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February 28, 2021

Two housing projects head to Watsonville City Council

WATSONVILLE—The Watsonville City Council at its Feb. 23 meeting will see plans for two large housing developments that combined will bring 103 new apartments.

The Residence on Main Street and an affordable apartment complex on Freedom Boulevard from nonprofit developer Eden Housing will be on the agenda when the council convenes for its bi-monthly virtual meeting.

The former is a 50-unit, four-story apartment complex from local developers Bill and Neva Hansen that will bring mostly market rate options to the 500 block of Main Street. The latter will provide 53 affordable apartments to the 1400 block of Freedom Boulevard.

The Residence will include 10 affordable units and feature about 2,000 square feet of retail space on the first floor, and a small dog park and a courtyard for residents.

There will be six two-bedroom units, 29 one-bedroom units and 15 studios. Market rate apartments will range from $1,750-2,650 per month, according to the project’s website. That includes internet access, cable television and utilities. The affordable units will include median, low, very low and Section 8 rates, as written into the city’s housing ordinance.

Eden Housing’s project will be a mix of one- to three-bedroom units with monthly rents ranging from $423-1,936, Eden Housing officials have said. The development will also come equipped with a community center, computer room, offices, laundry, playground and recreational areas.

The city already loaned $1 million to help Eden build the complex. The loan, approved by the City Council in November 2020, comes from the city’s Successor Agency Housing Fund, which has a balance of roughly $2.9 million and an “excess surplus,” as defined by Assembly Bill 1084, that would otherwise be returned to the state if not used. The loan will be paid back over 30 years.

Eden Housing announced plans to build the complex at 1482 Freedom Blvd. in June 2020 after it received a $2 million loan from the Monterey Bay Economic Partnership and Housing Trust Silicon Valley.

According to the original announcement, Dignity Health and TECH Fund, the Housing Trust’s investment arm that enables greater Bay Area entities to invest in affordable housing, also contributed funds. TECH Fund investors include Cisco, the David & Lucile Packard Foundation, Google, The Grove Foundation and LinkedIn.

The Watsonville Planning commission recommended the approval of The Residence by a 5-1 vote in January—one seat sat vacant. Commissioner Ed Acosta was the lone “no” vote. He voiced concern about the proposed entrance and exit from the 56-space, ground-level parking lot of the complex, a 20-foot alleyway running behind the East Fifth Plaza and that spills out onto Brennan Street.

He said that adding more traffic to that already busy area would be an “accident waiting to happen.”

The city said it would require the Hansens to make several improvements to the alleyway before it can receive approval. That included installing lane striping and several signs, as well as a sound and light alert system for pedestrians and a convex mirror for drivers to better see oncoming traffic.

Some commissioners asked about the possibility of removing some street parking spaces that obstruct visibility for drivers exiting the alleyway and the nearby business complex.

Bill Hansen also said that, according to a traffic study conducted pre-pandemic, the apartment complex would produce fewer trips through that alleyway than the previous owners of the 558 Main St. property, which included a bank and a pharmacy.

There was also confusion about the secondary access route to the property’s parking lot. According to Hasen and city staff, an existing easement would allow residents to enter and exit through the parking lot off East Lake Avenue that runs behind several Main Street properties. But Edward Newman, a lawyer representing the owner of that lot at 13 East Lake Ave., disputed that there was an easement through that parking lot that would allow access.

Eden Housing’s project is one of a few affordable housing projects in the works. A 72-unit project on Miles Lanes from MidPen Housing recently received the green light from the city council. The city also recently entered into a contract for a parcel at 36 Airport Blvd. with Habitat for Humanity so that the nonprofit can build nine units.

Tony Nuñez
Tony Nuñez
Managing Editor Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor for five years before entering his current role in 2019. A Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus, he covers the city, business, housing, entertainment and more.

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