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City awarded housing grant for fifth year – Will be used to upgrade parks

East Valley Community Center (EVCC) facilities were in need of updating. Due to insufficient signage, users had issues finding the facilities.

Escondido has been awarded a $1,207,000 grant from the Housing-Related Parks (HRP) Program through the California Department of Housing and Community Development.

The city was able to apply for Housing Related Parks (HRP) Program funds due to work it has done to build new and preserve existing affordable housing. Escondido worked with three developers to build or preserve 320 affordable homes:

• Solutions for Change recently built 33 new apartment homes for formerly homeless families;

• Community HousingWorks purchased Cypress Cove (now Manzanita Apartments), an older 200-unit affordable housing complex which was scheduled to convert to market rate soon, and rehabbed the property making it safer and adding a half-court soccer field for adult and children, extending the affordable housing covenants 55 years

• KDF Communities re-syndicated and rehabilitated 91 affordable apartment homes and extended the affordable housing covenants 55 years

The Housing-Related Parks Program is a state program designed to reward local governments that approve housing for lower-income households and are in compliance with State housing element law with grant funds to create or rehabilitate parks and/or recreational facilities.

Karen Youel, manager of the city’s Housing & Neighborhood Services, told The Times-Advocate: “We are extremely excited about the HRP grant. This will be the fifth time we have received this grant and appreciate the opportunity to work to improve parks in low-moderate income, park-deficient neighborhoods.”

The monument sign at the East Valley Community Center (EVCC) was redesigned to be attractive, and code compliant, and the building was repainted. These projects came in approximately $28k under budget.

Youel added, “This year’s cycle was oversubscribed and we were very pleased to have gotten our full grant request. We are therefore meeting this week to discuss the priority of multiple projects in these parks. We are excited about this award as it will allow us to create significant change in parks and recreational facilities throughout the city.”

The grants work this way: As a reward for either making it possible for low-coming housing to be built in the city or by preserving existing low-income housing that was scheduled to cycle out into the regular marketplace the city was eligible for the grant.

Last year’s grant was used for installation of new equipment and maintenance facilities within neighborhoods that are “park deficient.”

Youel told The Times-Advocate: “We did a lot of preservation work recently. Affordable housing is typically restricted for a period of time. In San Diego, affordable housing is timing out. The best way to make affordable housing is keep affordable housing.”

One of the developers the city worked with was Community HousingWorks (CHW,) a California non-profit that has been building and owning affordable apartments for nearly 30 years. CHW bought the Cypress Cove Apartments on Midway Drive. These apartments were nearing the end of their period of being affordable. According to Youel, “They did rehab work, and put new fifty five-year deed restrictions. Those two hundred houses will continue to be affordable for fifty years. We did that project, and worked with Solutions for Change, which built thirty-three units on Southern Escondido Boulevard—and those homes were just completed.”

One of the recent uses of parks rehabilitation funds was to paint and reroof the Santa Fe Train Depot in Grape Day Park.

Among the parks and facilities the city plans to work on with this fifth year of funding are: Grape Day Park, Grove Park, Washington Park, Westside Park, Park Avenue Community Center, Don Anderson Community Building, East Valley Community Center, and Mathes Center.

HRP funds are used for parks and recreation projects in low-moderate income and park deficient (the ratio of useable park space per resident within a ½ mile radius of the project must be less than three-acres per 1,000 residents) neighborhoods.

Youel said, “It’s really exciting because this money will be able to impact a lot of parks and impact them in meaningful ways.”

Facilities that benefitted recently included the new playground equipment at Grape Day Park (near the Escondido History Center) the resurfacing the Washington Park Pool and Jim Stone Pool, rebuilding the mechanical room for the Jim Stone Pool, reroofing and refurbishing portions of the Park Avenue Community Center, painting and reroofing the Santa Fe Train Depot in Grape Day Park, repairing playground equipment at Westside and Grove Parks, refurbishing the Oak Hill Activity Center, installing new signs and repainting the East Valley Community Center (EVCC.) Additional work at Washington Park is currently planned/underway.

The HRP grant budgets for the five years the city has received them are as follows:

PY2011  $251,275

PY2013  $674,850

PY2014  $685,450

PY2015  $161,600

PY2016  $1,270,000

Another project that was done with HRP grant money. Large areas of plaster for both pools at Washington Park were deteriorating. The Washington Park Pool project removed the existing plaster and lane line tile, repaired all rust areas, updated skimmers, vents, steps and railing to meet current standards, and re-tiled and re-plastered both the wading and lap pools. The budget for this project was $110,000; additional work was necessary and the final budget was $127,000.

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