jonathan segal, faia, san diego An affordable project at the edge of downtown San Diego, K Lofts looks like any other progressive, market-rate building—which is exactly the point, says Jonathan Segal, FAIA. “I don't believe in affordable housing tenements. This building blends right into the neighborhood.”

Previously home to a gas station and later a Circle K convenience store where kids illegally bought and drank beer, the site had become an eyesore, Segal says. But instead of razing the structure, the architect adapted and reused it. “We took the roof off of the existing structure and made it [into] living spaces,” he says. He also added ground-floor retail and an extra story above. Local zoning codes limited the project to six units, but Segal managed to increase the number to nine after donating one apartment to very low-income tenants (defined as persons making 50 percent of the median for the area).

Due to his penchant for frugality and quality control, Segal wore every hat for this project. Without the help of government subsidies, he managed to complete it for a meager $82 per square foot. Still, design preceded thrift. Each unit offers two-level interiors, sizable outdoor spaces, expansive glazing, and innovative materials.

principal in charge / project architect / land planner / developer / general contractor / landscape architect / interior designer: Jonathan Segal, FAIA
project size: 850 square feet to 1,250 square feet per unit
site size: 0.21 acre
construction cost: $82 per square foot
rental price: $700 per unit per month (affordable), $1,650 to $2,300 per unit per month (market)
units in project: 9
photography: Paul Body