Affordable Senior Living in the Southland

The Gold Nugget awardee, Del Rey Square Senior Housing, brings classic design and affordable 50+ living to a location in need of new retirement options.

By Scott McCourtney
Photo Credits: EXTERIOR: Elijah McHenry; INTERIOR: Benny Chan

Westside Los Angeles has been devoid of senior housing projects for the last ten years, and Withee Malcolm Architects, Pacific Empire Builders, and developer/ owner Thomas Safran & Associates have provided an affordable, new option for retirees. The Baby Boomer sector of the market is a profitable avenue to design and build innovative projects, and Withee Malcolm has designed a project that offers different options for different buyers. Offering 124 units with both 3- and 2-story rental housing, Del Rey Square is a project Los Angeles has needed for active seniors. Completed in February 2013, the development has already been fully leased. The absolute need for this type of housing was apparent to not just the partners involved in its production, but local policymakers who understood its importance for the community.

“Los Angeles City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl made it his mission to find affordable housing solutions for some of the most at-risk populations his district (Council District 11) including the homeless and aging veterans in the city’s affluent Westside,” explained Dan Withee, Partner, Withee Malcolm Architects. “Rosendahl championed the project and worked closely with the developer Thomas Safran & Associates (TSA) who in turn partnered with the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angles (HACLA) and the Los Angeles Housing Department (LAHD) to develop the project. Del Rey Square Senior Apartments is the first affordable housing to be built in the area in over 10 years.”

The design of Del Rey Square includes options for renters spanning beyond typically built apartments. Safety features as well as amenity options that Del Rey Square showcases are just not common amongst existing affordable developments. Ease of movement is reflected through direct access from secure parking to community spaces that include a lounge, game room and kitchenette.

Additionally, all doors slide electronically to make circulation easier for 50+ renters. Residing on the second floor are even more innovative living features including a computer lab, fitness room, media room, and relaxation space enhancing the profitability and functionality of the project’s space.

“Although the designers worked within an affordable housing budget, Del Rey Square incorporates resident amenities and safety features not found in the average market-rate apartment,” stated Withee. “Parking is located on the first level so residents can walk from a secure garage directly into the community space. Landscaped courtyards and spa on this level are available for recreation and relaxation and two spacious roof decks provide additional outdoor space and views.”

Del Rey Square was an important addition to Westside Los Angeles regarding the 50+ market, while also being important for the community. The development began as a public-private partnership between the Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Housing Department, and TSA. The apartments are offered as studios or 1-bedroom units.

The partners involved in bringing this plan to fruition also showed immense interest in supported locally homeless seniors ranging from civilians as well as veterans. The dedication to giving the community an affordable yet innovative opportunity enhances the overall appeal of Del Rey Square.

“Low income seniors and the homeless face an increasing shortage of quality housing options, especially in upscale neighborhoods, even when many of the seniors have been longtime residents of the area. At Del Rey Square senior residents aged 62 and over will pay 30 percent of their income for rent. The new community is especially important because it provides permanent supportive housing and services to 31 formerly homeless civilians and veterans, who have received assistance from TSA and St. Joseph’s Center, a non-profit organization working with the homeless and working poor,” said Withee.

The senior apartments were designed with a Spanish flavor, more specifically geared toward the California beach town, Santa Barbara. Utilizing white stucco, designing softly rounded edges of the building, dark wood beams and balconies, and highlighted with a distinctive angled clock tower, Del Rey Square gives residents a stylish alternative to the rental atmosphere.

Although the surrounding environment was in need of a project like Del Rey Square, challenges arose when presenting the existing community with the proposed development.

“In spite of the recognized need for affordable senior housing, neighbors were initially resistant to the development,” stated Withee. “Meetings with neighbors and local officials showing them other examples of affordable communities and tailoring the design of the complex to the local context helped to mitigate apprehensions about the project’s potential negative impact on property, to change misperceptions, and to secure community buy-in and sign-off.”

Since the influence of the surrounding community was integral to the production and completion of Del Rey Square, Withee Malcolm approached the project with sensitivity to the existing concerns of the residents of the upscale Westside neighborhood consisting of single-family homes.

“The architects worked diligently on several design iterations to sufficiently assuage local residents about potential increases in noise and traffic, as well as the threat to privacy. While the four-story building is significantly larger than its single-family neighbors, the complex steps down gracefully from the street edge to the neighborhood at the rear, which minimizes the sense of scale,” explained Withee.

With privacy in mind Withee Malcolm also included screened entry gates to the parking areas decorated with ornamental vines to enhance privacy and contribute to the overall design aesthetic. A 22-foot dedication at the buildings entry has been designated for future road widening, and it is landscaped to create a welcoming entry while also reducing the sense of scale at street level. Del Rey Square Senior Housing breaks the mold for developing apartments for retirees while also showcasing the benefits of how public and private partners can work together in regards to providing residents fitting this market with an affordable yet stylish environment. Elegance, comfort, and functionality is the main theme of Del Rey Square and with its success and completion, future builds are sure to be inspired.

“Del Rey Square is an excellent model of how public and private partners can work together to increase the supply of affordable housing and to ensure that the apartments are safe, comfortable and dignified. This is housing that improves the quality of life not just for the residents but also for the greater community,” said Withe. “It’s a combination of vision and cooperation that makes a difference for all of us.”

Scott McCourtney is an assistant editor for 50+ Builder. He can be reached atsmccourtney@penpubinc.com

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