By Noel Smith – email@example.com
Behind the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County building just across from the Rancho Del Mar Shopping Center, a new 40-unit apartment housing project is under construction. The name of the project is Aptos Blue and its one, two and three bedroom apartments will be available to low, very low, and extremely low-income affordability levels, as set by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Community concerns have been expressed about the project. First, because the entire 40 units are devoted to low income residents with no mixing of income levels, and secondly, the five units being reserved by the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency for MHSA (Mental Health Services Act) tenants.
The original description of those that would qualify for MHSA housing on the county’s website, in the words of Giang Nguyen, the new Director of the Santa Cruz County Health Services Agency, “Was totally incorrect. As soon as it came to my attention, I ordered it pulled down. Supervisor Friend and I met with the a group of concerned residents about the project last Friday and will meet again with them next week.”
One nearby resident who attended that meeting is Kevin Painchaud. His concerns were communicated to his neighbors, which prompted the county’s outreach meetings. Painchaud said, “A year ago we heard that these were to be all condos, then that they would be one-third low income rentals, and now all forty units will be low income rentals. However, our primary concern is the five units for the MHSA tenants. The original description on the application form for these five tenants has been changed, but we are not convinced that anything has really changed except the wording. (See both versions) I feel there has been a lot of deception and misinformation on the part of the County. These MHSA tenants will still be very disturbed, unsupervised people living among the other residents and in our neighborhood.”
Financing for the project comes from several sources, including Santa Cruz County, the California Department of Housing and Community Development, and CalHFA — Mental Health Services Act that mandated the five units of MHSA housing. Former Supervisor Ellen Pirie declared in the announcement for the groundbreaking last November that, “Aptos Blue brings much-needed affordable work force housing to our county.”
The next meeting with residents will be at the Community Foundation of Santa Cruz County – 7807 Soquel Dr Aptos – on Friday April 19 at 10 a.m.
Aptos Blue is in a prime location. It is near the Aptos library, public transportation lines that connect to both Watsonville and Santa Cruz, and is just across the street from a major shopping center. The project consists of four studios, four one-bedroom, 16 two-bedroom and 16 three-bedroom apartments on about two acres of the 5.5-acre former Aptos Ranch parcel.
The contractor is Kent Construction and MidPen Resident Services Corp. will be the property manager, coordinating and managing onsite programs and services for residents. Beth Fraker, Director of Marketing and Communications for MidPen Housing, said, “The development is expected to be complete in October 2013 which is when we will welcome residents.”
When asked about whether the units for the MHSA tenants will be dedicated apartments, Fraker told us, “The 5 MHSA clients will be in 2 studios and 3 one-bedroom units. There are a total of 4 studios and 4 one-bedroom units so the units with MHSA clients may move around.”
According to the MidPen Housing description, “In addition to new construction, Aptos Blue includes the renovation of the historic Castro House originally built in the mid-1870s by Vicente Castro, a prominent rancher and orchardist.”
Aptos Blue is located at 7839 Soquel Drive, Aptos, on about two acres of the 5.5-acre parcel that was part of the original Aptos Rancho, a 6,686-acre Mexican land grant given to Rafael Castro in 1833. Twenty-two years later Rafael gave 700 acres of land to his son, Vicente Castro. In 1867, Vicente began selling portions of his 700 acres and purchased a 7.5-acre piece of land from his parents, which would become the Aptos Blue site. Vicente Castro became a prominent rancher and successful orchardist. To accommodate his growing family he built a new two-story house in the middle of his orchard property, which he finally sold in 1887.
“The Castro House” will contain Property Management and Resident Services, including a community kitchen, a computer lab, after-school programs, and Mental Health Services Act services for the residents occupying the five MHSA units.
Aptos Blue is just one of six sites selected by Santa Cruz County for “use by right” zoning. The first site approved for development was the Schapiro Knolls Apartments on Minto Road, which is currently under construction in Watsonville.
Original MHSA Application Description
“Tenants to be served are adults 18 years of age and over who are diagnosed with a qualifying psychiatric disability and certified as homeless or at risk of homelessness. The individuals served can be expected to have multiple challenges, including co-occurring addiction disorders, physical health issues, a lack of support systems, and criminal, credit, and housing history that present barriers to other rental housing.”
Revised MHSA Application Description
The goal criteria for the five units of housing are:
- To assist a qualified individual who has a diagnosis of psychiatric disability including depression or anxiety disorders with permanent supportive housing to avoid homelessness.
- The individual was not recently discharged from an acute hospital or crisis unit.
- The individual has been assessed by mental health clinician and deemed to be alert, oriented, calm and cooperative.
- The individual is mentally stable and receiving outpatient behavioral health services.
- The individual is able to care for themselves with support and live independently. They must demonstrate conduct and skills in prior living situations that the admission to independent housing would not negatively affect the health, safety or welfare of themselves or other residents, the physical environment or the financial stability of the property.
- All tenants living in the housing unit shall comply with the MidPen Housing’s resident selection criteria, including credit check, criminal history, background check and prior housing experiences.