Petaluma house

The house at 1720 Petaluma Ave. is surrounded by a green construction fence.

A developer who broke new ground last fall with plans to convert a single-family home into a property with 11 bedrooms near Cal State Long Beach now has a second development in the pipeline.

Dan Lewin and the recently-formed Young-Lewin Capital have held title to a home at 1720 Petaluma Ave. since last spring. Now that home is surrounded with a green construction fence and Lewin said Monday he expects to have all the necessary permits for a remodel within weeks.

That remodel includes expanding the main house to accommodate seven bedrooms, and addition of an Auxiliary Dwelling Unit (ADU) for four more bedrooms. The firm's website says the property is 0.4 miles from the Cal State Long Beach campus and will ultimately be student housing.

Neighbors in the area are upset, saying they moved to the neighborhood for the peace and quiet of a single-family development. The Petaluma house is across the street from the Tincher Preparatory School campus, just off Atherton Street.

"I purchased a home in the neighborhood in October 2015," Jason Billick said in an email. "I sought the lifestyle of the suburban neighborhood after living in West Hollywood and the city life for almost 20 years. Have you ever tried to find an affordable middle-class single-family home in a good neighborhood not surrounded by apartment buildings or businesses in LA? Long Beach neighborhoods are one of the few havens left."

Billick said he and neighbors had reached out to Mayor Robert Garcia's office and other city officials to see what could be done to stop the project. But, assuming the same conditions apply here as was the case at 6481 E. El Roble St., Lewin's other Cal State Long Beach property, it appears nothing can be done.

Lewin said he now has all the permits for that home in the La Marina Estates neighborhood, and construction could start as soon as next week. It already functions as a rental for students, and ultimately will have 11 bedrooms, 11 baths and two kitchens.

City planning officer Alexis Oropeza said the El Roble property permits are approved and waiting for payment to be issued while the Petaluma permits are under review.

What prompted the new development approach was a state law passed last year encouraging Auxiliary Dwelling Units to help ease California's housing crisis. The Long Beach City Council passed its own ADU law last year, but the state law takes precedent — and it is much more lenient than the Long Beach ordinance.

"Students live there, but the use could be expanded in the future," Third District Councilwoman Suzie Price said last fall regarding the El Robles property. "The state ADU proposition, AB68, preempts the ordinance we passed, particularly in regards to parking. Under the city's law, this would require additional parking. Under the state, no additional parking is required."

Parking and congestion is one of the primary complaints of neighbors. The Petaluma house only has a one-car garage and a driveway; El Robles has a two-car garage and more curb space, primarily because it is on a corner lot. Lewin said since there are no houses across the street, parking on Petaluma isn't as bad as it seems. 

Lewin also said he has spoken with neighbors near both houses, but without any meeting of the minds. He notes he is renting to individual students, not a fraternity or sorority, and that he is filling a need — more housing.

"It comes down to this," Lewin said. "When the state passed the ADU law, they created a very lucrative opportunity. If you have the open land, you can do it… The state law is very aggressive about creating more housing."

AB68 says that when new housing is within a half mile of adequate public transportation, no additional parking is needed. Long Beach Transit's bus lines in the area qualify.

Lewin is a licensed real estate agent, as is his partner, Shane Young. They met working at Marcus and Millichap; Young as a multi-family home expert, Lewin focusing on student housing. They formed Young-Lewin Capital last year in direct response to passage of AB68, offering investors the opportunity to be part of the expected new housing boom.

Young also remains at Marcus and Millichap, and Lewin said Young-Lewin would include multi-family and small apartment complex properties down the road. Right now, the firm owns and operates four student housing properties near Chapman University and the two at CSU Long Beach.

"I know the neighbors aren't real happy," Lewin said. "But I have to look at it as a larger, statewide opportunity to fill a need. Short of changing state law, I don't think there's anything they can do."

Residents of the La Marina Estates neighborhood said they would try to make a case that the student housing was a commercial operation on par with a boarding house. But city officials said last fall proving that would require significant documentation, including individual leases.

The house at Petaluma in the Los Altos neighborhood already is vacant and surrounded by a construction fence. Lewin said the remodel there could start in five or six weeks. 

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 26 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 35 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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