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Turlock affordable housing project honored by SJ Valley regional council
Blueprint award pic
Maryn Pitt, assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development, accepts the San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Award of Excellence for the City of Turlock's Avena Bella affordable housing project. - photo by KRISTINA HACKER/The Journal

Since its grand opening a year and half ago, the Avena Bella housing complex on Linwood Avenue has become home to dozens of families, many of whom were struggling to find affordable housing in Turlock. The Mediterranean-style sustainably built apartment complex has been lauded by residents for providing a safe and family-friendly atmosphere, with amenities such as a community center, playground, technology lounge and swimming pool.

Residents aren't the only ones who are singing the praises of the project, however, as Avena Bella received on Thursday a San Joaquin Valley Blueprint Award of Excellence in the Residential category.

"Affordable housing needs to bring the community up, not down. That has been the goal of the City and the builders from the beginning; I believe we have achieved that," said Maryn Pitt, assistant to the City Manager for Housing and Economic Development.

The apartment complex was built with sustainability in mind, including LEED GreenPoint certification, solar power, energy-efficient heat pumps for heating and cooling and a continuously running energy recovery ventilation system that brings in fresh, filtered outside air from the nearby highway.

Additionally, the community features generous amounts of open space, including a large central grass field and play area, with strategically placed trees to help provide shade in indoor and outdoor spaces. The storm water retention system captures all the rainwater on site, helping water the landscaping at Avena Bella, which features all California native plants with the exception of some fruit trees.

It is managed by EAH Housing, a nonprofit corporation that specializes in affordable housing. Rents at Avena Bella are based on household size and income, ranging from $317 to $736 for a two-bedroom apartment, to $374 to $858 for a three-bedroom. Residents looking to live at Avena Bell must sign a year-long lease and meet income limitations as determined by the number of family members and necessary apartment size. The waiting list for a home at Avena Bella is currently at 600. The city hopes to alleviate some of the list by building 60 apartment units adjacent to the Avena Bella property, but as of yet, no funding has been allocated for the project.

Avena Bella was one of eight projects that were recognized by the San Joaquin Valley Regional Policy Council on Thursday in a ceremony at Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite.

Other awardees included:

MIXED USE PROJECTS: Award of Excellence — The City of Bakersfield, Community Development Department, 1612 City LoftsRESIDENTIAL PROJECTS: Award of Merit – The California State University, Bakersfield Student Housing ComplexDOWNTOWN REVITALIZATION PROJECTS: Award of Excellence – Granville Homes for the Brio on Broadway; Award of Merit – The Newberry Building, Ten SpaceTRANSPORTATION ENHANCEMENT PROJECT: Award of Excellence – The City of Clovis, Dry Creek Trailhead; Award of Merit – Caltrans, Bradley Overhead on Highway 140 in MercedDARREL HILDEBRAND BLUEPRINT LEADERSHIP AWARD: San Joaquin Sustainable Communities Coalition

The Valley’s eight regional transportation planning agencies created an awards program in 2010 specifically designed to recognize sustainable development projects that included principles such as: a range of housing opportunities and choices, walkable neighborhoods, community and stakeholder collaboration, fair and cost effective, mixed land uses, preservation of open space, farmland, natural beauty and critical environmental areas, providing a variety of transportation choices, compact building design, environmental resource management.