The Allison Apartments project has been approved by Vacaville City Council – again.
This time the council has approved a density bonus application, planned development and a draft plot map for a revised plan for an apartment complex off Allison Drive. The project has been presented to council in the past, most recently for a density bonus application in December, but council voted 6 to 1 to proceed with the project to address concerns raised at the meeting.
CFY Development’s project is located on the southeast corner of Allison Drive and Nut Tree Parkway in an area known as the Allison Priority Development Area, approved by council in 2015 to create “one-of-a-kind mixed-use, transit-rich development”. region.
CFY originally proposed a 99-unit project in 2019, according to CFY President and CEO John Cicerone, but there was a funding shortfall of more than $10 million that has not been filled.
“We were able to solve the funding problem by adding density,” he said.
CFY then proposed a 167-unit complex, but after determining there were access issues, the building was reconfigured and the new plan was presented to the Planning Commission, where it was backed at the unanimity, but council members expressed concerns about parking, building height, not enough recreational facilities or on-site storage, and rental restrictions and chose to continue the discussion to give CFY enough time to respond to concerns.
The revised application now called for reducing the number of units to 135, lowering the height of the building from six to five stories, adding a 2,200 square foot roof terrace on the west tower to increase amenities on place and to add a small storage cupboard for each apartment.
Associate Planner said the overall floor plan will remain the same. The unique building project will include four stories in the West Tower which faces Allison Drive and five stories in the East Tower which faces the Vacaville Transportation Hub.
The complex will include two elevators, a rental office on the ground floor and a roof terrace on the top floor of the West Tower. The units will include 21 studios, 82 one-bedroom units and 32 two-bedroom units. The proposal also includes 139 parking spaces and amenities such as an indoor fitness center and community hall.
The primary access will be located off Allison and the secondary access will provide a route to the transportation hub. Part of the site will also be reserved for future commercial property.
Regarding council’s comments requesting that units be rented only to those who live or work in Vacaville, Enault said that would violate fair housing laws and eliminate financing opportunities to fund construction. However, he said the project targets its advertising towards Vacaville residents and employees and also uses a points-based application process that would award more points to those who live or work in town.
Due to changes to the Disposition, Development and Loan Agreement (DDLA), Housing Manager Emily Cantu said CFY is requesting a $3 million construction loan.
“Reasons for the demand are declining revenue with fewer units and loss of economy of scale that the larger project had achieved, increased material costs, and difficulty in obtaining building materials” , she said. “Interest rates have gone up, reducing the amount of loan they could get.”
Since lower-middle-income housing plans are not currently available, Cantu said staff are applying for funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The lion would use $3 million of the $12.6 million allocated to Vacaville. She also said future revenue could offset the funds.
In a public comment, resident Marion Elkins said the new plan was much better than previously proposed, but felt the roof terrace would not be as accessible to residents living in the opposite tower.
“It would be nice if the access distance was roughly equal for all residents,” she said.
A recommendation that came up often was to have the possibility of providing housing for teachers. Councilman Michael Silva said four teachers at his neighborhood school had recently quit because they couldn’t afford a place in Vacaville.
“They come in, make $50,000 a year for a few years, so they qualify to live in those particular units,” he said. “When we talk about these rental preferences, at some point we as a community need to come together and value our teachers as best we can.”
Cicerone said having “granular” preferences can lead to small pools of applicants who risk disenfranchising others and violating fair housing laws.
“Teachers would make amazing tenants,” he said. “I would love nothing more than to fill the building, but I can’t walk away from the fair housing obligations we have to operate under.”
Silva suggested that city staff consider whether diversity in Vacaville Unified School District staff would eliminate disparities.
Councilman Roy Stockton said he liked the project and felt it provided a needed form of housing, but was concerned about the use of ARPA funds.
“If that’s the best use of ARPA funds, and the board so decides, I would support them, but I also think it’s so crucial and important that we have input and feedback from the community. about where they want that money to be spent because that’s a quarter of what we’ve been allocated,” he said. “There’s a lot of businesses that are hurting, there’s a lot of people who have been impacted by COVID, and I just want to make sure that we’re good stewards of taxpayer funds and ARPA money.”
Mayor Ron Rowlett said he was disappointed with the progress of the project, particularly the elimination of the prevailing wage for construction.
“If you’re creating housing for low-income people and you’re paying the worst wages and benefits, or no benefits at all, then all you’re doing is doubling down and making it worse for the people who are there- down,” he said.
Rowlett said he would be willing to sit down with CFY to come up with a plan.
Councilman Nolan Sullivan said he was pleased with the project as presented and felt it was a good fit for Vacaville.
“This project is a game-changer,” he said. “It clears our numbers (regional allocation of housing needs), local families need this housing and I think the project is suitable for a place where I am comfortable with the scope.”
Sullivan offered to endorse the project with recommendations to bring back other ideas for potential funding sources and consider prioritizing housing for educators. The board approved this motion 5-2, with Rowlett and Stockton voting against.