40-unit affordable housing project moving forward in Cambria

ktanner@thetribunenews.comFebruary 13, 2013 

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing hopes to build an apartment complex with 40 units at the end of Schoolhouse Lane adjacent to Santa Lucia Middle School in Cambria.

Currently an open field, the site is adjacent to a 24-unit complex opened by the nonprofit organization in September 1997.

The project, called Cambria Pines Apartments, still must work its way through the county planning process, including review by the North Coast Advisory Council on Wednesday.

As far as permitting paperwork goes, “We’re hoping everything will be in place by July,” said Jeanette Duncan, the nonprofit group’s president and chief executive officer. She estimates total cost of the project, including purchase of the land about two years ago, at $8 million to $10 million.

The Cambria Community Services District Board of Directors unanimously issued the last chunk of a series of approvals for water hookups Jan. 17.

The project would require connection fees of $217,000, although CCSD code allows for a 50 percent refund once the affordable housing units are completed. The corporation also can request a payment plan.

That’s a large number of water connections for Cambria, especially in light of the water hookup moratorium declared in 2001 with some exceptions, including for less expensive housing units, with some limitations.

CCSD has issued water service to just 64 new accounts from 2002 to 2012. Those were a combination of intent-to-serve letters issued prior to the moratorium (often called “pipeline projects,” because they were in the planning pipeline before the emergency was declared) and some special agreements that resulted in new utility accounts being opened.

High demand

Peoples’ Self-Help Housing is applying for funding. If that comes through, the funds would be available in March 2014, Duncan estimated.

She expects the new apartments would likely rent for $800 to $900 for two-bedroom units, and $930 to $1,000 for three-bedroom units ranging from 850 to 1,150 square feet.

Duncan said people who work in Cambria’s hotels and restaurants are likely tenants, but it would be “a cross section of workers, also some farmworkers on ranches,” who would be able to live in Cambria “instead of driving from Atascadero or Cayucos to work; there’s just not a lot of affordable apartments to rent.”

There’s very little turnover in the nonprofit’s existing Cambria units, she said. “It takes three to four years to live there.”

Plans for the complex show units clustered on 2.46 acres.

A split-level community services building of about 3,500 square feet would include laundry amenities, and outdoor facilities would be available, including a play area and a wood deck. Ground-level parking would be provided under the elevated apartments.

Objections to plan

Project neighbor Kathryn Clayton, owner of Heart’s Ease shop in Cambria, made an emotional appeal to services district directors not to approve the additional units.

She said she would share her home’s driveway with the nonprofit’s project, and that additional units and residents would worsen her difficult situation.

Clayton said the current units “might look nice and clean,” but that there are often two or three cars connected with each unit, and with that many people in such a limited amount of space, there are problems with trash, graffiti and vandalism.

“This is the only way I can get to my home,” she said, adding that ultimately the project would “run me out of town.”

Another Cambria resident, Jeff Hellman, said his concerns include that “you’re putting a major business in the middle of a residential neighborhood … there’ll be a lot of traffic,” and he feels the project has inadequate space for parking.

Meeting Wednesday

Plans for the Cambria Pines Apartments project are up for review by the North Coast Advisory Council at its monthly meeting starting at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Rabobank, 1070 Main St., Cambria.

Follow Kathe Tanner on Twitter at @CambriaReporter. Assistant City Editor Bert Etling contributed to this report.

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