The Ratkovich Company to use ‘Builder’s Remedy’ Provision to Begin Construction on 790-Unit Development in Alhambra

The Ratkovich Company, Alhambra, Villages at The Alhambra, City of Alhambra

LOS ANGELES – The Ratkovich Company (TRC), a Los Angeles-based real estate development company with a more than forty-year successful track record of creating residential and commercial communities that improve the quality of urban life, intends to use the “builder’s remedy” provision under California state law to secure permits and begin construction on the 790-unit Villages at The Alhambra, adding hundreds of much-needed homes the City of Alhambra has failed to provide, despite the requirements of state law. The Villages will include 158 affordable housing units at the low-income level, meeting the requirements of the builder’s remedy, which allows projects to essentially bypass zoning requirements if they provide either 20% of low-income affordable units or 100% of moderate-income affordable units.

The City of Alhambra has repeatedly ignored its responsibilities under California housing laws, permitting just 532 out of the 1,492 units it was required to permit under the 5th Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) cycle, which lasted from 2013 to 2021—and just seven of the 850 very-low, low-, and moderate-income units mandated. Alhambra has also failed to approve a housing element that complies with state law, according to the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD). Under California law, jurisdictions without compliant housing elements like Alhambra cannot deny certain types of residential projects that include a set level of affordable housing, which is known as the builder’s remedy.

“Alhambra’s anti-housing policies are evidenced by the fact that the City permitted only 35% of the housing units (and essentially none for people with very-low, low, or moderate incomes) required between 2013 and 2021. What is even more troubling is that over this same period, median home prices in Alhambra have skyrocketed to nearly $840,000,” said Brian Saenger, President & CEO of The Ratkovich Company.

TRC submitted plans for the reimagined Villages at The Alhambra to the City for approval, which must be granted based on the builder’s remedy requirements. As proposed, the project will consist of 790 residential units, made up of 230 townhomes and 560 apartment-style units in three separate buildings wrapped around parking, all on vacant and underutilized land at The Alhambra, a 1 million square foot office campus adjacent to public transit which has been owned for more than 20 years by TRC.

The Villages, as proposed under the builder’s remedy, would provide significantly more affordable housing than Alhambra mandates under its own zoning, which requires 15% of units to be income-restricted, combined between low- and moderate-income housing. The project will also help the City get closer toward complying with the current 6th Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) cycle requirements, where it has to permit 6,825 total units between 2021 and 2029, including 1,774 very-low income, 1,036 low-income, and 1,079 moderate-income units. The Villages would include more than 10% of the City’s entire 6th RHNA cycle housing requirement, as well as more than 15% of the required low-income units, which are often much harder to get built.

“The Villages at Alhambra project is a win-win-win that provides affordable homes for families, economic opportunities for businesses and a blueprint for the city of Alhambra to build housing accountability. It’s not just a legal requirement for California cities to meet housing goals amid the state’s affordability crisis and worsening homelessness. Local leaders have a moral obligation to support projects that put roofs over more heads,” said Tracy Hernandez, Founding CEO of the Los Angeles County Business Federation, widely known as BizFed. BizFed unites more than 240 diverse business organizations representing 420,000 employers with 5 million employees in Southern California to advocate for policies and projects that bolster economic vitality.

TRC chose to pursue the builder’s remedy after trying for nearly six years to secure approval through standard City processes, spanning more than 20 public hearings. The previously submitted project was significantly less dense than allowable under existing zoning. Despite all of the accommodations made by the company, the Alhambra City Council denied The Villages in October 2021 based on a hodgepodge of classic anti-development “justifications,” including insufficient parking.

A subsequent effort by TRC to seek approval through the courts was also denied, based on Alhambra’s archaic parking requirement for two spaces for each residential unit, regardless of unit size, vehicle use, or commuting needs. That led to today’s announcement to pursue the builder’s remedy, which is only possible because Alhambra’s repeated flaunting of state housing laws has caused the City to lapse into an extended period of noncompliance.

About The Ratkovich Company

The Ratkovich Company (TRC) is a Los Angeles development company that engages in both new projects and the imaginative reuse of existing buildings. TRC has completed, or has under development, over 9 million square feet of commercial space in Los Angeles County and has closed on more than $130 million in new real estate financing in the last six months. The company has won numerous awards for its restoration of Los Angeles landmarks including the Art Deco Wiltern Theatre and adjacent Pellissier building; and the iconic 31-story 5900 Wilshire on Miracle Mile. The James Oviatt and Fine Arts buildings were both awarded national landmark status after successful renovations by TRC.