Safran & Associates’ planned rental project seeks affordable incentives amid legal challenge to city’s popular program

The Brentwood developer wants to build a 196-unit apartment complex near the Metro Blue Line

Sep.September 04, 2019 11:00 AM
Thomas L. Safran and the firm’s president, Andrew David Gross, and the project site (Credit: Google Maps)
Thomas L. Safran and the firm’s president, Andrew David Gross, and the project site (Credit: Google Maps)

Just as a local group is challenging the city’s popular program to incentivize affordable housing construction, Thomas Safran & Associates wants to tap that same program for its latest apartment building project in Watts.

The Brentwood-based developer filed plans for an 87-unit mixed-use building at 10341 S. Graham Avenue, the first of four buildings planned at the site. Thomas Safran wants to include around 7,600 square feet of community space on the ground floor.

Thomas Safran’s filing does not specify how many of the total project’s 196 units will be affordable. But for the 10341 S. Graham Avenue development, it said 27 of the 87 units would be set aside for low-income renters. That’s an unusually high number for developers who choose to utilize the city incentive program.

The firm picked up the roughly 2-acre parcel for $2.8 million late last year, county property records show. The firm did not immediately return a request for comment.

The project site neighbors the Metro Blue Line’s 103rd Street/Watts Towers station. The developer is using Los Angeles’ Transit-Oriented Communities program to boost the overall unit count. The program provides density bonuses and other incentives for development projects near transit that include affordable units.

A group called Fix The City filed a lawsuit against the city last week claiming the program violates a number of city and state laws governing development and planning decision-making.
Transit-Oriented Communities has been a success since it was implemented in late 2017.

Developers have embraced the program and filed for nearly 20,000 units, including 3,900 at various levels of affordability, according to the Los Angeles Times. City officials consider it a key tool for addressing the growing affordability crisis.

Thomas Safran & Associates builds and manages both market-rate and affordable developments. It owns 66 properties across the greater Los Angeles metro area.

The firm has been busy across the region over the last year, opening a 105-unit senior affordable development down the street from the Watts site in February and last month filing for a 127-unit project about five miles north near Downtown L.A.

In November it scored its biggest project: a deal with the federal Department of Veterans Affairs to build 900-1,200 affordable housing units at the VA’s West Los Angeles Campus outside Brentwood.

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