An East Palo Alto coalition will receive $20 million to add additional affordable housing units at Light Tree Apartments and expand transit services that reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, the California Strategic Growth Council announced on Friday.
The funding is a result of a competitive grant application submitted through a partnership between the city of East Palo Alto, Eden Housing, EPA CAN DO and San Mateo County Transit District, which operates SamTrans.
The award includes $13.5 million in loans to develop affordable homes and $6.5 million in grants for transit and infrastructure improvements, including $2.25 million for SamTrans to add three electric buses to its fleet for a future express bus route linking East Palo Alto with the San Bruno BART station.
The money will also fund the construction of 128 new units at Light Tree Apartments at 1805 E. Bayshore Road, 14 of which will be set aside for formerly homeless people, the disabled and/or transitional-age youth. The additional units were approved by the City Council in January.
Eden Housing, which acquired Light Tree Apartments in 2001, currently has more than 200 applicants on the waiting list for an apartment, the nonprofit's President Linda Mandolin said in the statement.
East Palo Alto Mayor Lisa Gauthier was proud of the collaboration with the two nonprofits and transit district, which put together a "winning plan."
"The project will ensure that our residents have access to permanent affordable housing, and everyone in the city will benefit from the transit and infrastructure improvements. The electric buses will reduce direct pollution exposure to our residents and connect everyone to job centers and transit hubs along the Peninsula," she said in a statement.
The collaborative team's proposal scored the highest among 25 projects from 18 jurisdictions statewide through the council's Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities program, which is supported through cap-and-trade revenue. The program aims to decrease the number of drivers in California by engaging them in "active transportation," such as walking, biking and using transit services, according to the Strategic Growth Council.
"We are very excited about the ways this grant will benefit residents of the City of East Palo Alto. It is critical that we continue to look for ways to link high-quality transportation and affordable housing for our residents in San Mateo County," SamTrans General Manager and CEO Jim Hartnett said in a press release.
In the press release, SamTrans Planning Director Christy Wegener added the funding will help SamTrans acquire zero-emissions buses that will run on a future express-bus route linking East Palo Alto with Redwood City, Redwood Shores, San Francisco International Airport and San Bruno BART station. The future connection, a recommendation of the agency's US-101 Express Bus Feasibility Study, will be a limited-stop service operating in part on new Highway 101 express lanes. The route will provide important local and regional connections around the Peninsula and simultaneously reduce public health concerns such as air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, she said.
About $500,000 of the funds will provide Light Tree Apartments residents with up to 650 SamTrans transit passes annually for up to three years. The remaining $3.75 million will enable the city to create the first "complete green street" on Addison Avenue for 3,200 feet of safe and accessible sidewalks on Addison and Clarke avenues and up to 8.6 miles of bikeways.