Montecito Bank & Trust, Radius Commercial Real Estate assist in apartment purchase to grow safe, affordable housing community.
In the world of commercial real estate it’s no secret that, over the past few years, apartments have become one of the preferred property types by investors looking to build their personal wealth. On the South Coast, inventory is extremely tight and competition fierce when a new offering comes on the market.
That made it all the more noteworthy when a small local non-profit, with the help of a few influential friends, recently purchased their second apartment complex in Santa Barbara’s west side—not for personal gain, but to enrich the lives of others.
For a few years now the Turner Foundation, led by husband and wife team Dr. Jon and Patty Wilson and their sons Todd and Dean, has been quietly going about their mission transforming one of Santa Barbara’s toughest neighborhoods by providing safe, quality housing to low-income, underserved families.
Under their guidance, the 45-unit San Pascual Apartments located at 1502 San Pascual St. is about to become The Lighthouse, an apt name for what the Wilsons say will be another beacon of hope for some in the community whose circumstances don’t often provide for the best accommodations or the diverse opportunities that many take for granted.
Low-income housing is not a new concept in Santa Barbara. But according to Patty Wilson, Turner Foundation Founder and Director, a safe neighborhood and family environment is as vital as affordable housing in providing “a place to thrive, not just survive,” she said.
The Wilsons plan to gradually transform the complex starting with much-needed interior and exterior improvements to the living spaces, eventually leading to a new playground and an on-site community center. Free services will be offered to resident families and children including music and dance classes, professional counseling and after-school tutoring programs provided by students in the Kids Helping Kids program at San Marcos High School and Community Friends of the Turner Foundation.
Some residents may even benefit from lowered rents through Section 8 designation, and the community will open its doors to more families in the future as space becomes available.
Situated in the same west-side neighborhood as the Turner Foundation’s first foray on the South Coast, The Village at Santa Barbara, The Lighthouse will expand on the work the Wilsons started in 2005 when they purchased the former 70-unit Casa Perdido Apartments.
In Spanish, Casa Perdido essentially translates to “house of the lost”, which, according to Dr. Wilson, was a somewhat appropriate description of the property.
“We saw the overwhelming need and potential in that neighborhood,” said Dr. Wilson. “At the time the complex was in bad shape and the neighborhood had a rampant gang and drug problem. But we also saw the good people, the families and kids who just needed a little help and hope to change their lives.”
According to Patty Wilson, the two complexes will share the same staff and provide a larger community that will bring residents together to share services and programs.
“We know this will instill in residents a greater sense of community, family, involvement and personal responsibility for the neighborhood,” she said. “People are always empowered when they come together, and we want to encourage and foster that.”
The Wilsons’ work is truly a family legacy. Their story really began in 1958 when Patty Wilson’s father, Rev. Dr. Albert J. Turner founded the Rose Garden Village Foundation in Riverside.
Turner and his wife Florence, deeply impacted by their work caring for a small rest-home on the campus of the California Baptist University where Turner also served as Director of Public Relations, envisioned a community that was fully devoted to the needs of the elderly and decided to devote their lives in pursuing that vision.
After locating a vacant 7-acre parcel of land nearby, Dr. Turner convinced the property owner to buy into that vision. Later, after getting past some financing hurdles with the help of another benefactor, Turner received another gift when the Federal Housing Administration established Section 231, which provided for the underwriting of retirement homes for the elderly. Not long after in 1962, the $1 million, 121-unit project, called the Rose Garden Village, would become the first in the nation under that act.
“My dad was a promoter at heart and believed the bible verse, ‘where there is no vision the people perish,’” said Patty Wilson.
That apple did not fall far from the tree. Just like Dr. Turner years before, Patty and her husband Jon enjoyed similar success sharing their vision with some of Santa Barbara’s most influential folk—including Montecito Bank & Trust, long-time philanthropist Michael Towbes and Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investments—to help them bring The Lighthouse to fruition.
“We immediately saw the connection with our own efforts in the community,” said Janet Garufis, Montecito Bank & Trust President. “We’ve had the fortune of partnering with many of Santa Barbara’s fine service organizations, and we hope to help be a conduit for the Turner Foundation to those organizations to strengthen the amazing work they’re already doing.”
Montecito Bank & Trust became involved when owner Michael Towbes was approached by project team members Mike Rider and Steve Golis, principal at Radius Commercial Real Estate & Investments. Golis was brought in by the property owner to market the complex and saw the property’s potential after learning of the Wilsons and the Village at Santa Barbara.
“This is one of the most rewarding transactions I’ve ever been a part of,” said Radius Principal Steve Golis, who brokered the purchase. “My job is to help others find financial success. But on the occasion when you get to work with people like Patty and Jon who are so humble and unassuming, and their staff and board who live and breath to give others the opportunities they need for success, that’s a really, really good day.”
Turner Foundation board member Jeff Smith came to the organization with the same inspiration.
“They don’t do it for recognition or attention,” he said. “But they do hope to help transform other communities by being an example to others to take this concept and run with it.”
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