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San Marcos Housing Director to receive honor

SAN MARCOS—Perhaps more than any city in North County, San Marcos has taken the lead in developing quality housing for its low-income residents and seniors, and in the process, resurrecting one of the city’s most notorious neighborhoods.

And the city official who has played an integral role in that push – endeared as “The Grinch” by his co-workers who nominated him – will be honored for his efforts.

Karl Schwarm, San Marcos’ director of Housing and Neighborhood Services, will be honored by the San Diego Housing Federation with the John Craven Memorial Award, given to the “best people, places and progress made in the affordable housing industry.”

Schwarm and the other winners will be honored at the Housing Federation’s Ruby Awards on April 24 at the Westin Gaslamp Quarter in Downtown San Diego.

Schwarm is receiving the award, according to a Housing Federation news release, for his leadership in creating 3,500 quality affordable homes for seniors, families, veterans and residents with special needs in San Marcos.

The nomination form does more justice to what this entails.

“The Outstanding Advocate Award speaks of how this individual was useful or helpful on a project,” the nomination reads. “Karl’s advocacy goes well beyond ‘a project.’

“Housing can not stand alone as an island and Karl’s advocacy and actions have taken affordable housing to a new level and with it, an entire neighborhood and thousands of under-served people,” the nomination continues.

That neighborhood was Richmar, which for the long time was the community that people did not dare traverse if they didn’t live there.

The city’s efforts have transformed the community using affordable housing as a catalyst, starting with the Autumn Terrace development in 2011 and continuing with several more complexes, two new parks (and soon to be a third), as well as other amenities.

“All of which have transformed this once ‘don’t go there’ area into a place the residents are proud to call home,” the nomination states.

The nomination likens Schwarm to the antihero in the Dr. Seuss tale “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” While not appealing on its face, the nomination makes the link quickly apparent.

“The Grinch…like Karl…has superhuman strength,” the nomination states. Schwarm, the nomination goes on, spearheaded the revitalization of the Richmar neighborhood, and with each obstacle – including the dissolution of the city’s redevelopment agency – approached it with a Grinch-like smile and kept the plans in motion.

The nomination notes that Schwarm is not solely responsible for the transformation that has occurred in Richmar, but every major movement must have a leader, and he has been the leader.