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Lavell Village

Photo of a row of residences in Lavell Village

Photo of a playground at Lavell Village

Long shot of a portion of Lavell Village, showing residences and plantings

Lavell Village is one of many Success Stories that have been locally nominated for recognition in celebration of CDBG's 30th Anniversary.

Success Story Details

Grantee: Sonoma County Community Development Commission
Field Office: San Francisco (Region 9)
Carried Out By: Burbank Housing Development Corporation
CDBG $    540,000
HOME $    218,850
Other $ 3,200,000
Total $ 3,958,850
Date Completed: 1995
Grantee Contact: Janie V. Walsh (jwalsh@sonoma-county.org)
Grantee Website: County of Sonoma (http://www.sonoma-county.org)

Success Story Description

From its conception, the Lavell Village multifamily affordable rental housing development has been an innovative and creative endeavor. Sonoma County's largest nonprofit housing developer, Burbank Housing Development Corporation (BHDC), combined $540,000 of CDBG funds and $218,850 of HOME program funds with $3.2 million of federal tax credits limited partner equity, local funding and other developer incentives to make Lavell Village home for the 49 very low- and low-income families who live there. All of this ingenuity has paid off — after nearly a decade of operation, the community spirit is strong, and the development remains a desirable place to live.

At the outset of the design of Lavell Village, BHDC worked with Hedgepeth Architects to develop a site plan that would foster a sense of community and security. The site plan distributes the 49 residences around a central common space. Like a town commons, the common area includes Lavell Village's public places — a children's playground, a basketball court, barbecue and picnic area, a large lawn, and community building. Paved parking and a circulation road between the residences and the common area enhance the sense of openness and expansiveness of the central commons.

Small garden areas fronting the many townhome residences also contribute to that sense of openness while affording the residents a measure of privacy and "ownership" of their residences. Fences that normally enclose rear yards and patios in similar developments were eliminated to make way for a continuous walkway that makes access between the units possible.

Lingering wet soils following a year of heavy rains delayed construction for several months. Once construction got underway, the process went smoothly. When the development began to take shape, people often drove by to inquire about purchasing one of the new townhomes. They were surprised to learn that homes in such an attractive development were not for sale and would be reserved for rent to very low- and low-income residents!


Thanks to BHDC property management staff's ongoing creativity and dedication to excellence, a community spirit thrives at Lavell Village. Lavell's community room is constantly booked with social activities, some organized by the BHDC service coordinator and others that are resident-sponsored. The resident manager and the residents have established a broad menu of activities to foster the sense of community that prevails among the residents. The activities have included a Girl Scout troop, a teen girls club, English as a Second Language classes, computer classes, a children's art program, nutrition classes, bingo games, birthday parties and wedding and baby showers. Every holiday season, the residents work together to transform the development into a land of lights.

The residents of Lavell have not only formed a vibrant and cohesive community, they have taken steps to insulate their community from negative influences. An active neighborhood watch program combines with the development's effective design features to foster a sense of defensible space for visitor and resident alike. A single entry for automobiles, the high level of visibility of the common area from most residences, and the large number of units that have excellent views of other units are key design features that the architect incorporated to deter criminal and anti-social behavior. Anyone who isn't supposed to be on the property is immediately noticed and reported.

In 1996, the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department identified Lavell Village as a good candidate for designation as a Drug-Free Zone. The development met the basic criteria for the designation. It includes three separate play areas, is a completely fenced property with only one entrance from outside, and children live in the development. The final factor was that at least 85% of the residents had to sign a petition agreeing to support zero tolerance for drugs. The Lavell community sent a strong message: 100% of the residents signed the petition.

After more than eight years of operation, regularly scheduled maintenance, and judicious upgrades, Lavell Village has established an enviable record of success as an affordable rental housing development. The property has a low turnover rate, and nine of the original residents still live there. One fact remains unchanged to this day — people continue to call or stop by several times a month seeking the "sales office."

Content Archived: April 20, 2011

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