Construction began last week on the Las Flores housing project — a sleek and environmentally friendly building set to bring 73 affordable housing units to the Pico Neighborhood.

The 94,000-square-foot project is located at 1834 14th Street and led by the Community Corporation of Santa Monica in partnership with R.D. Olson Construction and DE Architects.

The building, which is slated to open in fall 2022, will offer 35 one-bedroom, 19 two-bedroom and 19 three-bedroom units alongside an underground parking lot, playground, exterior decks, garden space, and community rooms.

It is designed with both beauty and the environment in mind. The building will meet LEED Platinum standards and incorporate solar panels and recycled materials in its construction.

“We’re attempting to make it a zero net energy project, so there won’t be any gas in the building — it will be all electric,” said Community Corporation of Santa Monica Executive Director, Tara Barauskas. “We focus a lot on wellness and health. We want to make sure that we’re not using VOCs inside the unit, so there is good indoor air quality.”

The environmental features and Covid-19 safety protocols add several challenges to the construction process.

The sustainable outdoor skin requires a tactful blending of four different material types, while the stormwater filtration system requires a special tank be installed within the concrete structure.

Factory shutdowns due to Covid-19 have limited the supply of building materials and at times driven up costs. Construction companies also need to ensure that they have adequate supplies of PPE and develop strict protocols for staff working on the interior of buildings.

Despite these challenges, President of R.D. Olson Construction Bill Wilhelm said the team is well up to the task.

“One thing I will say is I’m very proud of my company because we run a very tight ship on safety and truly practice safety protocol,” said Wilhelm. “We want everyone who goes to our job sites to return home the same way they left in the morning.”

Rents in Las Flores will range from $600 to $1,400 a month with housing priority given to people facing no fault evictions and people who live or work in Santa Monica.

The project benefits from AB 1763, which exempts affordable housing projects from certain zoning limits. This allowed CCSM to add an additional floor to the original design, creating 73 units as opposed to the proposed 55.

The building will contribute to CCSM’s existing stock of over 1,800 affordable housing units, helping more essential workers live in Santa Monica and allowing more families to benefit from the high quality public schools.

“Affordable housing benefits the whole community,” said Barauskas. “If you put housing near jobs people won’t have to commute as far and it will free up traffic congestion and improve air quality. Affordable housing in affluent neighborhoods like Santa Monica creates diverse and inclusive communities.”

Barauskas said that CCSM’s projects also benefit the community by transforming dilapidated properties into beautiful and sustainable buildings. In this instance, the Las Flores community is built on a parcel of land formerly occupied by an old warehouse and a dog grooming salon.

“Some people say ‘I don’t want affordable housing in my neighborhood’, and I think this comes from a misunderstanding of what affordable housing really is,” said Wilhelm. “If you study the architectural designs, you’ll see these are not cheap properties that are going to degrade, but absolutely beautiful buildings.”