Santa Paula Planning Commission: People’s Self Help Housing Approved

by Sheryl Hamlin

During the May 26, 2020 Santa Paula Planning Commission, the second item of business was the People’s Self Help Housing (PSHH) apartment building on Harvard. With eighteen (18) attendees via Zoom, the project was presented by Planning Director Jeff MIchem with commentary from Lauren Nichols from PSHH.

Where and What?

The existing site is immediately to the west of Raoul’s Smog on Harvard and is shown in the staff picture below, where a short-term mobile home park now exists. PSHH plans to build 69 units (68 rentals and one manager’s unit) in two buildings which will include a community room, learning center, paths and drought tolerant landscaoe (note that hedge in photo will be replaced).

As-Is, source:staff report


The project will be three stories with no elevator, but the first floor will be reserved for ADA tenants. The mix of units is as follows from the staff report:

69 100% affordable apartments (approximately 22 one bedroom units, 29 two bedroom units, and 18 three bedroom units), targeting at least 10% very low income households (<30% of AMI), and average affordability for the full project will be low income (<60% of AMI.) AMI=average median income

The size and occupancy limits of the units are as follows:

Size, source: staff report

Occupancy, source: staff report


In the one letter opposing the project, the resident had walked the property and felt the plans were too tight for the lot. To which, the staff responded as follows: Please note, that with respect to parking (102 spaces provided for 69 units), size *(3 stories) and architectural scale/character, the proposal meets, and in some cases exceeds, State Law and local regulations. Such a project is supported by Staff as a sorely needed land use generally, and a thoughtfully resolved, compatible design that will improve neighborhood character and property values.

PSHH proposed, source: staff report


PSHH plans 102 parking spaces, but according to law, this could be as low as 34 spaces. The one letter in opposition to the project was concerned about overflow parking on the adjacent street of single family residences with single garages on Dartmouth Road.

Density Bonus Housing Law

On page 3 of the staff report, it was noted that to encourage infill development, the following zoning limits may be reduced or relieved: parking, setbacks, loading, lot coverage, landscape, open space and unit size.


Although not discussed at the meeting, Director Michen provided the following information. The project is 100% affordable in perpetuity (55 years when a new affordability covenant assigned). Note major donor partners on the PSHH website. According to Director Michem, the steps in the financing process will include the following:

The developer, PSHH, will form a limited partnership for this development, and apply for tax credits through the Low Income Housing Tax Credit program (LIHTC). Once awarded, the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee (CTCAC) will administer tax credits, and they will be sold to an investor who will become the Limited Partner within the partnership. The development will likely have additional state sources administered through the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), and will carry a mortgage. Donors can help contribute directly to PSHH (a registered non-profit public benefit corporation) to help fund supportive services and resident services programs such as the college club program which will be part of the learning center onsite.


Commissioner Fourage asked about relocation of the current tenants. According to Lauren Nichols, PSHH has hired a relocation consultant. However, because these tenants are temporary (up to 30 days), there is no relocation assistance. Only one of the tenants in the existing RV park qualified for relocation assistance.

Commissioner Fourage asked about overflow parking since the building is on a main road. Jeff Michem answered that there are about 1.5 spaces per unit and ideally some residents will use transit because it is nearby.

Commissioner Dunkel asked about the property owner’s involvement in the application to which Director Michem said the property owner was very involved. The sale is due to close on June 2, 2020. Commission Dunkel was concerned about the property receiving entitlements, escrow failing, then owner reselling with 69 entitled units. Morgan Beneveda, PSHH Director, said the financing is lined up but they must get approval to proceed with financing and escrow. See paragraph above about financing.

Commissioner Dunkel asked about bicycle parking to which Lauren Nichols said there were two designated bicycle parking areas, plus the balconies were large enough to store a bicycle.

Commissioner Dunkel noted that the design of this project has the same feel as the Harvard Medical project which was previously approved by the Planning Commission.

Motion to Approve

Commission Dunkel suggested adding a contingency about the escrow failure and subsequent entitlement. Attorney Kettles said he would encourage the commission to focus on performance metrics and would discourage conditions about the sale. Jeff Michem reiterated that the approval of the Planning Commission is related to the funding.

The project was approved unanimously. Note there were six letters from the public in favor of the project and one in opposition.

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