Case Study

Pointe on La Brea in Los Angeles

6 min read

The Dream Survives in California Affordable Housing for the Homeless

Martin Luther King’s dream is continually being reinvented, enduringly so in California, where Dr. King’s assassination in 1968 spurred an ecumenical group of clergy and laymen in the Golden State’s Marin County to begin a project to build affordable housing that has continued to this day.

Under construction right now is Pointe on La Brea, a Los Angeles affordable development offering supportive housing to the formerly homeless, joining two similar developments done by nonprofit EAH Housing of San Rafael (EAH comes from the name of that original 1968 group, the Ecumenical Association for Housing, founded by Martin Mackey).

“There was a group of like-minded individuals from varying backgrounds that wanted to address social justice through housing,” says Welton Jordan, chief real estate development officer and assistant secretary at the now 750-employee EAH. “That was how EAH was started, and it has grown tremendously over the past 50 years.”

The developer/manager now has a $1.8 billion development pipeline of around 45 projects and manages housing for some 25,000 people. According to its website, it has developed 13,000 units in 106 properties in 92 towns at a cost of $2.2 billion.

It was Dr. King who provided the original spark for the group.

“After his assassination, this group got together and created EAH. The “E” is Ecumenical, so these were people from varying religious backgrounds in Marin County. It started in Marin, and then spread across the state of California and ultimately, Hawaii,” says Jordan.

“It got to be larger than they ever thought it would be.”

The five-story, 11,260-square-foot, 50-unit Pointe on La Brea, estimated to be finished in March of next year, joins two other EAH projects to provide permanent supportive housing for the homeless (and others): Pointe on Vermont, (50 units, completed) and 4507 Main St. (61 units, under construction).

All the La Brea units are studios for residents at or below 30 percent of the Area Median Income. Each will be 400 square feet. Half are allotted for the chronically homeless with mental disabilities, and the other half for more “traditionally” unhoused individuals, says Jordan.

Near a Famous Hot Dog Stand
Pointe, at 849 N. La Brea Ave., is near Hollywood and West Hollywood and is “adjacent to a pretty decent neighborhood,” including the locally notable Pink’s Hot Dogs, says Jordan.

The EAH developments arose from two voter-approved bond measures—Measure H and Prop HHH—which he says are designed to put a dent in Los Angeles’ population of approximately 69,000 homeless people. The LA mayor’s office has a goal of 10,000 units by 2025 “and is on track to exceed that,” says Jordan. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has lauded Pointe on La Brea as part of that success.

The total development cost is $32.2 million, which includes four percent Low Income Housing Tax Credits and bonds. The tax credits brought in $12.6 million in equity, and HHH funds came to $7.5 million. A local affordable housing trust fund put up $3.7 million and $5.2 million came from a state agency called No Place Like Home. Union Bank extended a permanent loan of $4.9 million.

FSY Architect designed the project, while Westport Construction is the general contractor, using green building methods, such as GreenPoint Gold, Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints and adhesives, solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar hot water heating.

EAH purchased the land for Pointe on La Brea and demolished the previous building, an automotive repair shop.

“We were comfortable taking the real estate risk,” Jordan says. “Our comfort level is twofold – first, the funding provided by the City gives a good advantage when competing for tax credits so we felt that there was a strong possibility that the housing would be built. Secondly, EAH took a position a few years ago that we cannot wait for locally owned parcels to be released via Request for Proposals. As a mission-based organization, we needed to be more aggressive in securing sites for affordable housing.” Some soil remediation was necessary as well on the site, which is quite small and has a high population density.

The design is modern, Jordan says. “It fits in nicely” with the neighborhood, which is undergoing a lot of development, including a market-rate project not far from it, he says.

Jordan describes Pointe on La Brea as a transit-oriented development (TOD) with multiple bus lines serving the neighborhood, which he describes as urban infill.

While there is no parking for residents, there will be six or seven spots for the building manager and service providers. Services will be provided on the first floor and will be tailored to each individual and might include mental health, life support, health, nutrition and connectivity. The “wraparound” service providers will be from the St. Joseph Center of Venice, CA.

A Martin Sheen Connection
The Center, a favorite of actor Martin Sheen, says it placed 2,351 homeless individuals and family members into permanent housing in 2020 and 2021 and provided mental health services to 33,841 women and men.

At a ratio of one counselor to 20 residents, there are likely to be one part-time and two full-time service people at Pointe on La Brea, Jordan says.

Amenities at Pointe on La Brea will include a community center, laundry facilities, open space and a courtyard, a community kitchen, and parking for bicycles. A roof deck is planned for the top of the building.

EAH has won more than 40 awards for design and sustainability, including an American Institute of Architects award for Pointe on Vermont in 2021.

Pointe on Vermont, at 950 West 76th St. in Los Angeles, has 25 units of permanent supportive housing for the formerly homeless. The balance is set aside for families and individuals earning less than 60 percent of AMI. It features a music center/recording studio on the ground floor.

Studios of 401 square feet rent for $1,183, while 582 square feet one-bedrooms rent for $1,267. FSY Architects was the designer, and United Building Co. was the general contractor.

4507 Main St., also a special needs/family development, is slated to be finished in 2023.

As for Dr. King, whose long-ago inspiration is helping Pointe on La Brea rise to help the homeless find a decent place to live, this is another achievement for his legacy.

While housing may not be remembered as his main ministry, he did move his family into substandard housing in Chicago to shine a light on the many people who were (and still are) ill-housed in America.

And it is not a coincidence that the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the landmark anti-discrimination and anti-segregation law, was signed into law a week after Dr. King’s assassination.

Mark Fogarty has covered housing and mortgages for more than 30 years. A former editor at National Mortgage News, he has written extensively about tax credits.