Supes: Affordable housing at North Auburn site a priority

By: Gus Thomson of the Auburn Journal
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The Placer County Government Center in North Auburn is on track for working class housing.

But what form that will take and where in the footprint of the 200-acre county owned parcel affordable housing will be planned for and potentially built has yet to be determined.

On Tuesday, supervisors gave direction to consulting architect Williams + Paddon to proceed further with a master plan update that will include residential development. The final blueprint is to be back to the board in 2018 for a final decision.

Housing was the focus of much of Tuesday’s discussion, with the idea of a development on county land that could serve as housing for county workers, among others, gaining support.

Williams + Paddon’s Jack Paddon told supervisors that residential could drive other uses at the center – including retail, food services and recreational – while encouraging employees and residents to “live, work and play” in what is hoped to be a vibrant, walkable campus.

Tuesday’s presentation follows work by a team of 25 architects, planners and consultants on concepts that will address the needs of the community and county over the next quarter century. Williams + Paddon has a $2.1 million contract to update the center’s 1993 plan.

District 3 Supervisor Jim Holmes of North Auburn said he likes the potential of mixed-use buildings, with offices or retail on a ground floor and residences above.

Work-force housing is an important ingredient in planning for North Auburn and even smaller units – perhaps 300 square feet with a Murphy bed – are needed, Holmes said.

District 5 Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery of Soda Springs said that the opportunity is being provided to create a community that people want to live in.

Affordable housing continues to be a “huge issue,’ particularly for firefighters and school teachers, she said.

The meeting also drew representatives of organizations advocating for more affordable housing.

Herb Whitaker, managing attorney with Auburn-based Legal Services of Northern California, reminded supervisors that the county is on the hook to replace as many as 96 units after the phase out and demolition of the old Bell Garden Apartments at the center. Located off Bell Road, Bell Gardens was one of the most affordable housing options in the Auburn area before its final demolition in 2013

Veronica Blake of the Placer Community Foundation said that any land at the center that could be deemed surplus to county needs could be used for affordable housing units.

“It would be an outstanding opportunity to meet that need,” Blake said.