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Building for Seniors Is a Hit While Still on Drawing Board

November 12, 1987|MATHIS CHAZANOV | Times Staff Writer

Hundreds of senior citizens are vying for apartments in a 41-unit building in the Pico-Robertson District, one of the last government-funded low-income housing projects of its kind in the country.

It allows singles with incomes of less than $12,560 a year to rent a small apartment at no more than 30% of their income. The income limit for couples is $14,350.

The building is being erected atop a city parking lot, an arrangement that lowered the cost of the project and helped make it possible to offer low-cost housing in an area that has many senior citizens and rising property values, developer Thomas Safran said.

A drawing held for a similar building in September drew 725 applicants for 49 units.

"This is an area where there is great need with no land," Safran said, crediting City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky for pushing the project through the municipal bureaucracy.

For the Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday November 22, 1987 Home Edition Westside Part 10 Page 4 Column 1 Zones Desk 1 inches; 35 words Type of Material: Correction
An article on government-sponsored housing for senior citizens that appeared in the Nov. 12 edition of the Westside section misstated the developer's payments for use of air rights over a city parking lot on Clark Drive. The actual fee is $2,042 a month.

"He showed a very creative willingness to do something different and make use of this property," Safran said.

Some nearby businessmen were less enthusiastic. They said they feared that the one-story municipal lot under the project would prove unattractive to shoppers because it would be enclosed and therefore, unsafe.

However, they failed to sway the City Council when it approved the project two years ago.

"I'm not opposed to senior citizens, I'm a senior citizen myself," said Norman D. Shultz, a dentist who spearheaded the appeal. "But they've taken two-thirds of our parking away. There's no woman in her right mind who's going to be parking in one of those buildings." Yaroslavsky's support for the project was understandable "because of the fact that he wants to get the senior-citizen vote," Shultz said. "But he lost the business persons' vote."

Yaroslavsky, who is expected to run for mayor in 1989, said the demand for affordable housing is "incredibly high" in his 5th Councilmanic District, where senior citizens make up about 60% of the population.

Throughout Los Angeles, about 300,000 households need housing assistance programs, according to a United Way report.

"The shortage is citywide," Yaroslavsky said, "but it's particularly acute on the Westside, because in the last couple of decades it's been a place where elderly people have found a haven, residentially and from the social service and recreational point of view."

With property costs constantly rising, such government-supported housing programs would be uneconomical without the break provided by the use of the city-owned parking lot, Yaroslavsky said.

Applications for the 41-unit building at 1156 Clark Drive are now available at the Pico-Robertson Storefront of the Jewish Family Services agency, 1450 S. Robertson Blvd., and at the Felicia Mahood Senior Center, 11338 Santa Monica Blvd., through Nov. 30.

Going Fast

Applicants, or at least one member of a couple, must be 62 years old or older or handicapped to qualify.

Social workers at both locations said the applications were going fast, although the interest was less intense at the Felicia Mahood Center, which serves senior citizens who live further away from the Pico-Robertson project.

"We gave out about 65 applications this week, which is less than I'd expected, given the demand," said Roberta Mendelsohn, housing coordinator at the Mahood Center, which is located in West Los Angeles.

Ethel Oderberg of the Pico-Robertson Storefront said, "So far, it's been very popular. We've given over 100 applications away this week."

She said most of the applicants already have apartments, "but their rents continue to go up and their income stays fixed, so there's less and less money to spend."

Lottery Scheduled

A lottery will be held in December to choose tenants for the Clark Drive building, which is located north of Pico Boulevard and one block west of Robertson Boulevard. An equal number of runners-up will be placed on a waiting list.

Tenants at another of Safran's buildings, on Fountain Avenue in Hollywood, said they were delighted when they won their lottery.

"I'm grateful to be here at 91," said Evelyn Frances, the oldest tenant and the most recent arrival. "Can you imagine trying to find a place at my age?"

Building manager Bettie Faleafine said vacancies open about twice a year and are filled from a waiting list.

"I moved here because although I had a very lovely apartment, the rent was such that it was taking over half my income to pay it," said another tenant, Maureen Walker.

"Talk about stress, my life was on the edge of disaster all the time," she said. "The first thing every month you paid your rent, and then you lived on what was left. That's why I moved here. It was a haven."

Section 8 Housing

The latest project was one of the last to be approved by the U. S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under the new construction provision of Section 8 of the federal Housing Act.

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