The new owner of the 2.46-acre property on Maybell Avenue that was the subject of last November's citizen referendum in Palo Alto is proposing to build 30 two-story homes, according to plans submitted to the city Wednesday.
If approved, the development by Golden Gate Homes would replace four homes and a defunct orchard.
The development would include four detached homes along Maybell in the low-density R-2 (two homes per lot) zone and another four detached homes on Clemo Avenue. Another home would be on the corner of Maybell and Clemo. The developer, Yurong Han of Golden Gate Homes, is looking to construct the remaining 21 homes in the R-15 zone, which can accommodate greater density.
The application states that the interior of the property would feature 16 so-called "duets" -- eight pairs of homes, with each home connected to the other by its garage. The homes will range in size from about 1,500 square feet to 3,000 square feet.
In the application, Han emphasized that the proposal paid careful attention to the concerns of the neighborhood, which rallied last year to oppose a zone change on the property. The change to planned community (PC) zoning, which the City Council unanimously approved last June, would have accommodated a development of 60 apartments for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes.
The new project, by contrast, is not asking for a zone change. In fact, the application notes that the number of units proposed for the site is actually 13 percent to 53 fewer than the owner is entitled to build. The site could accommodate between 34 and 46 homes if the developer were to include affordable housing, which would make the project eligible for a density bonus.
"The vision of Golden Gate Homes is to build high-quality homes that integrate appropriately into and complement the existing neighborhood," Han's application states. "We studied previous proposals and the neighborhood's response to those site concepts, as well as for preferences for the property as expressed by the neighbors.
The development would include 57 parking spaces for residents. Another seven spots would be designated for guests, according to the application.
The proposal is still subject to approval by the city's Architectural Review Board. And even though the neighbors around the Barron Park site have yet to study the plans, the fact that the development complies with existing zoning is a step in the right direction, said Joe Hirsch, who was one of the organizers of last year's Measure D.
"If they work out a good parking plan and if they work out a good traffic plan, which was a major consideration last year, then I think the applicant will be well on his way to getting approval," Hirsch told the Weekly. "I'd still encourage (the developer) to meet with the neighborhood and show the plans to the neighborhood so we have a good understanding."
The question of what development will go on the old orchard site was a major issue in last year's Measure D campaign, with city officials arguing that even without a zone change, a future development could in fact bring greater negative impacts than the one proposed by Palo Alto Housing Corporation.
Before voting to support the senior-housing project last year, Councilman Marc Berman said that if the council were to reject it, the Housing Corp "could turn around and sell it to a private developer."
"No private developer who pays $16 million or more for a lot of land wouldn't maximize the project from this development," Berman said.
Councilman Larry Klein made a similar point and argued that the PC zone sought by the Housing Corporation would protect residents from the traffic problems of a potentially more disruptive housing development, one that could be built without a zone change.
"The people who are going to be living under this PC will drive a lot less than people who'd be living there if we were to develop this under existing zoning," Klein said.