El Cajon Boulevard is generally not known for Orchid architecture, but there is a project worth noting at 735 El Cajon Boulevard. The project is Genesis. It is a rehabilitation of a 4-building, 9-unit apartment project, originally constructed in 1949, providing housing for formerly homeless veterans, completed in 2022.
The project name was inspired by a resident who had originally given the name “Genesis” to a large pepper tree on the site, representing the “new beginning” that was made possible through this project.
PROJECT GENERAL DESCRIPTION
Genesis Apartments is a catalyst for transformation and renewing – taking an old development and breathing life to facilitate a new, nurturing community for senior veterans who previously experienced homelessness. With just eight one-bedroom units gathered in two rows, a central manager unit and a community pavilion, all enhanced to create a peaceful, garden-like setting. The property offers a comfortable and stable life-giving environment for residents to reside independently while having the opportunity to thrive in a community of belonging.
Genesis Apartments is the first permanent supportive housing development in the City of El Cajon. Developed by San Diego Community Housing Corporation and designed by GLO Architecture, the project transformed an aging apartment complex into a safe and stable haven for its residents. The rehabilitation included substantial renovations to the structures and interiors, energy efficiency upgrades, extensive site revitalization, and a community room conversion. The eight modern bungalow apartments surround a ramped courtyard, and each unit was designed with accessibility and comfort in mind. Residents enjoy generous outdoor seating areas, a community garden, and a community pavilion with a full kitchen, lounge, and laundry room.
All residents are offered a range of supportive services tailored to their needs. Genesis permanent housing provides crucial stability paired with onsite resident and supportive services through a network of community partnerships. Residents are offered onsite and offsite supportive services through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and San Diego Family Health Centers of San Diego (FHCSD). Resident services include basic needs assessment, mental health care, primary health care, counseling, life skills, and advocacy/education.
SPECIFIC TO THE DESIGN FEATURES:
The project street frontage is a low-maintenance landscape edge with an entry pavilion flanked by a contemporary, carefully-detailed, cedar wood lattice screen with night lighting washing the façade to promote warmth and safety. The alley edge also has a similar arrangement to reinforce safety and promote secure interactions between residents – since they were previously homeless and physically/mentally vulnerable.
The interior site arrangement uses the existing outdoor spaces to create episodes of activity. The main gathering space is a plaza boarded by the community building (previously a multi-car garage) with a roll up window wall to allow for flexible gathering, a community mural (painted on the existing CMU wall), and lattice fence-work on the remaining sides for privacy from the alley and the other to screen unpleasant utilities.
Additional gathering spaces are a resident gardening area, a bocce ball court and a central courtyard with seating benches and landscape throughout. All intended to promote community, safety and a sense of home.
Specific attention was given to walkway vistas; all walkways terminate with an “episode”. For example, the main courtyard walkway terminates at an art wall with inspiring words like, “Love”, “Hope”, “community”, “friends”. This also acts as a screen for the existing large picture window into the manager unit – Double purposing which undergirds the entire spirit of this project.
Overall, this project has become an asset to the community by designed spaces that promote interaction as well as caring for those in the overall community by giving them a home and needed support – Beautiful INSIDE and OUTSIDE the community.
735 El Cajon Blvd. El Cajon, CA
San Diego Community Housing Corporation
Josh Balaban firstname.lastname@example.org
Kevin Nivinskus, Principal GLO Architecture