Affordable Housing Project Springs Up in Affluent L.A. Suburb

Neighbors were not initially receptive to Mirandela, a 34-residence affordable seniors housing apartment property, but the finished product has brought nothing but accolades.

Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif.–Mirandela, a 34-residence affordable seniors housing apartment property, has opened its doors on a coveted hillside site overlooking downtown Los Angeles in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. Neighbors were not initially receptive to the idea of affordable housing in their backyard, but the finished product has brought nothing but accolades.

Plans for the 2.9-acre site had gone through various incarnations with various developers until AMCAL Multi-Housing Inc. came along. The developer brought Withee Malcolm Architects onboard to design an aesthetically pleasing building that would complement the tony surroundings, a building that would bear no resemblance to neighbors’ ideas of what affordable housing looks like. “When people think of affordable housing, they think of the projects. This is not the projects,” Dan Withee, founding partner of Withee Malcolm, tells MHN.

In addition to the building’s visual impression, locals were also concerned about who would be living next door. “Everybody was afraid of the element an affordable housing project might attract, but we told them it would be rented to seniors who live in the area and want to stay in the area because they have children and friends there, and might otherwise have to leave the community for financial reasons.”

Withee makes his home in Rancho Palos Verdes, and on more than a few casual outings, he handily allayed the fears of neighbors who approached him with their concerns about the project. But what had been a long list of anxious individuals dwindled quickly. “As soon as the landscaping started going in, everyone started to breathe a sigh of relief,” he says. “Now it’s a non-issue. We promised a high-quality development that would fit in, and that is what we delivered. Everyone was worried about property values, but this is one of the nicest buildings in Palos Verdes right now.”

But it wasn’t just the public perception issue Withee Malcolm had to keep in mind while at the drawing board. The firm had to design a project that would accommodate and respect the hilly site. “The residents are sensitive about their hillsides, so we had to be careful,” Withee notes. “So we came up with a two-story L-shaped building that would fit on the hill’s very small, flat space.”

Getting the details just right everywhere, from the individual one- and two-bedroom units to the gathering spaces, was a high priority. “The finishes are better than those of market-rate apartments or for-sale condominiums.” The special touches extend to the public spaces as well. The Mediterranean-style property features iron gates, decorative tile, balconies and extensive landscaping. And then there are the amenities, including computer rooms and meeting rooms and a bevy of rooms with a view. “It’s so hard to find a property like this on a fixed income.”

And while Mirandela provides an environment that would appeal to all ages, many aspects of the apartment community are tailored to specifically address seniors’ needs. The little apartment building on the hill did not provide a vast amount of room to play with, but Withee Malcolm made efficient use of the space, ensuring that the building and all units are maneuverable and easily accessible. “We worked hard to make the building live right and to provide a dignified lifestyle.”

The neighbors are happy. The residents are happy. “It’s a win-win situation,” Withee says. The $13 million development could very well serve as a role model for affordable seniors housing in other well-heeled areas. “One of the reasons AMCAL worked so hard is because they knew that if they could make this work in this community, they could make it work anywhere. Mirandela is a success in an upper-end community that was really scared of the possibility of affordable housing.”