The new Crest Apartments for the Skid Row Housing Trust transformed an existing open site in suburban Los Angeles into a 64-apartment complex for formerly homeless veterans.  Located on a busy thoroughfare near two freeways, the project introduces a new density in the neighborhood with easy connections to public transportation and area resources.  The client’s permanent supportive housing model includes individual efficiency apartments with on-site social services and community spaces.  These combined programs effectively support the highly vulnerable residents in an effort to reduce chronic homelessness.


The building’s arching form stretches the length of the site, creating a sheltered courtyard with tiered terraces above that include open-air outdoor corridors and an expansive ground level landscape zone. The low points of the mass touch down at both the front and back of the site, ensuring a strong volumetric relationship to the smaller scale single-family residences behind the property and the larger commercial facades running along the boulevard.  Inviting and light-filled spaces throughout the building form a network of healthy community connections that support residents within the building and build social connections to the city beyond. The lobby and reception area is positioned in the front to welcome in both residents and visitors alike.  Additional shared spaces and community resources on the ground level include the residents’ lounge, community kitchen, laundry room, conference room, social service offices, health clinic, and an outdoor community garden.  Individual studio apartments on the four upper residential floors that hover over the ground plane incorporate natural light, cross ventilation, and views to both the circulation corridors and the city.


The architectural and landscape design forms a symbiotic relationship that enables the efficient use of natural materials.  Strict code and program requirements prompted the design team to think of the ground plane as a flexible zone that can accommodate required parking and fire lanes while also providing informal open spaces for residents.  By integrating landscape materials such as permeable pavers that can withstand various loads, the demarcation between hardscape, softscape, and functional requirements are blurred to create an interchangeable ground surface.  The pervious surface enables rainwater filtration into two bioswales below the parking area.  Drought resistant trees and plantings will be used extensively.

The project was certified LEED for Homes Platinum by the U.S. Green Building Council.  Windows in each unit provide ample natural light and air.  Units are equipped with Energy Star-rated refrigerators and range hoods, bio-based marmoleum composition floors, high efficiency bathroom fixtures, and tile made from recycled content.  Highly efficient ductless mechanical units for heating/cooling will be utilized.  Solar thermal panels on the roof will provide more than 50% of the heated water needs.  Paint, grout, mortar, and construction adhesives used throughout the building will be zero or minimal VOC products.

Photos: Iwan Baan

LOCATION / Van Nuys, California
TYPE / 64-unit affordable housing project with shared community spaces, social service offices, and community gardens
SIZE / 45,000 sf
STATUS / Completed 2016
LEED STATUS / LEED Platinum for Homes
ROLE / Design Architect and Architect of Record
AWARDS / AIA|LA Residential Design Award, AIA San Fernando Valley Design Award, ASLA Southern California Design Award