Napa officials say the city’s only municipally owned seniors-oriented apartment complex is overdue for a makeover, and are clearing the way for a large chunk of its funding.
A $700,000 loan from the city will help the Housing Authority of the City of Napa line up a $2.7 million overhaul of Laurel Manor, the 50-unit residence that older low-income residents have called home for nearly four decades. The City Council approved the 20-year loan Tuesday afternoon.
Housing authority staff have said the apartment center in the 3200 block of Laurel Street continues to meet health and safety codes, but is showing the effects of nearly constant use. The agency purchased the complex in 1979, five years after it opened, to preserve a source of housing for elderly, low-income Napa residents.
“Most of the building components are pretty worn out, and it’s time to replace them,” Joseph Wiencek, housing rehabilitation program supervisor, told council members during a slide show of current conditions including thin and drafty windows, outdated appliances, and condensation damage due to poor ventilation.
The authority could put the renovation out to bid by late December, which would allow construction to start as early as the end of February, Wiencek said.
The planned overhaul would be Laurel Manor’s most extensive since its opening, and the first project at the apartment complex since a $950,000 campaign four years ago to replace roofs, walkways, heaters and fences.
Renovation would take place in three phases over two years, Rick Tooker, community development director, said in a letter to the council. Plans call for installing central climate-control systems in the apartments, as well as replacing carpeting, vinyl floors, windows, patio doors and paint. The overhaul also would include removal of asbestos from ceiling insulation, as well as the addition of an iron fence to shield units facing the Laurel Street sidewalk.
Other changes at Laurel Manor would extend to the outdoors, including larger patio pads, more walking paths and a new picnic area. The exterior additions are also meant to reduce the complex’s grass area and thus its water consumption, especially in summer.
State and federal laws require tenants to receive no-cost relocation assistance in the form of free packing, moving and storage, Tooker wrote. Tenants are to be moved to freshly renovated units, and will then have the choice of remaining there or returning to their original units after those are refurbished. A moving company is slated to store tenants’ surplus belongings off-site during the project.
Eight vacant apartments will likely receive the first overhauls, with the rest following in blocks, according to Wiencek. Refurbishing each unit should take six to eight weeks, he said.
Even with the inconvenience of a temporary move, some tenants called the fixes long overdue.
“It’s livable, but it needs improvements, like all things need after so many years,” said Doris Ellsworth, 80, a seven-year Laurel Manor resident. “They need to paint it, fix the cupboards; my fence is almost falling down.”
Debt service to the city would total $3,541 per month, which Tooker said could be comfortably taken from the $30,000 monthly net income Laurel Manor draws when fully occupied.
The remaining $2.04 million for the renovation is to come from Laurel Manor’s cash reserves, which total $2.8 million and frequently have been tapped for other affordable housing needs within the county. Over the years, the housing authority has steered more than $2 million of surplus revenue from Laurel Manor operations toward such uses as property purchases for other apartments.
In 2007, Jan Maurer-Watkins, shortly after becoming city housing manager, announced an improvement plan to plow back more revenue into the senior apartment center. The move followed the revelation a year earlier that a previous authority director, Peter Dreier, had tapped Laurel Manor surpluses without authorization in order to cover cost overruns at two authority-owned farmworker camps.