The goal is less carbon and more footprints. The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburg (HACP), a suburb in the San Francisco Bay Area, recently cut the ribbon on the $30 million Siena Court Senior Apartments, completed in partnership with Domus Development. HACP, which offers affordable housing to nearly 1,000 low-income families, also included 10,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of the apartments in order to enliven the newly formed community, offer accessible retail options, and help subsidize operational costs for the facilities.

Siena Court, an urban infill project on roughly two acres, was built as an extension of a downtown redevelopment initiative launched by the City of Pittsburg to foster a more pedestrian-friendly, urbanized downtown district. Meea Kang, founding partner and principal of Domus Development, says there had been a condominium project planned for the site, but after the economic collapse, the project went into bankruptcy. HACP approached Domus to help provide a new vision for the site.

In 2009, Domus repurposed the 111-unit development for senior residents (55 years old and up) who are earning between 30 and 60 percent of the Pittsburg median income. Siena Court also includes a separate community building and parking structure with space for 100 vehicles, but the apartments also were designed to encourage residents to walk to nearby shops, reducing their reliance on vehicular transportation.

The site is located at the heart of Pittsburg’s historic Old Town district, which was originally settled in 1839 and proclaimed by founder Jonathan D. Stevenson to be the “New York of the Pacific.” With only 63,000 citizens, the city doesn’t suffer the cosmopolitan congestion of New York City, or even Pennsylvania’s Pittsburgh, but Kang says California is taking cues from East Coast developers. “Californians are realizing that we need to stop sprawling outwards and start working to be more efficient with the space we’re given,” she says.

The systems and sustainable features of Siena Court put it 20 percent above Title 24, California’s energy standard. “Because this is a redeveloped infill property, we also earned a lot of green points for utilizing recycled materials and increasing walkability in downtown Pittsburg,” Kang says. The apartments are located near bus stops and a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) station that is currently under construction. The proximity to public transportation encourages healthier living among Siena Court residents, who can reduce their carbon footprint by simply making real ones.

As in many urban areas, water could not be overlooked. “Because of its proximity to the Delta Waterway, the building was designed to retain 100 percent of storm water received on-site,” Kang says. To accomplish this, Domus incorporated bioswales as part of the property landscape and on top of the two-story parking structure, which features a green roof that will help absorb rainfall.

“We were able to work closely with HACP to rescue this property from foreclosure, retitle it, and begin building, all within a three-month period,” Kang says. “We did a lot with a little, and it’s been exciting to see how Siena Court has been part of the greater transformation of downtown Pittsburg.”