On Wednesday, June 15, National CORE (National Community Renaissance) and Mercy House, in partnership with the Pacific Union Conference, broke ground on land that will provide 79 sustainable and affordable housing units in the La Sierra neighborhood of Riverside, California. The high-quality, sustainable apartments will be built on underutilized church land made available through a ground lease by the Pacific Union Conference.
“Providing support for our neighbors is an important part of our values as a church,” said Stephen V. Mayer, treasurer of the Pacific Union. “Vista de La Sierra will do exactly that, creating new hope for families and strengthening our community through affordable housing.”
As a point of geographical reference, Vista de La Sierra is a short walk down the street from La Sierra University and the La Sierra University church. It will enjoy several Adventist neighbors, such as the Southeastern California Conference, La Sierra Academy, La Voz de La Esperanza, and the Adventist Media Center, all of which are located on corners of the same intersection.
Vista de La Sierra will do exactly that, creating new hope for families and strengthening our community through affordable housing.
The 79 apartment homes will be reserved for families earning under 60% of the area median income, and 39 of the homes will serve as permanent supportive housing for individuals and families experiencing or at-risk of homelessness. The housing development’s amenities include a multipurpose community room and stunning courtyards with a playground, barbeque patio, activity lawn, and more.
The Hope through Housing Foundation will provide onsite programs and services, providing residents with resources and support to help them gain stability and thrive. Mercy House, an organization that provides housing and comprehensive supportive services for a variety of homeless populations, will provide comprehensive supportive services for residents who were previously unhoused, focusing on economic mobility and overall well-being.
No Place Like Home funding for the 39 units of permanent supportive housing will be provided by the California Department of Housing and Community of Development and coordinated through the Riverside University Health System Behavioral Health department. In addition, RUHS-Behavioral Health will provide a variety of resources, including case management, peer support services, mental health care, and substance use support.
The apartments feature Spanish contemporary architecture that complements the surrounding neighborhood. Vista de La Sierra will also be zero net energy, generating 100% of its energy needs onsite through 257 kilowatts of rooftop solar panels. The building will exceed California’s Title 24 building energy efficiency standards and is expected to achieve LEED for Homes Gold certification.
Solar energy will power not only all units but also the onsite community room, lighting fixtures, high efficiency heat pump water heaters for each unit, and washers and dryers. The energy-efficient design will significantly lower the price of residents’ energy bills, while drought tolerant landscaping and water-conserving plumbing will further conserve electricity and water.
According to Steven Hemenway, director of finance for the La Sierra University church—and also (as of 2019) the councilmember for Ward 7, the neighborhood where the new apartments will be—the underpinnings for this project began about five years ago when Rusty Bailey, Riverside mayor at the time, was looking to partner with faith organizations to help address community needs such as homelessness and housing issues.
The La Sierra University church and the city had already partnered on other community service projects. As the city explored options, they noticed the empty land behind the Adventist Media Center and inquired about it. Chris Oberg, senior pastor of the La Sierra University church at the time, facilitated a connection between the city of Riverside and the Pacific Union Conference, and a partnership was born shortly thereafter.
“I am grateful for what this means to Ward 7 and the benefits it will bring to the community,” Hemenway said of the project. “This would not have been possible without the collective work of so many community partners.”
Hemenway added that though the La Sierra University church will not be partnering formally with other organizations to provide direct services to the new Vista de La Sierra residents, the church remains committed to serving their local community as a whole as they’ve always done through their own outreach and programs. The fact that the new housing is close to La Sierra University and La Sierra Academy will also provide residents with educational opportunities.
“We look forward to welcoming new residents to our community,” Hemenway said.
“It has been a pleasure to work collaboratively with our partners to build affordable, sustainable housing in Riverside,” said Riverside Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson. “As a city that has continued to use innovative measures to protect our environment, it was a pleasure to work with National CORE, who went above and beyond to make Vista de La Sierra as sustainable as possible.”
Cynthia Mendoza is a freelance writer from Southern California.