KATHY ESFAHANI, San Clemente resident and chair of the San Clemente Affordable Housing Coalition
On Nov. 1, San Clemente City Council can—with a single vote—dramatically improve life for at least 250 of its residents who are seniors.
What’s at issue? Whether to approve MemorialCare’s senior housing proposal, which includes 250 apartments (studios to 2-bedrooms), plus a medical center. Even better, 20 of the apartments will be for very-low-income seniors. City Council should say “yes” to this new senior housing.
San Clemente has a critical shortage of senior housing. More than a third of our residents are aged 55+, but our town has just a few senior apartment complexes. That means aging residents who want to downsize face the dismaying prospect of moving away from the town and people they love.
This senior housing shortage will only worsen as our elderly population doubles within the next 20 years. MemorialCare’s proposal helps address this pressing need.
As an affordable housing advocate, I am especially pleased MemorialCare will include 20 very-low-income units in this senior community. MemorialCare should be applauded for providing substantially more affordable units than required by the city’s inclusionary housing policy or California’s density bonus law.
The need for these very-low-income senior units is particularly urgent. According to San Clemente’s Housing Element, our city has 1,455 “elderly renter” households, with 650 of these being “extremely-low-income” or “very-low-income.”
Alarmingly, 638 of these senior households pay over 50% of their income on housing. That is a dangerous situation for anyone, but particularly for seniors whose more fragile health can be severely compromised by the stress of housing insecurity.
There is yet another reason City Council should approve the MemorialCare project. San Clemente’s Housing Element counts 239 of these units toward its 2021-2029 RHNA—the 982 new housing units it is legally required to plan for.
Denial of this senior housing project would cripple the city’s ability to meet its RHNA mandate. That failure could lead the governing state agency to decertify our Housing Element, with dire consequences (such as the “builder’s remedy” now stripping Santa Monica of local control over housing development).
I urge the City Council to approve MemorialCare’s senior housing proposal.