Sylmar project aims for 100% affordable market

Sector “does pencil,” says developer of 164-unit Sylmar Villas

View of Sylmar Village at 12534 San Fernando Road (JZA)
View of Sylmar Village at 12534 San Fernando Road (JZA)

A large affordable housing project is likely coming to the City of L.A.’s northernmost neighborhood.

Developer Aaron Mensch, operating under his firm R2H Development, filed a project application to build a six-story, 164-unit all-affordable apartment building in Sylmar. Mensch filed the application in April, and it was registered with the city’s Planning Department this week.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work in Sylmar for many years now, and [there’s] a huge need now for affordable housing in L.A. — you can’t find a one-bedroom in L.A. for less than $1,800, especially for new construction,” Mensch said.

The developer was previously more focused on so-called workforce housing projects but now has about five more affordable projects in the planning pipeline, he said.

“It makes sense for us,” he added, referring to the economic calculations of all-affordable projects. “We have the ability to build cost efficiently and we do a lot of stuff in the Valley, so it does pencil.”

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The project, called Sylmar Villas, would go up on vacant land. Mensch is working on it with the Culver City-based architect Jeff Zbikowski, of JZA Architecture. Renderings show a mostly rectangular, conventional building with a white, gray and yellow facade.

Mensch’s entity bought the property, which is just over half an acre and located at 12534 North San Fernando Road, for $820,000 in October, records show. The seller was the NHS Neighborhood Redevelopment Corporation, a branch of the Neighborhood Housing Services of Los Angeles County, which calls itself the “largest nonprofit affordable homeownership provider in Southern California.” NHS had bought the property a few years earlier from another nonprofit for $600,000, records show.

Mensch’s firm is the sole developer, but he plans to explore partnership and management options.

Developers, incentivized by various government subsidies, are increasingly entering the affordable housing market sector. Earlier this summer a firm led by the longtime L.A. real estate player Steve Lee filed plans to build a five-story affordable complex on a vacant lot in South L.A.; another team filed plans to build a 75-unit complex in Pomona and a longtime Hollywood developer filed plans for a 26-story, nearly 500-unit senior complex near Sunset Boulevard. Senior affordable housing is particularly in demand.

The state, meanwhile, recently set up a $23 million fund for affordable projects in Burbank, Glendale and Pasadena, and a plan to create an entirely new L.A. County agency for affordable housing construction, called LACAHSA, has been advancing through the state legislature.

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