Marin Independent Journal
By Jennifer Upshaw Swartz | December 23, 2009
Residents move into affordable housing in Larkspur with million-dollar views
Larkspur, CA — Efrain Navarro’s world just got a little bigger, a little brighter, and a lot more attractive.
“Everything is beautiful, the kitchen, it’s beautiful,” said Navarro of his family’s three-bedroom apartment in a new $13 million affordable housing complex called Drake’s Way. It’s a step up for the family of six from Sonora, Mexico who were previously in close quarters in a two-bedroom apartment on Alameda del Prado in Novato.
Navarro, 42, a handyman, and Avigail Rabago, 40, a house cleaner, and their neighbors got the keys Wednesday to their new home at 20 Drake’s Way, the newest affordable housing community developed by EAH Housing. The couple and their four children, ages 16, 13, 10 and 4, now have some room to spread out in the 24-unit apartment complex on a Larkspur hilltop with sweeping views of Mount Tamalpais and the San Francisco Bay.
The complex is reserved for families who meet classifications of very low and extremely low income levels. In general, income for a family of four ranges from about $18,000 per year up to $56,550 per year to qualify. Monthly rents range from $281 to $1,412.
“Everyone’s really excited,” said Takeisha Theriot, property supervisor. “It’s the holidays so they are happy to be moving in before Christmas.”
Competition was steep for the apartments, close to Highway 101, buses, bike paths and the Larkspur Ferry, with about seven or eight applications for every apartment available. While the waiting list was long, qualifications, such as steady employment and income levels, were specific, requiring officials to move through the list to fill the units. Five of the units were set aside for families with special needs.
The project dates back about a decade, when San Rafael developer Monahan Pacific Corp. first approached city officials about developing million-dollar homes on the hillside above Sir Francis Drake Boulevard near the Larkspur Ferry Terminal. At the city’s insistence, a deal was struck between the city, the developer and the affordable-housing corporation to sell about eight acres of difficult-to-develop land adjacent to the market-rate units to EAH for $1.
“It was a long struggle,” said Larkspur Mayor Joan Lundstrom. “(It’s) a very difficult site. It was part of an old quarry. They had to blast out some rock. The finances in making various deadlines were always a big challenge.
“We’re all really, really, really proud of it,” she said.
It would be years before EAH officials finally pulled together the financing to build the $13 million project by drawing cash from sources such as federal tax credits, a mortgage from Citibank, state multifamily housing program dollars, city money and a roughly $1.5 million contribution from the Marin Community Foundation.
Armed with the financing, EAH clustered the units, using 80 percent recycled construction materials and designing the project for green certification, on 2.5 acres and donated 5.5 acres to the city for open space. Landscaping was done using native plants. Common areas, including a community center with a kitchen and a six-station computer lab, are solar-powered.
The location is so lovely, since leasing began some people have stopped by to inquire about renting at market rate, said Andy Blauvelt, project manager.
“That’s the standard we try to build to at EAH,” he said. “This is a pretty special site.”
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