by Mark Perlman
Representatives and community members from the City of Claremont, Calif., Los Angeles County, and non-profit developer Jamboree Housing gathered on March 6th to celebrate the grand opening of Courier Place, an environmentally-conscious, multi-generational affordable housing development near the City of Claremont's core.
"I look forward to showcasing Courier Place to other cities as a model of what can be achieved when working with an involved, thoughtful community and an experienced developer," Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza said.
The Claremont city council unanimously approved Irvine-based Jamboree Housing's proposal in 2009 for the development of an affordable housing project near the city center. Jamboree Housing leveraged public and private financing for the $21.4 million project, which is situated on the 3.4-acre former site of the Claremont Courier newspaper. At the opening event, City Manager Tony Ramos highlighted the importance of a public-private partnership for affordable housing development and praised Jamboree Housing for its efforts to interface with the communities surrounding what would become Courier Place.
"Jamboree Housing is an outstanding partner and went the extra mile in reaching out to our residents - a very active citizenry - listening intently to and aligning with the priorities of city staff and residents," Ramos said.
The 75-unit development will house seniors and working families earning between 30 and 50 percent of area median income, who may rent for as little as $480 per month. Multi-generational housing is a concept gaining traction in the affordable housing field for its potential to strengthen communities, though there are relatively few such developments in California. Claremont is located 30 miles east of Los Angeles and is known for its universities. A single community with seniors as well as young families and singles is not out of place in this college town of 35,000 residents.
Courier Place is both walkable and transit-oriented. Directly north of the community is the Claremont Metrolink, providing access to trains to Los Angeles and San Bernadino, and a number of bus stops are a few blocks away. The community's location in the Claremont Village Expansion, a former industrial tract turned shopping and entertainment district, gives residents access to amenities in addition to those on-site. The development's location near the city center and university campuses means that working residents, some of whom used to live outside of the city and commute, do not have to travel far for work - a significant quality of life benefit.
"... I walk three blocks to work every day," resident and father of two Bill Diekman said. "All this and I can now afford our rent, our bills and can even consider going back to school (to further my career)."
The walkability and transit accessibility of Courier Place are also components of its goals of sustainability and low environmental impact. The community is designed to be certified LEED Homes Platinum, the highest possible award granted by the U.S. Green Building Council for sustainable building methods. Jamboree Housing made significant investments in sustainability, and the community has sustainable features usually reserved for market-rate developments. Courier Place features drought-resistant landscaping with a drip-feed irrigation system. Solar panels supply electricity to common areas. The apartments feature extra insulation and energy-conserving windows, as well as energy efficient appliances and lighting.
Jamboree Housing has taken all of the elements of the ideal urban community - sustainability, walkability and transit accessibility - and allowed them to be enjoyed by a population that can easily be relegated to living far from their jobs and in sub-standard housing, especially in a market like California. Courier Place has not only provided a new model for affordable housing throughout the country but it has demonstrated the necessity and potential of partnerships between cities and developers for housing underserved communities.
"I believe Courier Place initiates a new age of housing that is sustainable, affordable and multigenerational," Jamboree Housing President Laura Archuleta said. "We salute the City of Claremont and all of our partners for helping to bring Courier Place to reality."