Housing at Scale

LPA designers are working with clients on a number of mixed-use residential projects, each with specific market challenges, to deliver return-on-investment and improve neighborhoods.

In a tightening, complicated market, developing successful housing comes down to execution, innovation and the ability to get it done. Navigating entitlements, codes and financing — and gaining the support of the community — are essential to bring projects to the finish line.

On a series of current mixed-use projects, LPA designers worked with developers to create workable projects on challenging sites. Each project is very different — different scale, developers, financing and building types. Each addresses unique goals. Together, they illustrate the role design can play in creating projects that are efficient, healthy and make economic sense.

“We are working to effect change, positive change in the housing world, and we’re not doing it by focusing exclusively on one product type,” says LPA Director of Mixed-Use Matt Winter. “Good design can solve problems and create developments that are buildable in today’s market.”

On each project, designers worked with the client to integrate health and wellness into the community and make the buildings more than simply a place to live, no matter the scale or type. Each design maximizes natural light, outdoor spaces and links to the neighborhood. Diverse teams were involved, including LPA’s healthcare experts, interior designers and landscape architects, to blend different uses into cohesive projects.

“Our ability to cross practice areas and bring in different expertise allows us to really think about these projects in a different and comprehensive way,” says LPA Design Director Matthew Porreca. “We approach each project as urban design placemaking and trying to understand the scale.”

Following are four examples of projects of different scale that LPA designers are bringing to fruition. From rooftop decks to cozy courtyards and seamless links to the neighborhood, each project responds to challenges of tight infill sites to deliver more bang for the buck.

Bethel AME Supportive Housing

San Diego, California

Housing1 Housing2

HOUSING TYPE: Affordable, Type V
26 Micro-Units
In for Building Permit, Construction Winter 2023

LPA worked with the Bethel AME Church of San Diego to develop a three-story, energy-efficient permanent housing project for veterans and seniors on church land. The project is designed to serve as a model for cost-efficiently developing secure, healthy environments for populations badly in need of support. Amenities include a rooftop deck, dog run and floor-to-ceiling windows for each unit.

When shipping container costs rose in the wake of the pandemic, the designers pivoted to a traditional stick-build structure, which allowed for more units and saved $1.6 million in costs. “Instead of 16 units of container housing, we were able to do 26 with a traditional build without having to raise additional funds,” Bethel’s Rev. Harvey Vaughn says.

Tribute Building

Sacramento, California

Housing3 Housing4

HOUSING TYPE: Type 1, Mixed-use (Commercial + Residential)
UNITS: Residential (3 floors)
In Review

The mixed-use project, a tribute to the developer’s father and renowned local artist Wayne Thiebaud, places three floors of residential above a commercial base. The modernist approach draws on the mid-century sensibilities of the building, highlighting the concrete frame, which is exposed throughout the project. Daylight analysis software was used to maximize daylight, prioritizing “active” zones such as kitchens and living spaces.

AIA-Orange County recently recognized the project with a Merit Award in the Multifamily/Mixed-use category, calling the project a “great example of restraint and why it is good to be a designer that edits,” as well as “exceptional and thought provoking.”

American River One

Sacramento, California

Housing9 Housing10

HOUSING TYPE: Type I, Market Rate
Submitted for Entitlements, Construction 2024

On three acres in a low-rise commercial zone, a surface parking lot is being redeveloped into four residential towers above a two-story garage podium. The project addresses the market with a range of apartment sizes, open areas, retail space and connections to local bike trails. The towers range from 11 to 18 stories, with an array of decks at different levels.

The concept was focused on creating a strong public realm along the street with a pedestrian entry plaza fronted with retail, lobbies and amenity spaces. The entry is connected to the amenity deck with a Spanish steps feature that elevates the users above the river for dramatic views. The towers were developed to maximize views toward the river and downtown skyline, while providing shade to one another to reduce solar heat gain.

12th and Plaza

National City, California

Housing5 Housing6

HOUSING TYPE: Type III, Workforce
Submitted for Building Permit, Construction Fall 2023 Market Rate — Large Units (Families)

A mix of apartments and commercial space designed for families and young professionals. On a tight triangular site with large grade changes, the design takes advantage of the elevation change by organizing the parking, retail and live/work units along the lower commercial street while connecting townhome units and the residential courtyard to the adjacent residential community context. Indoor-outdoor connections and garden spaces were created throughout the site. “Throughout the design process we looked for opportunities to create meaningful outdoor spaces,” Porreca says.

The all-electric design maximizes rooftop space for PV and solar thermal systems. High-efficiency systems reduce energy loads.