Watsonville Mayor Lowell Hurst converses with Pajaro Valley firefighters Friday at a ribbon cutting ceremony for the 88-unit Schapiro Knolls Apartments on Minto Road. (Photos by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian)
WATSONVILLE — When Bertha Villalobos had a heart attack in 2008 and, subsequently, open-heart surgery, her daughter insisted that she shouldn't be living alone.
So Villalobos went to live with her daughter on Martinelli Street. But living in a full household with grandchildren got to be too much for Villalobos, who was anxious to have her own space again.
She then submitted her application to live in Schapiro Knolls, a new affordable rental community on 33 Minto Road, and was able to land a one-bedroom apartment.
Villalobos was one of many residents who opened their doors to the public during a grand opening celebration Friday for Watsonville's latest low-income housing development.
"It's beautiful," she said as she showed off her apartment, which includes a washer and dryer and a view out to a grassy picnic area. "I'm very grateful."
Schapiro Knolls is an 88-unit complex developed by MidPen Housing. Nearly 1,400 applications were submitted for the rental apartment homes, which provides a fitness center, a computer room, a classroom for the after-school youth program, a picnic/barbecue area, a children’s playground and, soon, a community garden.
According to Matt Franklin, president of MidPen, 326 people live in the entire complex, with an average of four per household. Close to 90 percent of the residents are in the active workforce in a "wide range of occupations," he said.
Beth Fraker, director of marketing and communications at MidPen, said the entire development has a "very spacious feeling," and children are often seen playing soccer and other games in the grassy area.
"It's very vibrant, and that is exactly what we had hoped," she said.
Schapiro Knolls is named in honor of Erik Schapiro, who worked in housing for Santa Cruz County for 22 years and was the county housing chief from 2004–2011. He is also known as a long-time advocate for affordable housing.
Groundbreaking took place in June 2012.
Schapiro Knolls provides homes for households with incomes between 30 and 50 percent of Area Median Income which is between $27,750 and $46,250 for a family of four. The community includes 22 one-bedroom, 31 two-bedroom, 28 three-bedroom and seven four-bedroom units on 6.9 acres. Rents range from $488 for the least expensive one-bedroom unit to $1,323 for the most expensive four-bedroom unit.
Schapiro Knolls expects to achieve a 150 GreenPoint Rating, with sustainable features that include a Photovoltaic system (solar panels) to offset the community’s common electricity costs, drought-tolerant landscaping, Energy Star appliances and high efficiency lighting.
A new traffic signal was added at the intersection of Green Valley and Minto roads to prepare for the influx of new traffic.
Friday's grand opening event included a catered lunch by Jalisco Restaurant and a souvenir Martinelli's apple cider bottle with Schapiro Knolls on the label.
Santa Cruz County Supervisor Greg Caput said he expects the residents to become a close-knit community.
"When homes become neighbors, neighbors become family," he said.
"The city of Watsonville is going to benefit greatly from this," Watsonville Mayor Lowell Hurst said.
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