http://pleasantonweekly.com/print/story/print/2013/11/01/at-last-new-homes-for-low-income-seniors


Pleasanton Weekly

Column - November 1, 2013

At last, new homes for low-income seniors

by Jeb Bing

There's good news for low-income seniors living in the aging Kottinger Place and Pleasanton Gardens homes off Kottinger Drive. The City Council is expected Tuesday night to accept the Kottinger Place Redevelopment Task Force's endorsement of a multi-million dollar plan to rebuild the two aging, subsidized affordable housing developments with single, two, and multi-story apartments, nearly doubling the current number to 185 new homes for seniors to continue living independently.

The two sites, to be known as Kottinger Gardens, will be operated as one by Foster City-based Mid-Peninsula Housing, the developer, owner and manager of more than 90 properties with 25% senior communities. Mid-Pen will own and finance the new buildings, the city of Pleasanton will retain ownership of the land they'll occupy.

The task force's site plan approval is long overdue. It was 10 years ago that the discussions began over what to do with the half-century old housing units that lacked both adequate space, air conditioning and utilities for tenants. Complicating decisions is the fact that Kottinger Place is a U.S. Housing and Urban Development public housing project and Pleasanton Gardens, located across Kottinger Drive, has been run as a nonprofit corporation despite being constructed with HUD funding.

Upgrading, rebuilding or selling off the properties has been on the council's priority list for the last decade, but other priorities took precedence and then the 2007-10 recession curbed capital funds needed to undertake the project. Then, in a late hour vote by the five-member council just before the 2012 municipal election that saw a new mayor and two new council members elected, the "old" council moved the Kottinger Place/Pleasanton Gardens renewal project forward as kind of a final legacy.

Mid-Pen then moved the project forward, developing preliminary site plans and building sketches. The result is this new site plan for Kottinger Gardens, which will also use the land now housing the aging Regalia House, which will be razed. Current development estimates for the two sites range from $59 million to $62.8 million with a city contribution from its senior housing fund of $8.2 million.

The project calls for building 131 apartment homes on the site now occupied by Kottinger Place, and 54 where Pleasanton Gardens is now located. Tenants, who range in age well into their 90s, will be able to stay in place during the reconstruction or move to temporary housing nearby at the developer's cost.

The apartments will have far more kitchen, bathroom and closet space than the units now have and will feature upgrades in electricity and plumbing, and perhaps most important for its elderly residents, air conditioning. Some of the buildings on what is now the Kottinger Place site will be two stories in height with a few rising to three stories, with elevators. Also, with a single management team, social services and other senior-focused amenities should be better and more efficient.

The new plan for rebuilding the two senior facilities is mercifully different and better than earlier proposals that called for closing Pleasanton Gardens and selling the site and building a multi-story, high density apartment building to replace the cottages at Kottinger Place.

Time is of the essence. Currently, there are 75 on the waiting list at Pleasanton Gardens. Demand for the subsidized housing is so high and turnover so relatively low, that even the waiting lists for these two complexes are only opened every several years, typically for a single day.

The task force has met with neighbors over recent months and apparently settled their concerns through collaboration and compromise, although some are expected to make comments at Tuesday night's Council meeting. Even with the council's approval, there's still much work to be done before demolition of the existing buildings and actual construction can begin, probably in March 2015. Applications for approval must still be submitted and approved by the Pleasanton Housing Commission and HUD, then all goes back to the Planning Commission and City Council in late spring of next year for public hearings and final approvals.

But it's a start and both the task force and Assistant City Manager Steve Bocian, who has championed the project for years, say the redevelopment is a "go." We'll get the final word at the City Council meeting Tuesday, which starts at 7 p.m. in the Pleasanton Civic Center, 200 Old Bernal Ave.

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