Atmosphere, a 12-story apartment building for low-income residents developed by Wakeland Housing and Development Corp., won the Ruby for new Project of the Year.
Wakeland Nabs Multiple Ruby Awards for Affordable Housing
by Mark Armao
San Diego Daily Transcript
May 4, 2018
SAN DIEGO - The San Diego Housing Federation (SDHF) recognized distinguished leaders and significant projects in the affordable housing and community development industries Thursday night at the 2018 Ruby Awards, held at The Prado in Balboa Park.
After sifting through more than 50 nominations, a nine-person jury selected Ruby winners in 12 categories.
"The awards are about recognizing that we do more than just produce housing," said SDHF executive director Stephen Russell. "We are housing people. And it takes a lot of different talents to make this sector work."
The county's largest awards program for the affordable housing industry handed out Rubies to standouts ranging from advocates to development partners, and to housing projects ranging from newly minted towers to rehabilitated properties.
The new Project of the Year award was given to Atmosphere, a 12-story apartment building for low-income residents that includes 51 units set aside as permanent supportive housing for people who were recently homeless, including those with mental disabilities.
Developed by Wakeland Housing and Development Corp., the $79 million project opened a year ago at the intersection of Fourth Avenue and Beech Street.
Russell said the project is notable because it houses residents with a broad spectrum of income-levels and backgrounds.
"Something that people don't realize is that, when we talk about affordable housing, it's not just for extraordinarily poor people," Russell said, adding that the community accepts not only the recently homeless, but also families making 60 percent of the area median income and youth transitioning out of the foster care system.
Wakeland president and CEO Ken Sauder said the complex project was particularly rewarding because it took a decade to line up the financing for the project, which stalled after the demise of redevelopment agencies in 2012.
"We spend so much time working on these projects - hours and hours and years and years - and finally, the best day in my life with these things is when I hear folks are starting to move in," Sauder said in an interview with The Daily Transcript last year. "It's really making a difference in people's lives."
Sauder himself was honored during Thursday's awards presentation, winning the Housing Champion Award.
"What is really remarkable about Ken is that he has a very good business sense that he marries to a strong social mission," Russell said. "He has built Wakeland into a really significant player."
The Ruby for Project of the Year in the rehab category went to Woodglen Vista Apartments in Santee. Last year, Jamboree Housing Corp. completed an extensive renovation of the 185-unit apartment complex, which was built in 1978.
The property, which offers rent-restricted units to families earning between 50 and 60 percent of the AMI, underwent an overhaul of both individual units and major infrastructure components. The rehabilitation included a retrofit of the landscape irrigation system and the installation of a solar water-heating system, according to a news release.
"In affordable housing, [rehabilitating properties] is challenging because rent is capped," Russell said, adding that renovations of such projects often add high-quality, durable finishes and features that comply with the latest green building standards.
The Corporation for Supportive Housing award was given to Wakeland's Talmadge Gateway project, which provides permanent supportive housing for seniors who have been homeless and require ongoing medical support.
"We're talking about the very most vulnerable citizens here in the city of San Diego," Russell said. "These are people who are not capable of working, they're medically fragile, they've been sleeping on the streets, and they are being welcomed into the community of Talmadge."
The Ruby Awards were named after the red slippers worn by Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz." After clicking her heels together three times, the character utters the classic line, "There's no place like home," which is the tagline for the awards program.
Russell said that, while assisting the homeless and rent-burdened population in San Diego is a daunting and sometimes discouraging endeavor, the Ruby Awards are a way of acknowledging accomplishments that may otherwise go unheralded.
"[SDHF members] perform a wide range of activities and it's hard, there's never enough resources and the need is outpacing the resources year after year," Russell said. "So we think it's important to stand back and honor those people who are achieving these great outcomes."
The other award-winners were: Outstanding Resident Leader Award: Miguel Figueroa; Outstanding Service to Residents: Dennis Dearie; Outstanding Advocate: Jackie Camp; Outstanding Development Partner: LISC San Diego; Outstanding Government Agency or Elected Official: Senator Toni Atkins and Assemblymember Brian Mainschein; John Craven Memorial Award: Rachel Hurst; SDG&E Environmental Award - New Construction: North Park Seniors, Community HousingWorks; Innovations Award: North Park Seniors, Community HousingWorks.