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 community.

“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 project manager.

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 AMI.

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 contest?

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 efficiency.

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 onsite.

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.