With its mountain views, swimming pool, putting green, dog park, and trail network, San Jacinto Villas lives and looks more like a resort than city-owned affordable housing for seniors.

“If you walked this project, you wouldn’t think it was affordable,” says Denise Ashton, senior principal for community planning and design for William Hezmalhalch Architects. “[The city] really wanted to do something special to accommodate senior housing.”

City leaders already knew what look they wanted for San Jacinto Villas. They asked the architects to take design cues from the city’s nearby low-slung, award-winning library. As a result, Hezmalhalch specified modern adobe-like desert forms for the homes with golden, desert-hued stucco and stone vertical focal points to break up the horizontal façades.

The LEED Silver-certified units are all single story. To preserve views of mountains and nearby Whitewater Wash for more residents, the taller two-story paired sixplexes of stacked flats are on the low side by the wash. The sixplexes wrap around a shared courtyard and have elevators to address residents’ aging-in-place needs. On the high side of the property, toward the mountain views, the units are one-story duplexes and triplexes, each with its own private courtyard. They range in size from 795 to 1,092 square feet and rent for between $525 and $575 a month.

To determine what future residents might need in their homes, the city held charrettes with residents of other local affordable housing projects. One conclusion from those meetings was the addition of extra-large, one-car garages for each unit.

But it’s the project’s location and amenities that make it special. The 8.7-acre parcel sits between Whitewater Park and the library. A focal point is a saltwater pool attached to a clubhouse and barbecue area. An intricate network of walking paths threads through and around the development, offering loops of varying distances. Residents, who are allowed small dogs, can exercise them and visit with other dog lovers at the Bark Park that includes an agility course.

Grand Award

Category 55+ housing
Entrant/Architect/Land planner William Hezmalhalch Architects, Santa Ana, Calif.
Builder/Developer The Olson Co., Seal Beach, Calif.
Interior designer Triomphe Design, Costa Mesa, Calif.

The project is themed with the city’s official bird, the Cactus Wren. “It’s very identifiable, plus it makes the community feel cohesive,” says Ashton.