Local News

Council Selects Developer for Affordable Housing on Commonwealth

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.

Concept plan for affordable housing to be located at 1600 W. Commonwealth Ave. by non-profit developer National CORE.

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.

10 replies »

  1. Hilda is. right to question the affordability of stated 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“). The low end of each category seems good but certainly not anything higher. How can we change that? Also I agree with one of Phil’s points – that residential developments shouldn’t be right up against the railroad tracts. That is being done because infill neighborhoods north of Commonwealth are plagued with vocal opponents of renters which is ridiculous. Unless you are born with a silver spoon in mouth and/or inherited your home – every homeowner has been a renter.

  2. “But developers can only get those loans and equity sources if the development will produce enough revenue to pay back the loans and pay returns to investors. The gap between the amount a building is expected to produce from rents and the amount developers will need to pay lenders and investors can stop affordable housing development before it even begins, leaving few options for the millions of low-income families looking for safe, affordable homes.” The cost of affordable housing: Does it pencil out? – Urban Institute. May I infer this “affordable housing” that relies on government grants and private investors money (so why the need for non-profit National Community Renaissance of California, or CORE and Fullerton-based non-profit Pathways of Hope be paid administration fees for construction of “affordable housing”, wouldn’t it make economic sense to cut out these “middlemen” ?) must set the rents above what working poor can afford to pay?

  3. United States 2020 Census reports Orange County, California’s median income is $90,234/annually. Where did you find $134,500/annually cited as Orange County’s median income? This isn’t a rounding up mathematical error, the discrepancy is at least $50,000 higher than actual incomes for city of Fullerton and Orange County. What is the story behind this story?

  4. Matthew, though median income for Fullerton is $80,000 and not $134,500/annually does this statement still stand as fact “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, “? Were the rents for these “affordable apartments” determined at $134,500 or $80,000? Fullerton’s “affordable housing” scenario is a family of six whose income is $48,000 (at the highest income allowed in this affordable housing) then half of this family’s income would go to the $2018/month rent for a three bedroom apartment. How is this rent considered “affordable housing”?

  5. United States census 2020 shows Fullerton’s median income is $80000/ year not $134,500/year. A family or person earning over $48,000/year is disqualified from renting these apartment units. The rents are inflated for this “affordable housing”. Tax dollars and private monies are intermingled which defrays cost to developers, but rents too high based on grossly differing median incomes cited for Fullerton, CA.. This scenario increases profit margin for private developers because tax payers shouldering this burden, not them.

    • You are correct about the Area Median Income. I erroneously reported the AMI as $134,500 for Fullerton, when it is actually the figure for Orange County. The story has been corrected above.

  6. This is a horrible site to be building another condo. It is best left as a storage lot for city maintenance vehicles and equipment.

    • Phil- It’s known as limited resources, scarcity, reality. It is the economics of local land use. Someone will call it home and go on to improve their future. ‘A horrible site’? Good grief! Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning?

      • There are plenty of other zone that can be developed on that can accommodate new condo builds. This area could have been a new business zone to be honest.

        Besides that, there are whole single family homes being primarily used as renter’s garbage cans. Renters from LA County are turning single family home neighborhoods into dumps. These homes can go to actual new residents instead of renters who only live in this town for a few years before moving on.

        There are also plenty of vacant business lots fenced up and overgrown with weeds. It is thanks to California’s poor policies and high taxes, as well as Fullerton’s own policies. These vacant lots can be used but the City doesn’t address the problem of them becoming vagrant magnets.

        I don’t vote Democrat for this reason.

    • Truth be told.
      This is:was a down and dirty project.
      No transparency.
      Hidden negotiations.
      Turned down a valid business for this site.
      A real travesty.