The Atmosphere site (as viewed from across Fourth Avenue), between the Beachwood Hotel and the San Diego Probate Court/Family Court Annex building
“The Atmosphere” low-income apartment complex planned for the long-abandoned Cortez “hole” site may not be built.
The nonprofit Wakeland Housing & Development Corporation is the developer. Wakeland previously purchased the dirt-filled site, then resold it to the San Diego Redevelopment Agency (which no longer exists).
The dissolution of redevelopment agencies (effective February 1) throughout California raised a legal question as to whether existing affordable-housing funds could still be used for such projects. The California State Senate approved SB 654 by a vote of 34-1 on January 31. The bill would preserve redevelopment funds allocated for affordable housing; statewide, the funds amount to about $1.36 billion.
SB 654, which doesn't contain an urgency clause, was sent to the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, where District 76 assemblymember Toni Atkins is vice-chair. The Assembly Appropriations Committee would then consider it.
The San Diego Housing Federation is one of many California organizations that supported the bill. Communications director Doris Payne-Camp said, “We are hoping that Atmosphere goes forward. The project would provide more than 200 affordable homes, and it would create hundreds of related jobs in building and operating them. Both are important to our local economy.... [SB 654] is still in the Assembly and, so far, no hearings have been scheduled.”
Jeff Graham, vice president for redevelopment at Centre City Development Corporation, further explained, “There are no local funds remaining with which to fund the future Atmosphere project.... Unless new legislation is passed, the site will remain in its current condition for quite some time, awaiting a funding source with which to either construct affordable housing or to improve the site with an interim parking lot.”