SOLARA is the first community in the nation to be fully powered by photovoltaic (solar) electricity and is recognized by the California Energy Commission as the first Zero Energy New Home (ZENH).

Completed in 2007, this groundbreaking, mixed-use development created 56 affordable apartments and a commercial office building on 2.5 acres in Poway, a suburban community 20 miles north of San Diego. SOLARA has been honored with numerous national awards including an Urban Land Institute Award of Excellence and the Pacific Coast Building Conference Gold Nugget Grand Award.   Designed and developed before the existence of the LEED for Homes program, SOLARA is recognized nationally for its innovative design and pioneered financing on photovoltaic and other sustainable systems.  Located close to shopping, transportation, jobs, the library and civic center, SOLARA reduced greenhouse gases by 95% compared to a neighboring complex, equivalent to planting  5400 trees or taking 300 cars off the road annually.


About the Development


Fast Facts

Apartment Mix:

8 1BR- 1BA (658 sq. ft.)

28 2BR- 1BA (884 sq. ft.)

2 2BR- 2BA (883 sq. ft.)

18 3BR- 2BA  (1,026 sq. ft.)

Location: 13406 Community Road, Poway, CA 92064

Developer: Community HousingWorks

Architect: Rodriguez Associates & Planners, Inc.

General Contractor: Sun Country Builders

Civil Engineer: Nasland Engineering

Landscape Architect: IVY Landscape Architects

Completed: Spring 2007


  • Adjacent to a park and close to a library, city hall, schools, public recreation facilities, shopping center, public transit, and employment centers.
  • Learning center program
  • Computer center
  • 2,144 sq. ft. community room with kitchen
  • Onsite laundry
  • Covered parking
  • Organic fruit trees


SOLARA faced various challenges in its development. The surrounding neighborhood expressed strong opposition to an affordable housing development. However, CHW was able to ease opposition and gain approvals with the support from the City’s elected officials and redevelopment agency staff. Furthermore, Solara is located in a FEMA-mapped 100-year flood zone, and adjacent to a FEMA designated engineered floodway. With a third of the property located in the flood zone, CHW overcame challenging site conditions with a cost effective solution that placed a promenade atop a 425 foot retaining wall at the floodway which permitted an additional 12 apartments in the design.

Sustainability and Green Features

  • First Zero Energy New Home (ZENH)
  • Solar photovoltaic electricity—836 photovoltaic (PV) panels
  • Tank-less hot water heaters
  • Dual flush toilets
  • Drought-tolerant landscaping
  • Low/no Volatile Organic Compound paint, carpeting, and cabinetry
  • Energy Star Appliances
  • Recycled building materials


Community HousingWorks utilized Competitive 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credits to finance SOLARA, as well as funding from the following entities:

  • Union Bank
  • 9% Low Income Housing Tax Credit Equity from National Equity Fund
  • City of Poway Redevelopment Agency
  • San Diego County HOME, Solar Rebates
  • Federal Investment Energy Tax Credit


  • Urban Land Institute, “Award of Excellence – The Americas,” SOLARA, Poway, California, 2008
  • Pacific Coast Builders Conference, “Gold Nugget Grand Award, Affordable,” SOLARA, Poway, California, 2008
  • Affordable Housing Tax Credit Coalition, “Charles L. Edson Tax Credit Excellence Award,” SOLARA, Poway, California, 2007