A screenshot of the initial renderings of the Holos Communities "Denali" project on Fourth Street between Atlantic Avenue and Linden Avenue. Photo courtesy of Holos Communities

The folks behind a proposed 14-story project in Long Beach’s East Village that would dedicate 75% of its units to unhoused people are involving the local community in the planning process early, as the development could break ground as early as 2025.

The 103-unit project, known as Denali, would go up near the intersection of Fourth Street and Atlantic Avenue, according to plans submitted to the city last week from Holos Communities, a North Hollywood-based nonprofit affordable housing developer formerly known as Clifford Beers Housing. And on Thursday evening, Holos Communities representatives, along with architects, Long Beach Development Services officials and the site’s likely service provider, Mental Health America of Los Angeles, held a roundtable at the Covenant Presbyterian Church on Third Street near the project site for local residents to ask questions.

Several dozen people filed into the meeting to learn more about the proposal, which could add badly needed affordable units and space to allow unhoused people to get off the streets.

A woman in a light brown jacket looks at poster boards with the plans for the "Denali" housing project.
Residents attended a community roundtable event at Covenant Presbyterian Church Thursday evening, April 20, 2023, to learn more about the proposed “Denali” affordable housing unit that would dedicate 75% of units to unhoused people. Photo by Laura Anaya-Morga.

Community questions ran the gamut, including one about how successful these types of projects are in getting people off the streets.

“We absolutely define success by retention rate as well, and that’s something we track and publicly show on our website,” said Audrey Peterson, the director of housing for Holos Communities.

According to Aaron Perry-Zucker, a spokesperson for Holos, the group has had a 91% housing retention rate—meaning residents have moved into housing and stayed for more than a year—for its projects.

Public safety was another concern among residents. Some said they wanted to see 24-hour security at the building, and others wanted to know how problem tenants would be handled. While there likely won’t be security on-site at all hours, a property manager and service providers would have eyes on the building at all times, Holos Communities officials said Thursday.

Security needs are yet to be determined for this specific project, said Peterson.

Residents will also be cared for by service providers with a ratio of about 15 to 1, with Holos working in a “three-pronged approach” with its property management and its service provider, which is expected to be MHALA. The service providers would help with issues like tenants having unwanted guests, problems with rent payments and general transition assistance for people coming out of homelessness for the first time.

The service provider would also handle onsite services like classes to teach cooking, how to do laundry and other life skills. There will also be community rooms and on-site therapy. Transportation to offsite services like medical appointments, as well as onsite mobile clinics for dental visits, are things Holos could provide once the project is built.

“Your identity as a homeless person doesn’t translate super well into a house environment,” said Luther Richert, MHALA’s south county chief services officer. “A lot of our work is in addressing that tension. People need to find a new meaningful role and a new identity, you know, and that doesn’t happen organically.”

Yet another concern was building height. Matt Kinney, a resident, noted that the proposed project is above the height limit for the area it will be built in.

Meggan Sorensen, bureau manager for the city’s Development Services Department, noted that because the proposed project is fully affordable, it can be taller than the current limit for building heights in the area, which is 80 feet.

As for why that location was chosen, Sorensen said the decision was made in an effort to “deconcentrate poverty.”

“We don’t want to continue to build housing for low-income people in areas that are completely low-income already,” she said. “We want to build them in areas where they have opportunities to walk to their job, or to catch the train, and to have opportunities and better schools and better grocery stores and things that build healthier communities.”

Another question raised among residents was how the unit would remain affordable, given rising housing costs in Long Beach. Sorensen said the units at Denali would be subject to a 55-year covenant that would keep them affordable for low-income households and its permanent supportive programs.

Holos received a $4 million loan from the city in January to pursue this project, which covers about $50,000 per unit. The total cost of development for the building is somewhere between $67 million to $77 million, or about $650,000 to $750,000 per unit, said Peterson. Holos is tasked with applying for county, state and federal funding to cover the rest, she said.

While residents had plenty of questions for officials, many who attended Thursday’s meeting were supportive of the project, and even those who had concerns didn’t seem to be outright opposed.

“We look forward for new housing for our unhoused neighbors,” one person wrote on a public comment board. “It is vital to ensure everyone has a safe, affordable home.”

The project is in the pre-development process with the city, but the current estimate for when it could break ground is 2025, with the project being completed in 2027, according to Holos’ website.

Proposed 14-story project would dedicate 75% of units to unhoused people