Placer supes approve $3.2 million in loans to Bowman low-income apartment developer

By: Gus Thomson, Journal Staff Writer
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Satisfied that tainted soil concerns will be addressed by the builder, supervisors gave their OK Tuesday to a financing and land-sale plan for a much-debated, much-delayed affordable housing project in Bowman. The $20 million Silver Bend Way apartment building will move ahead on a 5-0 vote with a financing plan that calls for $14.1 million in federal income-tax credits that developer USA Properties Fund has yet to secure. Supervisors were told that the next round of funding in a “competitive” marketplace takes place in March but USA Properties can continue to seek the tax credits for another three years. The Placer County Redevelopment Agency is pledging $2 million in the form of a loan to cover a potential funding gap on the project. The agency will also provide a $1.2 million loan to USA Properties to buy the Silver Bend Way property from the county. The project – now called Quartz Ridge Family Apartments after initially using the name Miner’s Ridge Family Apartments – will consist of 64 units available to rent for individuals or families with incomes at or below 80 percent of the area’s median income. Tuesday’s board decision followed a public hearing that included testimony from only one person – USA Properties senior vice president of acquisitions Steven Gall. Gall said that the business – founded in 1981 and responsible for the development of more than 9,000 affordable units in Nevada and California – had anticipated a shorter time frame when it was selected by the county in late 2009 from three other applicants to move the project forward. “We felt we were on a relatively short journey,” he said. Despite the absence of other public input at Tuesday’s hearing, the project has been the object of opposition from neighbors and nearby residents with environmental concerns about the site since it was first proposed in 2001. Grassroots group Residents Against Inconsistent Development managed to stop an initial affordable housing proposal from going forward after a court action. But the county renewed its efforts two years ago after the initial developer pulled out. George Horan, who owns and rents a duplex and three fourplexes in Auburn, said Tuesday that the Quartz Ridge proposal is a “lose-lose” for the county and Auburn because it adds more affordable housing to an already saturated market. “As far as rentals go, this is a very distressed market,” Horan said. While Horan said he believes he’ll financially survive the addition of 64 more government-subsidized units, other apartment owners who have bought more recently will likely end up walking away from some properties. Most recently, Auburn activist Dale Smith has voiced concerns about fill material deposited on the property and the possibility of soil tainted by farming chemicals. Smith could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But Gall, as well as redevelopment agency Deputy Director James LoBue, told supervisors that ongoing soil tests have turned up no signs of contaminated soil and rubble-strewn fill on the property will be removed. Cited by staff at the meeting was a recent report from the environmental health division that concluded no fill on the property was contaminated enough to require placing in a special facility for hazardous waste. Gall said that the project will move 36,000 cubic yards of dirt at the site and that inspections on both current fill and any that arrives there will be ongoing. With the removal of fill believed to have been deposited there by Caltrans before 2000, the site will be “substantially better than it is today when we finish,” Gall said. Supervisor Jennifer Montgomery said she’s confident any problems with soil contamination that arise will be dealt with. “We’re not going to turn a blind eye,” she said. “If something comes up, it will absolutely be dealt with.” If USA Properties secures funding in the March round of applications, it would be on schedule to welcome its first renters at the property by the fall of next year.