Construction begins on housing complex for disabled

Written by Dave Boitano

Jack Capon would have been proud of the crowd that gathered Wednesday in a vacant lot on Lincoln Avenue.

Members of Alameda's City Council and representatives of two Bay Area housing nonprofits took part in a groundbreaking ceremony for Jack Capon Villa, a planned 19-unit complex for developmentally disabled adults. Capon, who died 13 years ago, founded Alameda’s Special Olympics and was a tireless advocate for the disabled.

The complex is being built near the Park Street business district with a variety of funds, including city redevelopment money set aside before the courts declared the program dead. A partnership that includes Housing Consortium of the East Bay and Satellite Affordable Housing Associates will develop the project on city-owned land. It's slated to be completed by the end of this year, with a grand opening planned for 2014.

Residents will include adults with a variety of disabilities including cerebral palsy, autism, or epilepsy, said Rick Williams, an architect and partner in the firm Van Meter Williams Pollack, which specializes in affordable housing.

The need for such housing is great, Williams said, because people with developmental disabilities often can’t afford an appropriate place to call home and there's little housing available specifically for them.

“It’s very difficult for residents with special needs to find housing which is designed for (them),” he said. “This is going to help out one of the most needy populations in the community.”

Residents will pay 30 percent of their income in rent. Most receive about $800 in federal Supplemental Security Income, he added.

Each of the units will have its own kitchen and the complex will include a large community room, computer lab, community garden and a porch where residents can wait for special handicapped vans, Williams said.

The complex location is ideal given that it is near Alameda’s downtown and bus lines, event speakers said.

This kind of housing is needed because many developmentally disabled adults live with their parents until they are unable to care for their children or die. Many developmentally disabled adults end up in group homes where they may not have the independence that will be afforded by the new complex.

Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft was president of the city's Planning Board when the project came before it. She remembered a speaker who said how such a complex would help his daughter, who had been coming to Alameda for Special Olympics activities since she was a child.

“(He said) 'I’m fine having my daughter living with me as long as I am alive, but at some point I’m not going to be here and she is, and to know that there’s a facility like this where she can live independently is a wonderful thing,'” Ezzy Ashcraft said.

Capon’s widow, Barbara, remembered her husband devoting weekend time to the Special Olympics and how he was a hard person to turn down on a worthy project like a Special Olympics bowling league he convinced a local service club to sponsor.

“He was a wonderful husband and a giving member of the community,” she said.

Capon was also widely known as an expert in developing children’s motor skills and the curriculum he created is still used in some schools, said former colleague Arthur Kurrasch, who chairs the board of the Alameda Housing Authority.

“He was a world authority but he was one of the most modest people you ever knew,” Kurrasch said. “What he did for Special Olympics was phenomenal.”

Mayor Marie Gilmore said the event was a bittersweet moment because this will be one of the last projects to be built in Alameda using the future property tax dollars cities were able to collect through redevelopment, which no longer exists.

“Unfortunately it makes it harder going forward to get the funding for incredibly worthy projects like this,” she said.

Gilmore said the project meets many of the city’s goals including renovating the city’s core, is within walking distance of downtown and contains green construction.

“This is a win-win on so many levels,” she said.

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