Chula Vista's Innovative Affordable Housing Project is a Good Neighbor to the Environment
June 15th, 2010
The City of Chula Vista and its redevelopment agency are proud of the Los Vecinos Apartment development—a former crime-ridden motel site that is now a community asset. Today, this sustainable redevelopment affordable housing project is giving back to the community through the energy efficiency of the building and the green education the project provides.
The Chula Vista Redevelopment Agency spearheaded the development of Los Vecinos as a sustainable redevelopment project from the very beginning by using cost-effective energy saving technologies. With financial support from San Diego Gas & Electric, the Agency asked the Gas Technology Institute to generate an energy modeling and cost-benefit study for this project with suggestions and alternatives to develop energy-efficient housing.
Los Vecinos is a multifamily affordable housing project providing 12 one-bedroom, 15 two-bedroom, and 15 three-bedroom apartments to very low- and low-income families. Its location is the site of the former Tower Lodge Motel, which was known as a hot-spot for criminal and drug activities. Unwanted attention drawn to the motel prompted its closure in 2004. Once closed, the motel stood vacant for two years before its demolition to make way for Los Vecinos.
The location turned out to be ideal for affordable housing in the area. The neighborhood provides an abundance of resources available to Los Vecinos residents, which reduces their dependency on automobile trips. The site is 50 steps from a major bus line and ½ mile from the San Diego Trolley. It is located within walking distance to a grocery store, restaurants, a health center, a public library, schools, and a public park.
Los Vecinos set an ambitious and lofty goal to become “net zero” in electrical needs onsite. It was the first project to do so in Chula Vista, and only one of a handful in the state. This ambitious goal required cooperation from the City in terms of planning and design to support the photovoltaic system. In addition, Global Green USA developed a utility allowance adjustment and solar feasibility study from a grant by the California Energy Commission. The self-generation utility allowance provided a credit for approximately 25 percent of the financing for the extensive photovoltaic system required at Los Vecinos. The solar photovoltaic system “paid for itself” through California Energy Commission rebates, green investment tax credits, and the self-generated utility allowance. The other green/LEED features added only2 percent to total costs, with almost half of the addition offset by tax credits and utility rebates.
The design of Los Vecinos is a collection of contemporary residences with varied architectural features. TI is a collection of “homes” and the architectural design reinforces this principle. Varied roof parapets, offsetting wall planes, patios, balconies, metal canopies, and a variety of building colors define individual units for each family. The development also uses green features that coexist with the natural environment and enhance the lives of its residents.
Los Vecinos features energy efficiency, water conservation, and healthy living characteristics, which resulted in LEED Platinum certification. The apartments include fluorescent lighting, energy star appliances, tankless water heating, ceiling fans for cooling, and low-water use plumbing fixtures. The project incorporates materials that are durable, have recycled content, and drastically reduce indoor air pollutants. Additionally, building construction utilized engineered wood framing systems, radiant sheathing barrier, cool roof installation, fly ash use in concrete, formaldehyde-free insulation, a photovoltaic system, and dual glazed/low E windows and doors.
Los Vecinos also serves as a focus point for educational art with more than 300 pieces of art that highlight the green features of the property, remind residents of simple conservation efforts, and encourage the exploration of green living. Residents are also provided opportunities to attend workshops on green living, including “Simple Green Living in a Small Space,” which is designed to ensure ongoing awareness and implementation of conservation measures. In addition, residents benefit from a variety of social and recreation activities. These programs take place in the community center, featuring a computer lab, kitchen, and common area.
The project has received special recognition for its sustainable features, including the 2009 San Diego Earth Works E.A.R.T.H. Award, the LEED for Homes Outstanding Multifamily Project Award, and the 2010 ED+C Excellence in Design Award.
The project cost was $17.4 million. The Chula Vista Redevelopment Agency provided $5.7 million from its Low- and Moderate-Income Housing Fund; tax credits totaled $9.6 million, the permanent loan was $1.9 million, and solar rebates/tax credits equaled $264,415. Funding partners for the project included Red Capital Group, Wells Fargo Bank, California Community Reinvestment Corporation, Low Income Investment Fund, California Energy Commission/New Solar Homes Partnership, and San Diego Gas & Electric.
The developer of Los Vecinos was Wakeland Housing and Development Corporation, which is also owner and manager of the property. Others on the development team included: Wermers Construction, general contractor; Rodriquez Associates Architects & Planners; Global Green, USA; Ivy Landscape Architects, Inc.; Lintvedt McCall & Associates/DEA., civil engineer; Henderson Consulting, construction manager; and Fard Engineers, mechanical, electrical and plumbing consulting engineer.
Wakeland is also committed to ensuring the upkeep of the property uses sustainable practices. For example, all cleaning supplies used are approved green products and landscaping upkeep uses non-toxic chemicals.
The new development addresses the critical need for affordable housing while creating an attractive, livable, and economically feasible community with the use of green building practices and technologies. “Los Vecinos is an outstanding example of an urban revitalization project that transformed a community burden into a sustainable asset, “Mayor Cheryl Cox said. “The project’s unique partnerships offered housing solutions that brought the latest green technologies to Chula Vista, which can now help guide future development.”