Tri-Valley nonprofit Sunflower Hill and affordable housing developer MidPen Housing this week announced their decision to "amicably end their partnership" to develop a residential community for adults with special needs in Livermore.
Both organizations are hopeful that the project, previously dubbed Sunflower Hill Livermore, will move forward in a similar form with MidPen alone at the helm, their representatives said in a joint statement released on Monday afternoon.
"Unfortunately, financing affordable housing projects in California's current environment has become extraordinarily complex. Ultimately despite our best efforts and mutual respect for one another's mission and vision, we have been unable to design a housing community that meets the needs and expectations of both partners," they said in part.
The Sunflower Hill's residential project outside downtown Pleasanton, which the nonprofit is developing with a different partner, Satellite Affordable Housing Associates (SAHA), is unaffected and remains on track to open next year, according to Sunflower Hill officials.
"Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch-Pleasanton is under construction and slated for residents to move in June 2020. We are very excited," Sunflower Hill executive director Edie Nehls told the Weekly on Monday night.
"We are grateful to all who supported the vision for Sunflower Hill Livermore," Nehls added in the earlier joint statement. "We remain committed to developing housing opportunities and continue to work closely with our local cities, neighbors and community leaders in Contra Costa and Alameda counties."
The proposed project in central Livermore, spearheaded by Sunflower Hill, received City Council approval in March 2017 for a residential community akin to senior living with 44 affordable housing units for individuals with special needs on the former Layton property on First Street.
But the project has remained in the predevelopment/design phase since.
With Monday's announcement of Sunflower Hill disassociating with the Livermore project, MidPen officials said the company plans to retain control of the project, with the goal of creating an affordable housing development that aligns with the original vision.
"MidPen Housing is committed to developing, managing, and operating the planned affordable housing community pursuant to the approved design and for the originally intended population: developmentally disabled adults," the joint statement read. "MidPen will work with the City of Livermore to secure the financing necessary for the project to commence construction in 2020."
On their end, Sunflower Hill officials vowed that the nonprofit will continue to seek new opportunities to develop residential communities for the more than 2,000 people with special needs living in the Tri-Valley "who need safe, secure and affordable housing."
Sunflower Hill burst onto the scene as a new nonprofit in the Tri-Valley some seven years ago with the lofty goal of shifting the paradigm for residential and vocational opportunities for people with special needs.
As its vocational and educational programs advanced, the Sunflower Hill Livermore project approval marked a first major victory for the nonprofit in its effort to advance a tangible residential proposal toward development reality.
Almost one year later, the Pleasanton City Council approved the design plans and city financial support for the Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch concept.
Located near where First Street turns into Stanley Boulevard in Pleasanton, the 1.64-acre affordable housing complex with 31 apartments, community center and other amenities aims to create an inclusive and independent living opportunity for developmentally disabled residents -- a long under-served demographic across the state and country when it comes to affordable housing options.
The concept had been in the works for several years before.
The developers of the unaffiliated 87-house Irby Ranch neighborhood set aside a portion of their land for the future Sunflower Hill housing project, which was backed in concept by city officials. The special-needs housing proposal serving as a key reason the Pleasanton City Council in 2017 approved the new Irby Ranch neighborhood, which is also now under construction.
With the city approvals in hand in 2018, Sunflower Hill proceeded to secure the necessary funding from public and private sources to advance the $19 million project toward construction.
Crews began that work earlier this year, with community leaders in Pleasanton joining Sunflower Hill officials and volunteers for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site in May.
Construction is progressing at a quick pace, and the project remains on track for completion by next summer, Nehls said.
As an affordable housing community specifically for residents with special needs, Sunflower Hill at Irby Ranch seeks to become the first of its kind in the Tri-Valley and a rarity in all of California.