Two long-awaited affordable-housing projects in north Long Beach are advancing with one breaking ground next month after being held up for nearly two years due to the State’s move to abolish redevelopment agencies.
In a letter sent in December 2012, the California State Department of Finance (DOF) had denied the City the right to use $18.3 million in bond proceeds for projects to develop senior housing and upgrade existing affordable housing in the ninth council district. The bonds were issued through the affordable-housing function of the now dissolved Long Beach Redevelopment Agency (RDA).
Of the total bond proceeds, $5.9 million are earmarked for revitalizing the Belwood Arms Apartments, at 6301 Atlantic Ave., while the remaining $12.4 million helps pay for the construction of the Ramona Park Senior Apartments at 3290 E. Artesia Blvd., expected to break ground on March 6 during a ceremony at the site.
The Ramona Park apartment project, expected to cost a total of $22.5 million, consists of demolishing the now closed Farmers & Merchants Bank to make way for an apartment complex with 61 units for seniors with low to moderate incomes. The two-story structure is expected to come with amenities, including a community center, a swimming pool, a circuit-training course, and open space for recreation.
William Leach, vice president of public finance for the developer Irvine-based Palm Communities, said the company has been in the process of closing on the construction-period financing for the past four to five months as the process has been delayed due to the Sate’s dissolution of redevelopment. He said the former Long Beach Housing Development Company also loaned funding for the project and the developer was able to use low-income housing tax credits.
Leach added that the passage of the Sate’s “cleanup” legislation, known as Assembly Bill 1484, was a major factor in the state relinquishing the bond proceeds for the project, adding that the bill makes it clear that “during the RDA dissolution affordable-housing bond proceeds are authorized to be used to build affordable housing.”
Robert Zur Schmiede, deputy director of Long Beach Development Services, said the DOF initially objected to the expenditure, claiming that the City didn’t provide adequate information that the money was available even though the funding was clearly held by a trustee. He said city officials then sent a letter with additional information and enlisted local legislators and dignitaries requesting that the DOF reconsider.
Zur Schmiede said that on Jan. 10, the DOF sent a letter back, reversing their initial decision. “It’s just amazing to me that they reached the initial conclusion that they did, but they did reconsider it and did reverse their decision,” he said.