SAN DIEGO, CA. - Fairbanks Ridge Apartments is
an affordable housing development integrated into an upscale
master-planned community that includes million-dollar homes.
With its Craftsman-style design and solar-powered swimming pool,
Fairbanks Ridge fits into its unique neighborhood even as it
answers the need for more affordable housing in San Diego.
Developed by Chelsea Investment Corp., the 204-unit project is
the inclusionary housing component of the master-planned
“It’s an efficiently financed, high-quality project
made affordable to very low income families,” said Cheri
Hoffman, senior project manager at Chelsea.
Fairbanks Ridge was recently named inclusionary housing project
of the year by the San Diego Housing Federation.
People driving through the exclusive community have no idea that
these apartments are affordable housing. It looks in every way like
a market-rate development, according to Wally Dieckmann, senior
The $57.6 million development features 13 residential buildings,
a community center, a basketball court, and two tot lots. Not only
did the project satisfy the design guidelines of the community, it
is also energy and water efficient. An extensive solar panel system
handles the energy demands for the common areas, including the
laundry rooms. The system can generate a net of about 150
kilowatts, enough to power 50 single-family homes. This is
important because excess power not immediately needed on the site
will flow back to the energy grid, and the local utility company
will credit the extra power to the housing complex, reducing the
annual electric bill to zero. The electricity will help power other
homes and businesses during peak energy use.
Completed in 2006, Fairbanks Ridge is home to a diverse
population. Its residents work for the police department, schools,
hospitals, banks, and local stores.
The complex features one-, two-, and three-bedroom apartments.
Two-thirds of the units serve families earning no more than 60
percent of the AMI, and the rest serve families earning no more
than 35 percent of the AMI, including 20 units at 25 percent of the
The nonprofit Pacific Southwest Community Development Corp.
provides services for residents, including English instruction,
computer training, and homework tutoring.
Financing for the project includes a $10 million loan from the
state Department of Housing and Community Development’s
Multifamily Housing Program (MHP). This helps provide about $49,000
per unit of subsidy and allows the project to target those earning
as little as 25 percent of the AMI and below, according to
developers. The MHP loan has a 55-year term, bears simple interest
at 3 percent, and is a subordinate loan repaid from available cash
flow from the operating income.
The California Tax Credit Allocation Committee awarded LIHTCs
that are providing about $18 million in equity. The Richman Group
Affordable Housing Corp. was the syndicator.
Fairbanks Ridge also secured $30 million in tax-exempt bonds
issued through the San Diego Housing Authority. U.S. Bank purchased
the bonds. The MHP loan and the tax credit equity enabled the bond
loan to be paid down to $13.4 million, which will remain as the
first lien mortgage and will be fully amortized over 30 years at an
interest rate of 4.85 percent.
Additional project information, as
provided in application by the nominator.
Q. Why does the nominated project deserve to be
recognized based on the award criteria of this
A. Our project represents quality affordable
housing superbly integrated into an upscale, master-planned
community that includes 4,677 acres for homes, schools, parks, and
recreational and cultural areas. Set within a community of
million-dollar homes, the challenge was to design Fairbanks Ridge
Apartments to blend in with the surrounding exclusive,
single-family homes. The property was ultimately finished on time
and on budget.
Financing for Fairbanks Ridge was a combination of a Master
Developer contribution and land donation from Black Mountain Ranch,
tax credit equity from The Richman Group, a Multifamily Housing
Program loan from Housing and Community Development, and a city of
San Diego bond purchased by US Bank. Efficient and creative
financing resulted in very low subsidy per unit.
In addition to design aspects and innovative financing, Chelsea
Investment Corporation (CIC) chose to apply green building
technology to the complex in order to reduce the load on an
overwhelmed utility grid, conserve energy, and protect the
environment. The incorporation of solar PV and solar thermal power
systems has set the project up as a model of future energy
Q. How does this project represent an innovative
solution to a specific development challenge?
A. CIC set out to create a project that not
only satisfied the design guidelines of the community of Black
Mountain Ranch in San Diego, but was also energy- and
water-efficient. Setting a new standard for an affordable housing
development, CIC applied reliable, renewable energy technologies to
their 204-unit project. Fairbanks Ridge is the most recent project
where CIC has incorporated solar thermal water-heating panels as
well as photovoltaic panels into the design. Such systems are
economically prudent, and in line with CIC’s mission to
develop affordable housing using sustainable design principles.
Comprising 13 residential buildings and a community center, the
property includes a swimming pool, basketball court, barbecue area,
and two tot lots, as well as two laundry rooms. Exterior design
elements and landscaping assured the architectural integration of
the project with the surrounding neighborhoods, and exceeded Title
24 requirements by 20 percent. Low-E, dual-glazed windows, 2x6
exterior wall studs, and R19 insulation combined with upscale
design features add to the attraction of the buildings.
A Xeriscape approach to the landscaping was implemented to
provide a quality appearance, as well as conserve energy and
protect the environment. Large, mature trees were to provide shade
during the summer months, and screening at the property perimeters
for reduced energy usage. Synthetic turf and drought-tolerant
native plant species were included for long-term cost savings and
water management. The irrigation system has a state-of-the-art
water management controller that uses an automatic mainline and
valve shutoff system. A shutoff device is also built in to stop
irrigation during times of rainfall. The landscape plan was
modified to support the many solar components of the project.
The extensive solar photovoltaic system at Fairbanks Ridge
handles the energy demands of the property’s common areas,
including lighting, laundry facilities, and pool requirements. This
complex contains one of the largest privately owned solar
photovoltaic systems in the county, which operates reliably with
little maintenance while providing clean electricity to the
property. In addition, thermal solar heating systems warm the water
for the swimming pool and laundry facilities, reducing the natural
gas usage for heating thing water.
CIC contracted Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. to design and install
the solar electric system. The company specializes in the design
and construction of grid-tied solar electric systems. Fairbanks
Ridge’s consists of 1,080 Sharp 170-watt solar panels mounted
on 20 carports throughout the development. The panels produce
direct current power, which passes through 30 SMA-brand inverters
to provide alternating current (AC) power to the facility. This
power is identical to the power received by San Diego Gas and
Electric (SDG&E), and is therefore able to power any appliance
During summer afternoons, air conditioning usage extremely
stresses the energy grid, which can result in rolling blackouts,
where whole neighborhoods may be left without power for hours at a
time. Solar is one of the best solutions to this growing problem
because it is most productive during hot summer afternoons that
stress the grid to the breaking point. The Fairbanks Ridge
Affordable Housing system will provide enough energy to power
approximately 50 single-family homes; excess power not immediately
needed will flow back to the grid. SDG&E will credit this extra
power to the housing complex, thus reducing the annual electric
bill nearly to zero. This extra electricity will help to power
other homes and businesses during times of peak energy usage, which
can help to avert the need for brownouts or blackouts.