Plans for low-income housing on Costa Mesa Senior Center parking lot are maturing

Tish Kelly, senior vice president of development for Jamboree Housing Corp. at a meeting.
Tish Kelly, senior vice president of development for Jamboree Housing Corp., right, at an outreach meeting Thursday, discusses plans for an affordable housing project at the Costa Mesa Senior Center.
(James Carbone)

As Costa Mesa seeks to free up more space for affordable housing through rezoning, those who build low-income units are beginning to see promise in parcels that for years have been underutilized.

Take, for instance, the parking lot of the city-owned and operated Costa Mesa Senior Center on West 19th Street, which comprises 145 spaces for staff members and the visiting public, along with the occasional overnight vehicle.

Figuring the vast asphalt lot might be put to better use, city officials in 2020 entered into an agreement with the Irvine-based nonprofit Jamboree Housing Corp. to assess whether the site might support low-income housing for seniors.


Since its formation in 1990, the development organization has partnered with local municipalities and community partners to create more than 10,000 units of affordable housing for families, veterans and those experiencing or at-risk for homelessness.

A diagram of a 60-unit affordable housing project being proposed for the parking lot at the Costa Mesa Senior Center.
A diagram illustrates a 60-unit affordable housing project being proposed for the parking lot at the Costa Mesa Senior Center on West 19th Street.
(Sara Cardine)

Kelsey Brewer, vice president of business development, said Jamboree spoke with city leaders just before the pandemic about the need for housing and where a redevelopment project, using state and federal grants and program dollars, would make sense.

“They called us to come to Costa Mesa and drive around and look at a few sites,” Brewer recalled of a 2019 visit with then-Mayor Katrina Foley and current Mayor John Stephens. “We happened to drive by this site. We looked at them and said, that’s a lot of parking. You can probably build something on that.”

Brewer recalled the suggestion being met with some incredulity. But that was then and this is now.

Today, plans are moving forward for a four-story building that would accommodate a total of 60 units designed for individuals 55 and older who either earn 50% or less of Orange County’s Area Median Income ($127,800 for a four-person household) or face the threat of homelessness.

The project would allow residents to live independently but would offer wraparound services — such as case management, mental health counseling, food assistance and enrichment activities — specially tailored to the needs of seniors.

Diagrams show how an affordable housing project for seniors might be situated on the Costa Mesa Senior Center's parking lot.
(James Carbone/James Carbone)

The four-story site would include an internal courtyard area that could accommodate a community garden for residents, barbecue area, fitness center and computer room, and would sit atop an entry-level parking garage designed to exactly replace the parking stalls taken up by the 40,000-square-foot building.

“There are 145 parking spots here today, and there’s going to be 145 parking spots when we’re done building,” Brewer explained.

Jamboree representatives held a community outreach meeting Thursday at the Costa Mesa Senior Center to explain the project, the population it would serve and the programs that could be offered there.

In a Q&A session, attendees grilled the presenters about safety and security, room size and how utilities would be paid.

Brewer explained roughly 50% of tenants would be people identified by a care coordination system for at-risk individuals within a geographical service plan area that includes Costa Mesa and nearby cities. Those residents would be prioritized for placement into units and would pay for rent and utilities through housing vouchers.

Plans are moving forward for a 60-unit senior housing development to be built on the Costa Mesa Senior Center's parking lot.
Plans are moving forward for a 60-unit senior housing development to be built on part of the Costa Mesa Senior Center’s parking lot.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The other half would be expected to pay 30% of their income for rent and utilities, the latter of which would be discounted through a utilities allowance, and would be housed on a first-come, first-served basis. The amount those tenants would pay could be as high as around $1,300 per month or as low as zero, if they were not receiving any income.

Although the city of Costa Mesa owns the 2.6-acre senior center property and runs the programs offered there, the yet-to-be-named senior housing development would be operated by Jamboree through a ground lease with a 55-year covenant. After that time, the city could decide to extend its agreement with the nonprofit, find another operator or take over ownership of the site and enter into some other real estate arrangement.

As such, the city is not paying for the development itself. Instead, its estimated $45-million price tag would be funded through a combination of federal tax credits, gap financing and loans taken out by Jamboree.

The city will enter into an agreement with Irvine-based Jamboree Housing Corp., which is looking at building an affordable housing project on a .9-acre portion of the Senior Center parking lot.

July 23, 2020

Some who attended Thursday’s meeting were skeptical about whether the project would be safe and secure and whether Costa Mesa residents would be first in line for units.

Costa Mesa resident Carol Shahandeh, who volunteers with the local nonprofit Polio Survivors Plus, said she came to learn more about nonprofit-run housing and how it’s financed. She said she appreciated hearing something is being done to create more housing options for older individuals.

“It sounds like a good project, especially for the people it’s designed for,” the 83-year-old said. “Rents and housing prices are unbelievable these days.”

Alan Mayeda speaks at a meeting at the Costa Mesa Senior Center on Thursday.
Alan Mayeda, a senior from the Costa Mesa Senior Center asks a question about the proposal for the new affordable housing community for seniors, during a community outreach event at the Costa Mesa Senior Center in Costa Mesa on Thursday.
(James Carbone)

City Councilwoman Arlis Reynolds, who represents the 5th Council District where the senior center is located, attended Thursday’s meeting. She said the project stands to bring a lot of public benefits to an area that, through the center and nearby towers on 19th Street already serve older residents.

“More and more we hear seniors are facing affordability issues, isolation and issues with access to resources,” she said. “So this project kind of checks all those boxes in a way that I think will also bring some general community benefits.”

Mayor John Stephens on Friday recalled the 2019 van ride with Foley and Brewer that touched off the entire process, saying Jamboree’s plan could help revitalize the 19th Street corridor.

“It would bring needed affordable housing to seniors and would be one of the elements of creating a vibrant senior village on the west side,” he said.

Thursday’s outreach meeting comes ahead of the Costa Mesa City Council’s next regular meeting Tuesday, where officials will consider Jamboree’s proposal in a plan screening. There, council members and the public will have the chance to ask questions and provide input on the project.

All plans will ultimately have to be approved by the Planning Commission. If all goes well, construction could begin sometime in 2025 and would take 18 to 20 months to complete.

For more information on the proposal and its progress, visit


11:38 a.m. Feb. 5, 2024: This article was updated to reflect former Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley’s involvement in the city’s initial talks with Jamboree Housing Corp. over the development.