Green and affordable living at WHA’s Las Ventanas
By Hanna Heiss
William Hezmalhalch Architects (WHA) is made up of architects, planners and designers that firmly believe they exist to design a more purposeful world. A world inspired by optimism and driven by curiosity, as theirs is a human-centered methodology of placemaking that strives to enhance and transform people’s lives.
With over 40 years of experience, WHA has designed projects throughout the West, in numerous states coast to coast, as well as projects abroad. WHA is a land planning and architectural design firm that specializes in shaping new communities and reshaping urban and existing in-town neighborhoods.
Operating out of Orange County, Los Angeles and the Bay Area, AMCAL Multi-Housing selected WHA for the Las Ventanas affordable housing development based on their long association on numerous affordable housing projects in California. Some of these projects include Villa Encantada in San Diego and Park Avenue Veteran’s Family Apartments in Pomona.
Las Ventanas was first put into the works in 2016 when the project struck the design boards, not breaking ground until 2019. The City was insistent on a visual landmark, encouraging the bright red color, the corner plaza and the tower. Since the affordable housing project was adjacent to public transit, it had a very low parking requirement. Working with the City, the project was able to achieve a “downtown” or commercial quality as an activated street level of retail, lobby and community spaces occupied the ground level, whereas the upper levels on the other hand, were dominated by generous amounts of glass that led to the name Las Ventanas.
With a red tower at the plaza corner signifying the key intersection of Long Beach Boulevard and Pacific Coast Highway, Las Ventanas has the opportunity to be part of a true community as time goes on. This specific area of Long Beach has struggled with redevelopment for 30 years. The new Specific Plan was designed to spur development, and it worked. Las Ventanas was the first project approved under the plan and several new projects have now moved forward.
Though the tower may be red, the housing development is indeed green. Las Ventanas received a LEED Platinum certification being that 75% of construction waste was diverted from landfills, along with a GBCI certification, has a total of 5% of all parking spots dedicated to low-emitting and fuel-efficient vehicles, is fully equipt with high-efficiency fixtures and ENERGY STAR® appliances, has a high-efficiency irrigation system, built with low-VOC emitting paints and flooring and has low-flow interior water fixtures and toilets installed.
Energy efficiency isn’t Las Ventanas’ only green feature. With the bulk of Covid in the rearview mirror, a space for wellness and community has become much appreciated and a vital part of living life. The affordable housing development’s central courtyard, designed by MJS Landscape Architecture, combines gathering spaces, barbeque areas and a children’s play area and is adjacent to the project’s social services and laundry areas making it easy for parents to watch their children.
A major challenge that the team experienced was the structural design of the podium structure that was to be used in the parking and lobby/retail spaces as well as being used as a connector to an additional type of structure. To solve this issue, there is an expansion joint that runs along one side of the level two corridor. Another challenge that was experienced was the structural design for the large windows. To address this, an innovative advanced framing technique that limits hold-downs was employed.
The project was completed in 2021 and has rented out all 102 of its 102 units. The development’s target tenant is families that qualify for housing based on affordability limits. Unit prices range from $598-$2,277, with rent prices being determined by Area Median Income requirements and State and City Affordability Requirements. There are a total of five floor plans offered ranging from 681-1,313 in square footage.
At Las Ventanas, families can enjoy peace of mind with energy efficiency, affordability and the thoughtful architecture of WHA. The central courtyard will offer a place of community, contentment and play. With the easy access of the Metro Blue Line (Line A) station, transportation is convenient, stress-free and promotes a greener lifestyle in accordance with the community’s already green features. In an ever changing and growing area that is Long Beach, California, Las Ventanas is the place to be.
Hanna Heiss is the Assistant Editor of Green Home Builder magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.