City Council Approves Affordable Housing Development on Sunrise Blvd.

Citrus Heights  |  Story by Shaunna Boyd

CITRUS HEIGHTS, CA (MPG) - On January 10, the Citrus Heights City Council heard a presentation about a proposed affordable housing development—Sunrise Pointe— which would be located at 7424 Sunrise Blvd. on a 2.35-acre vacant lot on the east side of Sunrise Blvd. between Oak Ave. and Old Auburn Rd. The property is the former site of Abel’s Christmas Tree Lot.

The developer, Jamboree Housing Corporation, is a non-profit with 28 years of experience in developing high-quality affordable communities. Michael Massie, senior vice president of Jamboree, stated that there is a housing crisis in California and it is “vital and necessary” to provide housing for those in need—like seniors, veterans, and those with disabilities. Jamboree is partnering with TLCS, which will provide services to the residents of Sunrise Pointe. TLCS is a non-profit that has been providing mental health and supportive housing services in Sacramento County for almost 40 years.

Sunrise Pointe is a $23 million project, with multiple funding sources, including private investments and state and federal affordable housing funds. Jamboree has made a 55-year commitment to maintain the development as affordable housing. “We are long-term holders. We intend to be partners in this neighborhood,” said Massie. He explained that his company’s affordable housing developments typically encounter neighborhood resistance at first, “but the community learns that we are good neighbors.”

Sunrise Pointe is a family-focused project that would provide affordable permanent housing to help tenants work toward continued independence and stability. A property manager would reside on-site, and a variety of services would be provided to residents through TLCS. Residents with children would also be provided on-site after school care. Jamboree requested significant input from neighbors during the planning process and has amended their design in response to community concerns.

Typically, development projects of this type would be approved by the Planning Commission, but the developers were asking for a specific parking concession that needed to be approved by the City Council. The property is zoned for commercial use but is being developed for residential use, so two sections of code apply and are in conflict. Residential use states that parking cannot be placed in a setback, while setback parking is allowed under the commercial code. Affordable housing projects are eligible for concessions if the concession is needed to ensure economic feasibility.  Massie explained that if the residential code setback requirements are enforced, the project will have to reduce the number of units from 47 to 40, which would result in a loss of over $2.5 million in capital funding and hinder them from providing the level of services that are currently planned.

During public comment, some local residents spoke in support of the project because they feel Citrus Heights needs a place to serve those in need within the community. One resident cited the high number of “families without homes” in the San Juan School District, many of whom are in Citrus Heights. He said an affordable housing development could help these families survive and ensure the kids have somewhere safe to sleep each night.

Many neighbors with homes adjacent to the proposed development voiced concerns about the plan. Some speakers were worried about increased traffic congestion in the area. Others were concerned about having people with potential substance abuse issues living in the neighborhood. Some speakers don’t want a low-income housing development in the neighborhood because they feel it will devalue their own homes. Others were worried that the landscaping trees won’t be mature enough to offer any real privacy between the properties and that the tree maintenance will affect their properties, with leaves and branches falling in their yards.

Councilmember Bret Daniels said, “We do need affordable housing. This project addresses a need.” Regarding the neighbors’ concerns, he said, “We can’t eliminate impact, but we need to minimize it.”

Councilmember Porsche Middleton said she appreciates the developer’s flexibility throughout the process and sees this project as an opportunity for people to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness. She acknowledged the concerns of the neighbors, but said “We have to find a balance between needs.”

Councilmember Steve Miller said that Jamboree’s architecture and design are extremely high quality. He acknowledged the concerns of the local residents, saying, “This change will be difficult, I appreciate that.” But he noted that they can’t expect an empty lot to remain empty forever.

Mayor Jeannie Bruins said she sees the major issue as parking located too close to the adjacent properties. “We should require that the amount of parking be reduced.” She said Jamboree put in more parking than they needed in order to meet the City’s code, so they would be amenable to reducing the number of spaces.

The Council voted to approve the project with the following revisions: change to an 8 ft. wall all the way around the property, specify that the landscape plan should include the installation of mature trees to increase the privacy screen, ensure that neighbors are asked for input during the tree-selection process, and require Jamboree to provide neighbors with regular construction updates. The Council approved the parking concession (with one “no” vote from Councilmember Daniels) on the condition that the number of parking spaces be reduced.