Sunflower Hill on pace to break ground at Irby Ranch this spring

Nonprofit also announces new advancement director

Tri-Valley nonprofit Sunflower Hill is on track to begin construction on its new residential community for special needs adults just outside downtown Pleasanton in March.

Confirmation of the groundbreaking came as the nonprofit announced the selection of Modesto-based Huff Construction as the general contractor for Sunflower Hill Irby Ranch, a decision that followed the project being selected by the state's Tax Credit Allocation Committee for funding through the low-income housing tax credit program.

"We are very excited that the Sunflower Hill Irby Ranch was project chosen as the No. 1 project in the special needs category for the TCAC allocation," said Edie Nehls, executive director for the nonprofit that aims to provide vocational, educational and residential opportunities for people with developmental disabilities in the region.

Sunflower Hill Irby Ranch is poised to be Pleasanton's first-ever residential community for adults with special needs.

A joint venture with Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), the affordable housing project proposed a two-story apartment building with 31 units -- along with a community center, a central courtyard and other amenities -- adjacent to a new neighborhood planned for the Irby Ranch site, where Stanley Boulevard turns into First Street.

The developers of the unaffiliated 87-house Irby Ranch neighborhood set aside a portion of their land for the future Sunflower Hill project. Sunflower Hill's concept was backed by city officials several years ago, with the special-needs housing proposal serving as a key reason the Pleasanton City Council in 2017 approved the new neighborhood, which is now under construction.

The council signed off on Sunflower Hill Irby Ranch project plans last February. The city also committed a $2.25 million loan from its lower income housing fund and helped the project secure just under $7.2 million in Alameda County Measure A1 affordable housing bond funds.

Huff Construction, which is working to solidify subcontractor bids, is on pace to break ground on the project in March, with a ceremonial groundbreaking event expected to follow about two months later, according to Nehls.

Sunflower Hill is also moving forward with a housing complex to serve 44 adults with developmental disabilities on First Street in Livermore.

New hire

In addition to the project update, Sunflower Hill officials recently announced the hiring of Pamela Zielske as the nonprofit's new advancement director.

"She is passionate about cultivating partnerships and working collaboratively with diverse teams to build coalitions and develop effective strategies," Sunflower Hill officials said.

With a career spanning more than 15 years as an advocate for nonprofits and vulnerable populations, Zielske most recently worked as advocacy manager for the California Association of Museums, where she grew and oversaw the organization's extensive statewide advocacy program.

She also previously worked as a legal aid attorney representing victims of domestic violence and low-income clients in Social Security disability cases. And she is a founder and current board member of Friends of Joe Michell School, a nonprofit education foundation designed to serve the community and fundraising needs of a local International Baccalaureate school.

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