By Ted AYALA
Local artists who are being crowded out of northeast Los Angeles and are grappling with sharp increases in the area’s rents may be calling Glendale their home in the near future, if Glendale City Council has its way.
An important step in the construction of a proposed affordable housing complex was taken on Tuesday by the city council and Housing Authority when they approved an exclusive negotiating agreement with the site’s developer, Meta Housing Corporation (MHC) of Los Angeles.
The complex would replace two existing apartment complexes that total 26 units with a facility that holds 70 units, as well as create open spaces where artists can work. The proposed site of the project is on a one-acre property adjacent to the Glendale YMCA on 140 N. Louise St. The Glendale YMCA also owns that property.
Affordable housing would be awarded to residents who meet the criteria of eligibility. Proposed rents would vary from $466 for a single-bedroom unit to $1,292 for a three-bedroom unit.
According to representatives from MHC, the definition of “artist” would allow for practitioners of a wide variety of artistic pursuits – from writers to dancers to musicians and more.
Also included on the site would be a community space encompassing 8,540 square feet that would include an art gallery as well as a digital media lab.
MHS has already developed several similar sites including ones in North Hollywood and Long Beach. The developer’s representatives noted that residents as well as their neighbors have been “very pleased” with the sites.
City Manager Scott Ochoa said the project is the fruit of nearly a decade of consultation with the Glendale YMCA on how best to use the property. Delays in moving the project forward earlier, he said, were due to circumstances “not being right” at the time. Things changed nine months ago when the city ventured to see how the proposal would work when floated on the private market.
“Very rarely do we get to see a project from cradle to grave,” he said.
Though the project has met mostly with approval, skeptics among the council remain.
“The idea of bringing in families to this kind of environment just doesn’t work,” said Councilmember Frank Quintero, who said that the site may not be appropriate for families given its distance from parks and schools.
“I don’t think this location is quite appropriate,” he added.
Councilmember Laura Friedman struck a more supportive tone, saying that the project was important for the continued viability of the Glendale YMCA, as well as for the community. She hoped that the kinds of artists eligible for housing would include the “creative workforce [that] is so viable to the economy” of the city.
“Besides just fine artists, I hope that this is extended to artists in the entertainment industry,” she said. “A lot of those people would fit into those guidelines and feed into our economy in a very important way.”
She also added that she would not pass something that “looked like affordable housing.”
“It needs to look different,” she said. “It should look market-rate.”
Mayor Dave Weaver also expressed support for the project, saying that it was great that the facility was a chance for the city to try “something new.”
The project, slated to cost $31.4 million, may be break ground as early as April 2016, pending a $6.4 million loan to MHS from the city.