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The courtyard to the new Palms, a 49-unit apartment building in Martinez for low-income seniors is seen in Martinez, Calif., on Friday, May 2, 2014. (Dan Rosenstrauch/Bay Area News Group)

MARTINEZ -- A three-story building that looks like it could have been plucked from the Marina district in San Francisco soon will be home to low-income seniors.

Berkeley-based Resources for Community Development, a nonprofit affordable-housing developer, is putting the finishing touches on Berrellesa Palms, a 49-unit apartment building. Future tenants will be 62 and older with chronic health conditions such as kidney disease, arthritis or heart problems and who have incomes of $19,320 or less for a single person and $22,080 or less for a couple.

The apartments will rent for $480 per month, but some tenants may receive a subsidy from the Contra Costa County Housing Authority to ensure they don't pay more than 30 percent of their monthly income for rent. City leaders convinced the housing authority to give applications from Martinez residents extra weight, according to Mayor Rob Schroder.

About a dozen residents are scheduled to move in this month, and Resources for Community Development officials expect the building to be fully leased by the fall.

"It's going to be a great asset. It's going to be a great building for us to own and the community to have," said Carolyn Bookhart, director of housing development. "It's going to be really special to be able to serve such a vulnerable population."


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Schroder praised the apartment building's architecture and design.

"My concern from the very beginning was I have dreamed of that whole area revitalized with a little more higher income; that's what we were hoping for," Schroder said. "Hopefully the architecture and the fact that something is happening will spur other property owners to either develop or sell."

The project overcame fierce opposition from residents, a lawsuit and funding challenges. Critics said the three-story building was too large for the 1-acre site at Berrellesa and Buckley streets.

Originally, prospective residents were to be 55 and older with annual household incomes up to $32,000. But after several funding sources fell through, the developer won a $6 million grant from the state Department of Housing and Community Development that restricted residency to older, poorer and frailer seniors, to neighborhood residents' dismay.

The building has laundry rooms and lounges on each floor, two elevators, a sunny courtyard with raised garden beds, two multipurpose rooms that may be used for light exercise and games; and two computer labs. Each unit has a full kitchen and a bathroom that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act; the first-floor apartments have roll-in showers that accommodate wheelchairs.

There will be a live-in property manager and a services coordinator, who will connect tenants with therapists, nutritionists, transportation and other resources. Some opponents have been grumbling that Berrellesa Palms was destined to become a "glorified homeless shelter" based upon the application, which asks if potential tenants are currently homeless or are at risk of losing their home.

"Basically, what that means is folks that have really low income," Bookhart said. "If your income is Social Security, then you are considered at risk of homelessness; or if you're paying 50 percent of your income on rent."

Applicants must have a rental history and pass a rigorous background check and screening process to ensure that people will be good tenants, she added.

Lisa P. White covers Concord and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.

martinez affordable senior apartments
Resources for Community Development is accepting applications for Berrellesa Palms, a 49-unit apartment building for low-income seniors age 62 and older with chronic health problems. For more information, call 925-465-3898.