The Fullerton City Council has selected National Community Renaissance of California, or CORE, as the developer for City-owned property located at 1600 W. Commonwealth Ave. The Rancho Cucamonga-based non-profit proposes a mini-complex of 3-story structures housing a total of 59 affordable residential units on the narrow triangular lot bounded by the City Maintenance yard on the east side and the convergence of West Commonwealth Ave. and the railroad corridor to the west. The historic Kohlenberger building, later familiar as a production facility for Morehouse Mustard, occupied the site for 60 years before burning down in 2007. The city of Fullerton now owns the land, but the undeveloped 2.25-acre lot is subject to sale through California’s Surplus Lands Act, which compels cities to make surplus property available for either housing or park use.
The development will be divided between 28 1-bedroom units, 16 with 2 bedrooms, and 15 with 3 bedrooms. All will be rentals reserved for those earning between 25% and 60% of the Area Medium Income for Orange County, which is $134,500 per year, with rents ranging from $584 to $1,467 per month for 1-bedroom units, $703 to $1,760 for 2-bedrooms, and $970 to $2,018 for 3-bedrooms, after monthly utility allowances.
Ninety-one total parking spaces are provided, as well as a swimming pool and a 2,400 square foot community center. A 10-foot concrete block wall will stand between the complex and the railroad corridor to the south.
Fullerton-based non-profit Pathways of Hope, who once proposed their own development on the site, will partner with National CORE to provide on-site services. A 2018 plan by Pathways of Hope to build permanent supportive housing there was ultimately abandoned when residents of homes located north of the property objected, fearing that drug-addicted individuals would wander into their neighborhoods.
Fullerton’s Community Development Dept. did not recommend a developer to the Council but summarized key points in each of the five responding developer proposals received for the property. Responding developers were C & C Development, Jamboree Housing, Meta Housing Corporation, National CORE, and Related Company. Their respective plans differed in the number, size, and affordability of units, and how much each developer was willing to pay for the land itself. To incentivize housing construction, the land cannot, by law, be sold for higher than its market-rate value. That price won’t be known until an appraisal is conducted, but the current estimated value is around $6 million.
A staff report prepared for the City Council for its July 6 meeting noted, “All developers request that the City provide the land value through a residential receipts loan (paid back annually) based on revenue generated by the site.“ National Core offered $1.5 million of its $4.5 million price up front and planned the highest total number of units of any of the five proposals, a fact cited by Councilmember Jesus Silva as one factor that gained the developer his support during the July 6 meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Nick Dunlap, by contrast, rated National CORE last on his list. Fred Jung ranked Meta Housing as his first choice, and National CORE third.
Councilmember Ahmad Zahra asked if National CORE could amend their plan to include more public space, noting that theirs was the plan with the least of it. Green spaces in the site plan included in the proposal are confined to margins between buildings and thin strips of landscaping on the edges of the property. Patricia Whitaker [no relation to the Mayor] of National CORE responded that they would be willing to plan more green recreational space for families.
Mayor Whitaker thought that National CORE’s stood out from the rest of the proposals, citing the total number of units, adequate parking, allocation of different sorts of units to include families, and a good mix of amenities, as well as the sound wall insulating residents from the noise of trains.
The decision was not a unanimous one. A motion to choose Meta Housing was supported by Fred Jung and Nick Dunlap and opposed by the others; National CORE was then chosen with support of Jesus Silva, Ahmad Zahra, and Bruce Whitaker, passing 3 – 2. The project will still need to be reviewed by the Planning Commission, and ultimately approved by the City Council at some future date.
Following the discussion, Mayor Whitaker remarked that it was unusual that no nearby residents had expressed opposition to the submitted plans considering the controversy generated by the earlier Pathways project plan. However, two residents did speak during public comments at the following Council meeting on July 20 to complain that plans for incorporating supportive services on the site were not made clear to neighbors in advance of the July 6 meeting.
Note: this story has been updated to correct an error. $ 134,500 is the Area Median Income of Orange County, not Fullerton, as previously reported in this story.
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