With the ceremonial flinging of dirt, construction on Westchester’s first entirely affordable housing project is officially underway – and though much work remains, the heavy lifting already took place in Sacramento.
To move forward, the 102-unit Red Tail Crossing project needed a new state law — one that has the potential to lead to even more housing in California.
The approximately 2-acre land tract, 8333 Airport Blvd., came with a racially motivated covenant from the 1940s that forbade building multifamily housing on the site, said Tara Barauskas, executive director of nonprofit housing developer Community Corporation of Santa Monica.
But that did not prevent her from purchasing the land and forging a path for CCSM’s Red Tail Crossing project.
The project, in fact, was the impetus for enacting Assembly Bill 721, which removed vestiges of redlining by preventing covenant density restrictions from blocking affordable housing projects. Former Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who represented the area, authored the bill and Barauskas worked with him to help pass it, which happened in June 2021.
“Affordable housing is, by its nature, going to include people of color,” Bloom said during an interview at this week’s groundbreaking ceremony, “and the real reason for these covenants was to keep people of color out of the neighborhood.”
In LA city, there were 41,980 people without permanent shelter, according to data from the 2022 point-in-time homeless count, conducted by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority.
Of those, 42% were Hispanic/Latino and 33% were Black, the data shows.
Of the Red Tail Crossing’s102 units, 40 will be reserved for formerly homeless individuals and 52 will be multi-bedroom units for families. It will also include a playground, community garden, community room and kitchen, gym, wellness studio, on-site laundry and outdoor picnic area.
The project is estimated to be completed in 2024 and qualifying tenants will be selected through a lottery system.
Red Tail Crossing was funded through a combination of private and public sources. Century Housing provided the initial $9 million to purchase the land and in March, the state awarded the project almost $17.9 million through the California Housing Accelerator. Los Angeles city and the Chase Bank National Equity Fund also made significant contributions.
The groundbreaking for Red Tail Crossing marked many exciting “firsts,” said CCSM board chair Richard Moore at the ceremony.
It’s the first time, for example, that AB 721 has been applied to a project. The project is also Westchester’s first 100% affordable housing development. And it’s the LA neighborhood’s first building to receive a CORE certification from the Living Future Institute, meaning it has extremely high sustainability standards, including all electric power, energy star appliances, electric vehicle charging stations and more. The Living Future Institute is a non-governmental organization based in Seattle that develops standards for green buildings.
“But as a Dad, when I think about these homes, I think about some other firsts,” Moore said. “Babies will say their first words and take their first steps here. People will leave for their first days at school from here. People will get their first jobs here.
“All these first experiences will be enhanced,” he added, “because people living here will have beautiful, safe, affordable homes due to the efforts of everyone here today.”
The project will also enable other “firsts” at affordable housing projects statewide, because it spurred the passage of AB 721. Barauskas said she already knows of two other affordable projects moving forward because of this law.
Bloom said he was happy to champion the law through the difficult approval process because he believes the state needs every affordable housing project it can build.
“The fact of the matter is, we’ve dug a hole for ourselves in terms of the production of both market rate and affordable housing,” Bloom said. “The bottom line is we have to build more housing and every one of these projects that we are able to build is a step in the right direction.”
Outgoing LA City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents Council District 11, also played a key role in moving the project forward, Barauskas said.
Bonin, whose 11th District includes Westchester, had just six days left in office at the time of the groundbreaking, celebrated the project’s approval, as well as voters’ approval in November of Measure ULA.
That measure — also known as the Mansion Tax — creates a dedicated funding source for affordable housing and tenant protection in the city of LA by imposing a new tax on the transfer of properties of more than $5 million. It is anticipated to raise from $600 million to $1.1 billion annually.
“I have nothing but a sense of optimism and inspiration right now,” Bonin said during the Monday, Dec. 5, groundbreaking. “We are about to see a renaissance for housing and particularly affordable housing in the city of Los Angeles.”