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UrbanLift grant to help build Oceanside resource center, fund City Heights improvements

Two San Diego County nonprofits recently received Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC) UrbanLIFT Community Grant Program awards.

National Community Renaissance and Community HousingWorks were the local big winners after going through a competitive application process administered by NeighborWorks America.

John Seymour, vice president of acquisitions for National Community Renaissance, said the group is still working with Wells Fargo to determine exactly how much it was awarded. He said the latest information is from $300,000 to $400,000, which will defray development costs of the planned Kay Parker Community Resource Center in Oceanside, part of the larger Mission Cove project.

“Mission Cove, on Mission Boulevard, is now a 14.5-acre vacant parcel in Oceanside,” Seymour said. “There will be a total of 288 units, with 10,500 square feet of neighborhood retail, a family resource center, open space, amenities and walking paths.”

The community’s units will primarily serve senior citizens, though some will be reserved for low-income families and veterans. National Community Renaissance is responsible for 150 of the 288 units; Community HousingWorks claims the remaining 138.

Seymour said the total cost of the Mission Cove project is $92 million, though the UrbanLift funds will only go toward the 5,000 square-foot community resource center, named for the late chair of the Oceanside Housing Commission who died in 2012.

The project received Planning Commission approval for its Environmental Impact Report, General Plan amendment, tentative maps and conditional-use permits in December, and the project is scheduled to go to the Oceanside City Council in mid-February for entitlement approval.

If all goes according to plan, Seymour said the project will return to the City Council around March for final approval and to commit the last money necessary to begin work.

Though the two winning nonprofits are joint venture partners on the Mission Cove project and Community HousingWorks was mentioned in the National Community Renaissance application as a partner, Community HousingWorks’ application for the UrbanLift grant was for an entirely separate project.

Gabe del Rio, chief operating officer of Community HousingWorks, said the expected $164,000- $165,000 in grant monies awarded to his organization will be used for two projects in City Heights: exterior improvements to the Bandar Salaam affordable rental community, and upgrades to the adjacent canyon.

“The cul-de-sac goes up to the canyon but it has no real entrance or marker,” del Rio said. “There’s a culvert there that we might find a way to protect people from getting into, since the local kids walk through the canyon to go to school all the time. We’re going to be working with San Diego Canyonlands, who are pros at how to work with the city on these projects, and on the native plants and such.”

Del Rio said this is a one-time project to “clean things up and make [the canyon] more accessible,” since Community HousingWorks doesn’t have plans to seek ownership of the canyon or establish a continued maintenance program, though he said San Diego Canyonlands may choose to take the project further.

The improvements to Bandar Salaam, in a predominantly refugee neighborhood with a large Somali population, will be fairly minor but much-needed according to del Rio, who said the majority of funds will go toward the canyon improvements.

A total of $11.4 million will be distributed to 59 nonprofits in 25 metro areas to help stabilize communities significantly affected by the housing downturn under the UrbanLIFT Community Grant Program.

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