Soquel affordable housing developer to meet public Monday – Santa Cruz Sentinel

2022-06-25 08:43:27 By : Ms. Anne Ameijing

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SOQUEL — As a local developer planning to build a 36-unit Project Homekey complex gears up to hear from the community Monday, advocates for and against the effort also are mobilizing their bases.

With the help of a nearly $10.7 million state grant born out of California’s efforts to address homelessness with new housing options, the three-story “Park Haven Plaza” is set to be built using prefabricated structures at 2838 Park Ave. The property, a largely undeveloped piece of land behind an existing dental office that is dominated by a tree grove, sits on the border between Soquel and Aptos, just down the street from Cabrillo College.

The planned $19 million project is Santa Cruz County’s second Project Homekey grant awardee, with the first recipient earlier this year converting a Ben Lomond hotel into its new Veterans Village.

Neighbors, including those organized by the Facebook group Soquel Aptos Community Response Homekey Group, however, have spoken out with reservations about the Park Avenue proposal. Page co-administrator Alexia Martinez shared a lengthy written response this week to the pending Homekey project. She cited concerns ranging from lack of government accountability to neighborhoods to potential fire, water supply and crime impacts of the new housing. Martinez also questioned the speed with which the Project Homekey application was submitted to the date, before extensive neighborhood outreach.

“Why are Homekey developer/owners not required to contribute to new transit, roads, or defensible space to already established resident neighborhood(s) — while attempting at every turn to stifle ‘the peoples’ ability to speak out about real infrastructure concerns — without being flippantly labeled ‘Nimby / Yimby,” Martinez wrote, referring to the acronyms for “not in my backyard” and “yes in my backyard.”

“It is unfortunate,” she said.

While “housing the unhoused is an important resource” during a housing crisis and pandemic, Martinez wrote, the coronavirus pandemic is ending and the “‘pandemic rush’ does not require such haste that our politicians frivolously allow developers to compromise placement of ‘new buildings’ anywhere.”

Pro-housing groups such as Santa Cruz YIMBY and Housing Santa Cruz County, on the other hand, have issued newsletters encouraging their members to support the proposed project during the developer’s meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at Cabrillo College.

Local property owner Darius Mohsenin is among those who fear that neighbor pushback is based on biases and incorrect information, rather than reality. He reached out to the Sentinel to share his positive experience managing an 18-unit downtown Santa Cruz apartment serving formerly homeless folks from the Association of Faith SafeSpaces parking program, veterans and several tenants with mental issues

“I would trade 95% of these tenants for any one of my sisters as they’re excellent tenants and neighbors,” Mohsenin wrote in an email.

Mohsenin claimed that the property suffers fewer crime problems than others with the help of occupants who keep a close eye out for unwanted intruders and potential bicycle and car thieves, he said.

“They’re on me to clean up nefarious activity,” Mohsenin said. “They value their home too much to let other people mess with it.”

Of the three parcels owned at the site by Novin Development, one will remain dedicated as a riparian corridor, leaving 1.4 acres for the permanent supportive housing development.  Housing managers there will give preferential access to formerly homeless families that have children, are veterans and/or are youth with foster care histories. Parking will be tucked under the building, which will feature 32 one-bedroom apartments, plus an additional four two-bedroom units. The project also will include a leasing office, community room and laundry rooms, and each unit will have its own private patio/deck. Related Articles Housing | San Jose approves new tiny home sites for homeless residents Housing | Project Homekey award to fund new Soquel apartment complex Housing | Bay Area churches build tiny homes for their homeless neighbors Housing | Santa Cruz ‘Benchlands’ homeless camp closure delayed

Due to state streamlining, Project Homekey grant recipients are not required to undergo the standard California Environmental Quality Act review process before building. However, because the project is a recipient of federal housing subsidy vouchers, it is subject to the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969. According to a notice posted June 4 by the Santa Cruz County Community Development & Infrastructure Department, however, the county has determined that the project will have no significant impact on the human environment. Therefore, an environmental impact statement will not be required. A public comment for the project’s environmental review record will remain open through July 5.

Novin Development President Iman Novin, a Harbor High School graduate, told the Sentinel during a June 17 interview that his “mission-driven” company had been considering a larger development for the same property, focused instead on housing teachers. After speaking with county officials about the region’s biggest priorities, however, Novin said he shifted plans. Also opening up an opportunity was the fact that the second round of Project Homekey expanded beyond funding projects that converted existing structures into housing and opened up to new construction projects, Novin said.

“In many regards, this switch has allowed us to scale down the size of the project, but at the same time, serve a need that’s as equally as important as teacher housing, if not more, in terms of the sheer number of people experiencing homelessness,” Novin said.

• What: Community meeting with the developer. Masks required.

• When: 6-8 p.m., Monday.

• Where: Erica Schilling Forum, Building 450, Cabrillo College, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. Free parking in lots A & B.

• Virtual:

• Questions: email

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