighborhood.

Emphasizing the importance of the project, Director of Housing and Economic Development Andy Agle said that this project is “the only affordable senior housing that's in our current development pipeline.”

“The city would neither issue nor hold responsibility for repayment of the bonds,” he said. “But the bonds would play an important role in leveraging the city's investment” in the project.

FAME Santa Monica Senior Apartments, L.P., the developer behind the proposal to build 49 units for low income seniors, projects the total cost of the apartments at $16.9 million, according to the staff report, with roughly $230,000 per unit coming from City funds.

Speaking at the meeting, Louisa E. Fish, representing the Commission for the Senior Community, said, “This is really essential for the community and we look forward to seeing action on this project.”

But, as is often the case in Santa Monica, the development is not without controversy.

At Tuesday's meeting, several citizens spoke against the project, which they saw as a Trojan horse bringing overdevelopment into residential neighborhoods.

They accused FAME Development of using loopholes to get the city to finance high-density housing in areas not zoned for such buildings.

“This is an extremely expensive apartment project disguised as senior group housing to fast-track and circumvent the zoning codes, when really they are simply tiny apartments that the private developer is trying to get taxpayers to finance,” neighborhood resident Wendy Lamm said.

Gary Squire, co-developer with the FAME, responded to critics, saying the developers have addressed many of the concerns of the members of the neighborhood.

Squire also assured the council that “we haven't cut any corners and we haven't ducked criticism.”

Council member Bobby Shriver reminded those in attendance that the vote was about authorizing CSCDA bonds for the project, not whether or not the project will be built, as the council does not have jurisdiction over that question as a matter of policy.

“All we're deciding... is whether the state agency who issues bonds for these kind of projects can issue the bonds for this. And that imposes a different set of standards on us,” Shriver said.

Council Member Terry O'Day added, “The standard for review for us if we were to deny or amend this project would be very high.”


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