The New Village Inn 1,000 Homes The Urban Land Institute’s 1,000 Homes Competition initiative focuses on helping to address the problem of chronic homelessness in LA County. This competition facilitates the cooperation of stakeholders including elected officials, non-profit organizations, and the private sector “in order to develop solutions that are effective, practical, and attainable” to create solutions that have a lasting impact on the populations they are designed to serve. Gabriel Albi+Joy Kim+Raul Lugo+Seung Jeung Table of Contents Introduction .............................................................................................................3 First Day ...................................................................................................................4 Strategic Vision .......................................................................................................8 Existing Conditions .............................................................................................. 10 Considerations ...................................................................................................... 13 Recommendations................................................................................................ 15 Development Analysis ......................................................................................... 18 Operations ............................................................................................................. 19 Funding .................................................................................................................... 20 Conclusion............................................................................................................. 21 Introduction This report was made possible with collaborations from the Urban Land Institute of Los Angeles, The City of Whittier, California, First Day Homeless Coalition of Whittier, and the UCLA School of Public Affairs, Urban Planning Department. Our project identifies the feasibility of a permanent supportive housing facility to be managed by First Day Homeless Coalition (First Day), at the current site of The Village Inn, a single-room occupancy hotel located in Uptown Whittier. The Uptown Whittier Specific Plan outlines a community vision for Whittier’s historic retail district. Uptown Whittier features a walkable urban form, and a diverse mix of uses. This commercial core was built before the automobile guided development patterns, and many buildings like The Village Inn have no parking provisions at all. The compact size and human scale of the buildings and streets in Uptown give it the character of an urban village. As the Uptown Specific Plan outlines, the mix of civic uses, local commerce and social institutions are the foundation of the community. There are a large number of historic buildings that have been adaptively reused to create a more complete streetscape, and introduce new uses in buildings where blight took place. The plan envisions high quality in the public realm and the preservation of a distinct historical character. It also aims to create housing that fulfills policy goals and market demand, and pays special attention to pedestrian orientation 1. These views were echoed in our conversations with Whittier City Manager Steve Helvey, who contributed a great wealth of knowledge to the project. After meeting with First Day’s Director Ted Knoll, our team assessed the goals of the organization as we sought to design a functional and interactive space that could encompass their great mission and deliver permanent supportive housing 1 Uptown Whittier Specific Plan- General Plan Update for the homeless population in Whittier, while addressing community visions outlined in the Specific Plan. Here, we address some strategies that can be used to create a successful Public Private Partnership (PPP) between First Day and the City of Whittier to satisfy the interests of the different stakeholders in order to marshal resources through cooperation to address basic fundamental needs in a comprehensive and compassionate approach. First Day The greatest asset towards making this project a reality is the First Day Homeless Coalition of Whittier. This organization started as The Social Services Coalition (SSC), it was founded in 1989 by the Whittier Area Interfaith Council, the City of Whittier, and the Whittier Salvation Army and became a 501(c)(3) non- profit entity in 1994. This partnership between different stakeholders within the city would pave the way for the advancements made by the organization today. In 2001, SSC moved to its current facility due to collaborative efforts of the Whittier One Stop Center (WOSC) in securing the space. Both SSC and WOSC formed a partnership when they realized they would be competing for the limited dollars allotted to homeless services and duplicating operational and funding efforts. These two organizations merged at the start of 2002 to form the current agency, Whittier Area First Day Coalition (First Day). It is noteworthy to mention here that First Day was able to overcome NIMBY local attitudes towards the homeless, and eventually obtain the Conditional Use Permit (CUP) to locate at its current headquarters. This was largely due to the efforts of First Day Executive Director Ted Knoll. Mr. Knoll employed a brilliant strategy of including local residents and key stakeholders in the decision making process of the organization. This proactive approach of reaching out to the community forces the stakeholders to face the issues head-on. This has been the key to gaining political support to carry out the mission of providing temporary transitional housing for the homeless population of Whittier. As a result of these efforts, the County of Los Angeles amended its laws to allow organizations wishing to start a facility to serve the homeless do not need site control to apply for the CUP. First Day provides the environment where individuals can go back into society through participatory exposure and service to their community. Ted Knoll also sits on the Council of Governments (COG) of the Gateway Cities region to discuss regional planning issues dealing with the homeless population. Essential to First Day’s success is the agency’s pioneering of a new treatment model—Reciprocal Community Engagement Model (RCEM). RCEM asserts that the homeless cannot be treated in isolation from the wider community. It recognizes the essential therapeutic nature of relationships and nurtures relationship building through a network of programs that foster positive human connections. First Day connects the homeless population to an extensive network of providers that have partnered with the program to provide necessary services to individuals that walk through their doors. This function is strengthened by the fact that First Day aims to prevent service duplication, as they are an organization that is rooted in the mentality of preserving valuable resources for essential uses. This leads to First Day being able to connect residents of their temporary housing facilities with services they cannot afford to provide on-site. The Social Services Program evaluates the needs of each client and suggests the appropriate course of action. They also provide financial assistance to obtain birth certificates, CA identification, CA driver’s license and other documentation necessary to receive government benefits and employment. Transportation for program participants is also available in the form of tokens and taxi vouchers for job interviews, referrals and appointments. These are all essential tools necessary to helping the individual establish structure in his or her life. The Recovery from Homelessness Program (RFHP) provides a short-term emergency transitional housing with on site supportive services to 45 individuals in the City of Whittier. Services include: on-site health clinic, health screenings, mental health services, on-site meals, case management, clothing, transportation, 12 step meetings, education, training and employment assistance. First Day provides professional and social service offices and meeting space. In the evaluation and assessment phase, the individual is provided with a supportive transitional setting from the isolation of the streets to a community setting. Individuals are required to attend all daytime educational classes to prepare them with life-skills education to integrate back into the community. Individuals are then assigned educational classes and required to attend the Job Club. This is based on a client centered problem-solving model, and it seeks to identify and overcome the barriers to employment for the homeless through education and breaking down negative perceptions of the self that often prevent homeless individuals to integrate into a community and retreat to isolation. Those who have demonstrated the willingness and determination to move toward self-sufficiency are allowed to stay additional time at the temporary housing facility. After a job has been secured an individual can retain their residency to accumulate sufficient funds to acquire permanent and stable housing. Much has been written about the success of First Day’s programs and services; “Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day…Teach a man to fish – you feed him for a lifetime…” says Ted Knoll. And this is precisely the model that allows an organization like First Day to operate a transitional housing shelter for 45 adult individuals in need, with a staff of only two people. First Day emphasizes a model where recovery is possible because the organization builds a sense of personal and community responsibility within the individual that allows them to feel included and valuable. These individuals then render service to the community through The Ladder Program, which involves residents in the community by placing them in volunteer opportunities and gradually expose the person to contact with society in the capacity of service. The simplicity of the concept is truly genius, at First Day everybody is treated as a responsible adult; this creates an amazing atmosphere in which the group serves the single as much as the single serves the group. It is something special when a group of individuals make the commitment to help each other achieve their purpose and restore their lives; it results in stability and safety with minimal need for supervision. Strategic Vision Steve Helvey expressed that this project is being considered for the possibility of removing blight from an area of Whittier that is undergoing revitalization. Additionally it is clear that without the supportive programming provided by First Day, this proposed redevelopment would not make sense. Ted Knoll has a clear understanding of the direction that First Day can take with this project. The vision is to rehabilitate The Village Inn to accommodate permanent housing for 30+ individuals that graduate from the temporary housing component of First Day’s recovery program. First Day currently has a waiting list of 26 applicants who would like permanent supportive housing. The great majority of these applicants are families, and due to constrains in the regulating framework First Day cannot accommodate families. The new facility would cater specifically to this population. We must forget the traditional concept of a family being a man, a woman, and their children. The homeless population is most vulnerable in the sense that they are likely to experience separation from their families, and alienation from society. Currently, there are no facilities in the area to house homeless single parents with their children, who make up the biggest percentage of First Day’s applicants. The facility would also support adult graduates of the program who voluntarily choose to engage in relationships of personal responsibility and mutual respect, and they can choose to live as non-traditional family units. This is an arrangement that has proven to be effective for First Day. Currently, this building has a negative perception throughout the community. Although the form and use of the building is appropriate. The fact that this hotel operates with questionable practices creates a situation in which nefarious characters are known to engage in illegal activities. The city would like to change this, and the redevelopment goals set forth in the update to the General Plan are in accordance with our proposed development. Existing Conditions The Village Inn is located at 7232 Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier, California. The area of the building is roughly 5620 square feet per floor measuring the footprint of the building, with 9050 total square feet according to the assessor’s office. The lot is currently zoned C2 for Unlimited Commercial Use. This parcel was subdivided in 1922 and the hotel was effectively built in 1930. This hotel is a Type-V construction with a concrete foundation and a wooden structure, with a stucco exterior. The hotel contains 45 single-occupancy rooms, 9 bathrooms, as well as two retail spaces facing measuring 230 sq. ft. each along Greenleaf Ave. One of these shops is a thrift store boutique, and the other is a psychic shop complete with tarot card readings. The hotel was built prior to contemporary parking requirements, and its use is grandfathered into the existing regulating framework. The land value is assessed at $1,061,200, while the improvements to the land are valued at $1,337,122. This assessment was made in 2006 when the last recorded sale occurred. The last recorded sale price was $2,398,330. The building itself shows considerable signs of decline. A deteriorating posterior wall that abuts the alley compromises the integrity of the structure. The building is in urgent need of maintenance and renovation, as it does not currently meet building code regulations to obtain a certificate of occupancy due to the numerous visible violations such as torn carpets which exposed the flooring in the hallway, as well as major cracks and holes in the stucco, and visible water damage throughout the sides and back of the property. Nevertheless, the single-room occupancy hotel is allowed to operate at full capacity despite growing weariness from the community towards the individuals that use it. This point is illustrated here as we spoke with patrons of the business district: “How about we keep the bums from pissing all over the place, the homies from etching their names into the plate glass, and the creepy weirdos from snatching purses. All we really need is a couple of mall cops to walk from one end of Greenleaf to the other and it would be a decent place to shop provided there were more than just tattoo shops and second hand stores.” –Local Resident This quote speaks to the locals growing weary of this property that has earned a reputation of being a place where prostitution occurs, and where illegal drugs are sold. Below are some reviews found online from people who have enjoyed their stay at The Village Inn: Benjamin Pongetti revealed that it has been the intent of the redevelopment agency to create a project that would change the programming of this building. Currently, the residents of the area, business owners, and retail patrons have a negative perception of the building because of the illegal nature of the activity that spills from the hotel onto the street and the loitering of individuals seen as undesirable. Below, we outline some of the challenges we encountered in the quest to find a strategy to deliver a new use for the building, turning it from a problem to an asset for the community, leveraging First Day’s reputation, and mission in the community of Whittier. Considerations There are a number of issues within the regulatory framework that greatly affect the feasibility of this proposed adaptation of The Village Inn. They are briefly summarized here: Ownership: The Village Inn is privately owned; the great income potential of 45 units in the building makes it likely that the price will rise when the owner becomes aware of the intent to redevelop the property. Site acquisition can be jeopardized with an unexpected rise in cost. Existing Use: The hotel was built before restrictive zoning regulations required commercial buildings to include parking spaces for their customers. This use was grandfathered in, as the building does not comply with today’s zoning regulations. Any proposed changes to the building would likely result in the requirement to obtain special considerations to exempt the project from meeting requirements that would bring the building up to code. Even with a ratio of half a parking space per unit, the project becomes unfeasible, as a separate parking structure needs to be provided. We are assuming a scenario where new parking would not be required for the project as the number of units is being reduced. We are also assuming the approval of the addition of a third story. Structure: The existing structure has to be reinforced at the foundation to bear the proposed addition. The structure was built in 1930, which means a major renovation must occur, this would include partially replacing existing framing and mechanical systems. Relocation and Replacement: Redevelopment Manager Benjamin Pongetti stated that the relocation fees associated with relocating 45 individuals and two businesses pose an important obstacle to the project. There is also a concern that the hotel is likely to be treated as housing under CEQA regulations, and housing units lost would have to be replaced at an alternate site. Our scenario does not include these possibilities. Recommendations The Village Inn Hotel provides an excellent opportunity to create a project that satisfies the desires of the various agency stakeholders, enriches the lives of the residents, and facilitates an environment in which participants are encouraged to integrate back into society and out of homelessness and isolation. First, we focused on the two retail spaces that front Greenleaf Ave. These spaces are approximately 230 sq. ft. in size. One of these spaces will be used for a pilot program where First Day will be operating a coffee shop as part of their employment training program, and allowing direct interaction between the residents, and the rest of the community in a safe environment where healthy commerce can take place. The other space will be leased out for income. Finally, the project will provide special accommodation for the existing partnership between First Day and the Whittier business community. This will be done in the manner of a space where a security guard from the existing Business Improvement District (BID) can have a post at the facility looking out onto the streets and providing safety. This effectively changes the entire image of a building that used to have “bums ..pissing all over the place”, to a secure street where a more diverse mix of business can locate than “tattoo parlors and second-hand stores”. The building also features two large multi-purpose rooms, which can be converted from conference rooms to other optional uses. One possible use is a nursery to provide childcare to single mothers who seek employment and economic stability. Inadequate access to affordable childcare is a major barrier of entry into the workforce for many single mothers. Shared Living Spaces The design allows the flexibility of providing units that share common living space, thus creating an environment where participating individuals can share the responsibility of the upkeep of the space. In these shared living spaces they would essentially come together, communicate and learn from each other. This facilitates communication and cooperation. These families can than work together for the betterment of each other’s lives. This model emphasizes interactions in an environment where people must depend on each other to help each other lead productive lives and recover from homelessness. Development Analysis Although we have an existing structure, the extensive nature of the modifications needed make this a major renovation project for adaptive reuse. The acquisition of the site makes a significant portion of the cost of the project. We used the last sale price of $2,398,330 as a basis of comparison. We were informed about several factors that could affect the price of the site by the staff of the redevelopment agency. We considered several factors such as the dramatic drop in real estate values due to the economic recession, as well as the income potential of the building. There was also the likelihood that the price would increase upon the owner becoming aware of the intent of the Whittier Redevelopment Agency to gain control of the property. We have estimated acquisition costs to be $2.5 million dollars, while the total cost for the project is estimated at $5,365,318. The total amount of equity needed for construction is $1,198,000. Below is a breakdown of project development costs. We contacted several building contractors who specialize in rehabilitating large residential commercial buildings to get a sense of construction costs for the changes we proposed. All-Cities Construction Co. returned a detailed proposal estimating the cost of the renovation, including underpinning of existing complex, 162 screw anchor piers installed to repair the foundation, soils investigation and engineering. Also included in this figure is excavation and concrete grade beams. This allows a third story to be built. Total estimated cost of construction was $1.35 million dollars for the residential units, and minor upkeep of two retail spaces, as well as the creation of a newly arranged space to suit the needs of First Day’s recovery programs. Operations The proposed project consists of 35 units. There are three types of units: Type 1: 4 Bedroom + 1 Kitchen + 1 Bathroom Type 2: 2 Bedroom + 1 Kitchen + 2 Bathroom Type 3: 1 Bedroom + 1 Bathroom There are five (5) Type 1; six (6) Type 2; and (4) Type 3. The units share common living spaces with sleeping quarters provided in the form of alcoves, while most of the space can be used for a variety of purposes, and engaging participants in cooperation and mutual respect to maintain the shared environments and maximize their use. The sleeping alcoves are approximately 90 square feet. Based on comparables, and using the Little Tokyo Service Center as reference, the proposed rate is $615 per bedroom per month for each of the distinct unit arrangements. This project has a Gross Potential Rental Income of $22,025 per month, and $264,300 per year; this includes rent for the retail spaces. Income resulting from the operations of the coffee shop by First Day is not factored in. The project would require an additional $430,000 for the operation of First Day’s programs. This includes all administrative duties, as well as one licensed case manager at a salary of $47,000, a counselor at $35,000,and a live-in residential manager to occupy one of the units at a salary of $42,000. Funding The feasibility of the project depends on the different development scenarios that can occur. Hypothetically speaking, the Whittier Redevelopment Agency can incur the cost of acquisition and renovation of the building, while First Day would operate their programs out of this facility. There are a number of different programs developers can use to fund these types of projects. Prop 1C passed in 2006, earmarking $50 million for supportive housing. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act includes $1.5 billion for Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing. Since this is a major renovation, this project is eligible for LAHD funds in the form of 4% tax credits since 100 percent of the units serve homeless individuals and families Support for the residents will come in the way of Section 8 housing vouchers, where applicable, as well as any individual housing subsidies they receive. First Day estimates that this facility would require a similar operating budget as their transitional housing facility. Their program budget was $984,300 for 2009. Conclusion The feasibility of this project is highly dependant on the support from the Redevelopment Agency of the City of Whittier. It is equally dependant on the effective programming that an experienced partner like First Day provides. The Village Inn has proven to be a nuisance in an area where the City of Whittier would like to see the revitalization of their historic core of retail. The proposed programming for the space would change the image of the block dramatically, as an inviting and safe atmosphere replaces a doorstep known for attracting characters with questionable motives. The considerations contained in this proposal outline the difficulties in acquisition, construction, and operations of the project, but we feel that the political capital gained by First Day could garner the support from the City of Whittier to invest public redevelopment funds and return a habitable and inviting building where illicit activity currently exists.