Cal Poly team honored for affordable housing plan for Cambria site

ssullivan@thetribunenews.comJune 13, 2013 

A Cal Poly student team’s plan for an affordable housing complex in Cambria won Bank of America’s 22nd annual Low-Income Housing Challenge.

The interdisciplinary team of graduate and undergraduate students partnered with People’s Self-Help Housing Corporation to develop the proposal for a 40-unit apartment complex called Cambria Pines.
The project is currently being reviewed by county planning officials.

Terra Housing Studio, the name adopted by the Cal Poly team, beat out four other teams for the award: one each from UC Berkeley and UC Irvine and two others from Cal Poly.

The annual statewide competition attracts entries from some of California’s top schools, said Ari Beliak, a vice president for Bank of America’s community development banking. The competition is intense, requires an enormous amount of work and Cal Poly has consistently entered strong contenders, he said.

Due to the local economy’s reliance on tourism, Cambria needs many low-wage workers, according to the Terra Housing proposal. It says a lack of housing diversity, a water moratorium and expensive rental costs have all created an unmet need for multifamily affordable housing.

“Cal Poly did an amazing job in a difficult location,” Beliak said. “I want to congratulate them.”
The Cambria Pines proposal won because it had the “complete package,” Beliak said, showing the team understood both the financing aspect needed to make it feasible and architecture that was “extraordinarily well-planned.”

The team tackled one of Cambria’s biggest issues: water. Cambria Pines plans to use water in a sustainable way through native and drought-tolerant landscaping, efficient plumping fixtures, rainwater harvesting and a recycled grey water system.

“They understood what was necessary for the site and made sure to address it,” Beliak said.
The team, he noted, cultivated a good relationship with Santa Lucia Middle School, a neighbor to the site, and discussed the school’s needs.

Integration into the community also turns up by the team’s plan to take an unofficial trail that led from the school across the proposed Cambria Pines site to downtown Cambria and, instead of erasing it, as some other developers would do, to integrate it into landscaping plans and to dedicate an easement making the unofficial trail official.

“These students did a good job of moving the ball to make it a feasible project,” Beliak said.
While there is no prize money, the competition is a good way for students to interact with potential employers and can lead to job offers.

Developing affordable housing projects is more difficult than other housing projects, Beliak said. Bank of America supports this contest to give people a chance to work in this industry, to support low-income housing developments and to meet federal requirements, he said.

The Community Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress in 1977, requires financial institutions to reinvest in the communities, according to Beliak.

“Bank of America found a good way to meet the requirement and have a good lasting impact on people’s lives,” Beliak said.

Terra Housing team members and their fields of study are: Cameron Anvari, business administration; Smita Naik, sustainable architecture; and Brian Harrington, Nuri Cho, Andrew Levins, Emily Gerger and Tim McGarvey, all city and regional planning.

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