Providing quality, affordable housing for residents in Claremont, Calif., is one of the city’s longstanding goals. Claremont's commitment to affordable housing is most fully articulated in the Housing Element of the city's General Plan, which establishes a comprehensive housing policy. One of the element's stated goals is to make "adequate and affordable housing available in a wide range of housing types and residential densities, to meet the needs of all social and economic segments of the Claremont community."

Meeting “the needs of all social and economic segments” in today’s world requires not only a diverse supply of quality housing in all price ranges, but a commitment to improving the environment of our community and the health and welfare of our citizens. In other words, sustainability.

Fortunately for the city of Claremont, a key component of the city’s residential and nonresidential real estate is sustainability. Underscoring Claremont’s success at instilling sustainability into its urban fabric is the city’s recently released sustainability report card, which details how the community fulfilled more than 80% of its goals in the areas of water, transportation, electricity, waste, and other areas. The city and its residents have also dramatically increased their use of solar energy and significantly reduced water consumption. Specifically, the report points out that:

• From 2009 to 2011, all new nonresidential construction with more than 20,000 square feet of useable floor area was designed to meet LEED standards. All project developers have indicated that they are seeking LEED-Silver certification or higher for these projects. • With 16 buildings either LEED certified or seeking LEED certification, Claremont has a very high number of LEED-certified  buildings for a city of its size. By the end of 2011, there were eight LEED-certified buildings in the city, and residents increased production of solar electricity generated in the city by nearly 50%, installing photovoltaic systems on 61 homes and one city facility.
• The broader goals are to reduce citywide energy usage by 20 percent by 2015, water usage by 40 percent by 2017, and greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

A key component of achieving these and other goals that are part of the city’s sustainability initiative is public/private collaboration as represented by the Claremont Home Energy Retrofit Project, which is designed to help encourage homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to their homes. In 2011, the city invested more than  $6,500 in incentives for this program in addition to the $75,000 invested by the regional electric utility and Los Angeles County.

A sustainability milestone
The city of Claremont and its residents have made significant strides toward creating a truly sustainable community. That progress was most recently exemplified by the completion of the new Courier Place Apartment Homes, a highly sustainable, transit-oriented, multigenerational development that is also affordable to both seniors and working families.

Near shopping, schools, parks, and entertainment, Courier Place opened in 2012 on a 3.4-acre infill site adjacent to our transit station and Claremont’s Village Expansion downtown area. This new workforce housing development provides a much-needed residential component to the city and to downtown—an area that has been transformed into a new shopping and entertainment district.

At a density of 22 units per acre, the three-story, garden-style Courier Place encompasses 75 affordable apartments arranged in three residential buildings. Courier Place provides residents with convenient laundry facilities, a 3,000-square-foot recreation center with property management offices, a multipurpose room, kitchen, restrooms, and computer lab. Outdoor amenities include a swimming pool, patio dining area with barbecues, and a tot lot, as well as covered parking with photovoltaic (solar) panels. The property also features an internal network of landscaped courtyards, a walking path, and resident common areas, creating a people-friendly, healthy, and aesthetically pleasing environment.

Built by Jamboree Housing Corp., one of California’s largest nonprofit affordable housing developers, Courier Place has already been certified LEED-Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council. The LEED Green Building Rating System is the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings. LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.

Courier Place’s advanced sustainable footprint has elevated the development to new heights for affordable housing by exceeding California’s Title 24 energy-efficiency standards by more than 35 percent. Courier Place’s green design for LEED-Platinum designation includes optimum water efficiency and low-water use, increased wall insulation, highly efficient windows and glass slider doors, energy-efficient lighting, and Energy Star appliances in each apartment home, helping to reduce residents’ utility bills. Most of the energy for the property’s common areas is generated by photovoltaic cells situated atop the carport roofs.  Ensuring a healthy interior environment, Courier Place has CRI Green Label low-VOC carpeting, underlayment, and adhesives, and no-VOC interior paint. The lower water consumption in the apartment buildings is a result of the low-flow plumbing fixtures and tankless water heaters in all apartments. Adding to water conservation is the fact that the Courier Place site uses less than half the water of traditional landscape—66 percent of the plants are drought tolerant—coupled with a highly efficient drip irrigation system in many of the plant beds.

To control storm water runoff, a leading issue for Claremont and the state of California, the Courier Place site is served by an underground water retention/detention system. A key component of the project’s sustainability footprint, this water system consists of three large pipes that measure 60 inches in diameter and 112 feet in length that are buried contiguous to one another about 25 feet under the parking lot. All storm water runoff from the Courier Place site drains into the system, which is designed to accommodate a theoretical 50-year storm. The three high-density polyethylene pipes contain the water, which drains through perforations along the bottom of the pipes into a 6-foot deep gravel bed and then into the ground.

Multigenerational living
City officials always enjoy hearing kudos from other officials, and the multigenerational aspect of Courier Place has garnered a lot of positive attention. Courier Place is one of only a few affordable, multigenerational, multifamily housing developments in California. It is also the first affordable, multigenerational project developed in Los Angeles County and the city of Claremont, and it is the developer’s first multigenerational property.

Multigenerational living is an increasingly popular lifestyle concept based on the idea that the blending of families and seniors builds a stronger community and offers a lifestyle that enhances health and happiness. In a mature community such as Claremont, with thousands of long-term residents who want to age in place, the mix makes perfect sense. “Although multigenerational housing is not a new idea,” says Laura Archuleta, Jamboree’s president, “it is only recently that we have started to see these projects become more popular in California, and only a few have been affordable.”

Speaking at Courier Place’s grand opening, Corde D. Carrillo, director of the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission’s Economic/Redevelopment Division, lauded the development as the type of innovative affordable housing the commission will use as a case study for years to come. “The Community Development Commission is very proud of its participation in the development of this beautiful and forward-thinking development,” he said. “It is the first multigenerational project to be financed by the commission as well as our first venture with Jamboree.”

The multigenerational property encompasses three distinctively styled buildings—a separate building for senior citizens and two buildings for families—as well as a shared community center, pool area, and covered parking with photovoltaic panels. Seniors live in the specially designed building featuring 38 one-bedroom apartments that provide ample space for residents as well as an elevator, a third-floor deck patio, and a two-story recreation space.  Family apartments are encompassed in two buildings with 36 two- and three-bedroom apartments, each with two bathrooms—large enough for most families to live and grow comfortably.

The average age of seniors in this new TOD property is 75, and the 36 families living here include 66 children. Residents earn between 30 percent and 50 percent of the area median income.

Because seniors have their own separate building, they can find quiet there or they can interact with families in the family community center, playground, pool, or patio dining areas. Unlike other seniors communities that limit children’s visits or access to common areas, the “separate yet integrated” multigenerational design of Courier Place gives seniors the opportunity to invite their children and grandchildren to enjoy all the amenities of their apartment community.

Since this is a new property, Jamboree’s resident services is establishing programs and activities that unite both young and old–creating a true sense of family in a day when families are often geographically separated. To enhance interaction between the generations, programs include shared field trips to museums and cultural attractions for educational purposes; mentoring programs for seniors and youth to work together; and classes for seniors that are led by teens to help seniors better understand and utilize technology.

A prototype for future housing
With its sustainable character and multigenerational lifestyle, Courier Place is a prototype for future affordable housing development, and we at the city are more than happy to share our project experience with other communities. Former Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza, who was mayor during the entitlement, planning, and development of Courier Place, made that clear at the grand opening, saying, “I am proud to be part of a council that took such a bold position to support this state-of-the-art, affordable housing development. I look forward to showcasing Courier Place to other cities as a model of what can be achieved when working with an involved, thoughtful community and an experienced developer.”
A walkable location that enhances its sustainable character, Courier Place is also a perfect example of redeveloping an infill site that might otherwise sit unused and possibly vacant.  Central to downtown Claremont, the site was previously commercially zoned and occupied for many years by the Claremont Courier community newspaper. (Now relocated, the newspaper is the inspiration for the new property’s namesake.) Courier Place’s proximity to employment helps reduce local and regional traffic congestion by allowing low- and moderate-income workers to live closer to their jobs. Courier Place is currently home to 22 residents who work in Claremont, several of whom can walk to work.

The development’s transit-oriented location also responds directly to California’s greenhouse gas law SB-375 that requires new residential  projects to be built near public transportation to reduce vehicle miles traveled and therefore carbon emissions, a primary ingredient in global warming. More than 350 bus or Metrolink commuter train rides are available daily to residents within a half-mile of the Courier Place site, making it a perfect transit location.

Courier Place is a new architectural landmark in Claremont and was so honored with an award last year from our city’s Architectural Commission. With its distinctive urban design and many positive sustainable and lifestyle attributes, Courier Place has also earned accolades from such major housing industry groups as the National Association of Home Builders and the Pacific Coast Builders Conference.

A public/private partnership
The $21.36 million financing of Courier Place is the type of public/private investment that can create new opportunities for affordable housing development, especially in light of the loss of redevelopment funding in California. Claremont City Manager Tony Ramos points out that the City Council’s 5-0 approval of Courier Place in 2009 underscores the value of a strong public/private partnership in the development of affordable housing. “Jamboree came to the city with the right project in the right place, and with a commitment to get the job done,” he states.

To finance the development, Courier Place incorporated a diversity of funding from public and private sources. It received $2.75 million of HOME/City of Industry Funds from the Los Angeles County Community Development Commission, and the city of Claremont provided $4.91 million. Other financing consisted of 9 percent low-income housing tax credits (LIHTCs) from the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (TCAC) purchased for $13.3 million by WNC & Associates, the equity investor; and a $13 million construction loan from U. S. Bank. Jamboree purchased the land from the Claremont Redevelopment Agency and Golden State Water Co.

“I am encouraged by the council’s effort to utilize creative ways to finance the project through grants, credits, and other traditional and nontraditional funding sources in these challenging, budgetary times,” says former Mayor Pedroza of the financing. “ Now, more than ever, we truly appreciate our financial partners.”

Stakeholder participation
Along with the city staff and council, Claremont citizens also played an important public role in Courier Place’s design and development. Our city has long been known for its quality architecture, quaint commercial districts, and well-planned neighborhoods. One of the major goals identified in the General Plan is to preserve and enhance this community’s character and sense of place.

In an effort to reach this goal, the city reviews the design of all new construction. Generally, small design-related projects are reviewed and acted upon by the planning staff. Larger projects such as Courier Place are reviewed and acted upon by the City's Architectural Commission.

Claremont residents are very active in the community, extremely mindful of activities and developments that bring anything “new” to the community. Courier Place was not exempt from public scrutiny. Stakeholder issues, which revolved around design, traffic, density, and the effects of the actual construction process, were strongly expressed during numerous community meetings over the course of many months. “Jamboree is an outstanding partner and went the extra mile in reaching out to our residents—a very active citizenry—listening intently to and aligning with the priorities of city staff and residents,” explains City Manager Ramos.

Eventually, the concerns were answered to the satisfaction of residents and city officials by embracing community input, and with creative design by the architectural firm of William Hezmalhalch, Inc. At the conclusion of this process, the City Council with the support of local residents, unanimously approved this award-winning, multigenerational development and in so doing made a major step toward fulfilling Claremont’s mission to provide a diversity of quality housing that meets the shelter needs of all social and economic segments.

Larry Schroeder is the mayor of Claremont, Calif., and is serving his first term on the Claremont City Council. He previously served on the Claremont Community Services Commission, to which he was appointed to in 2007. Schroeder serves as the City Council’s representative to the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority, the Independent Cities Association, and Southern California Council of Governments. He also serves as an alternate on the Metro Gold Line Phase II Committee. He earned a doctorate degree in public administration and teaches at Cal Poly Pomona.