With an eye on affordable housing and the city's bottom line, East Palo Alto officials on Monday night unveiled the city's plans for the next 20 years.
The community meeting, which focused on land use and economic development, was part of the city's general-plan update, known as "Vista 2035." The general plan presents key strategies for housing, businesses, neighborhood development, parks and open space, public health and safety, jobs development, water infrastructure and traffic. It would determine land use for every parcel in the city, officials said.
The plan divides the city into six sections for targeted development: the Westside, bordered by West Bayshore Road and San Francisquito Creek to the Menlo Park and Palo Alto borders; east of U.S. Highway 101 areas that include University Avenue, bordered by Donohoe Street, Bay Road, Euclid and Capitol avenues; Gateway, which is occupied by the Ravenswood 101 shopping center; East Bayshore, a commercial district of strip malls, which runs along East Bayshore Road from Euclid Avenue roughly to Bay Road; Willow and Newbridge, a commercial corner bordered by Willow Road; and Four Corners, a large tract of land bordered by Fordham and Weeks streets and the San Francisco Baylands.
Left nearly untouched in the plan: the mostly single-family and multi-story residential areas that are at the city's core.
University Avenue would perhaps see the biggest change. Buildings of between four to eight stories would be allowed in an area from Euclid Avenue to East Bayshore Road. They would be mixed use -- residential or office space over ground-floor retail. The area currently includes the Chevron gas station, the former Drew Medical Center and the Ravenswood City School District offices. In addition, both sides of University Avenue to Bay Road would allow for three- to five-story residential buildings over retail shops.
The proposal for the East Bayshore strip, where there are currently one- and two-story retail buildings, would allow three- and four-story mixed-use residential or office buildings over retail. A small number of single-family homes would be removed under the new zoning.
The existing Gateway area, where IKEA and Home Depot are located, could also take on a different look. The two magnet stores would remain as the core retail, but the other sections could be zoned for up to eight-story-tall buildings of retail, or office space, or mixed-use residential or office space over retail.
The Four Corners area plan would remain as it was previously conceived under a redevelopment plan: two- to three-story research-and-development and light industrial space on its eastern parcels; four- to eight-story offices overlooking the Bay; and three- to five-story mixed-use residences over retail or offices along Weeks Street.
The Westside, which borders Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood and is accessible by the Newell Bridge, has already been the subject of numerous public meetings, as officials seek to create a vision for that specific area. Containing about half of the city's low-income and affordable rental housing, the area is being considered in five parcels, three of which would see no change.
One parcel, west of the University Circle office complex, could be zoned for four- to six-story multifamily homes. From Newell Road to University and West Bayshore, there could be multi-story residences, ground-floor retail, offices and a hotel. Near University, structures could be up to eight stories tall.
Other options for the Westside are higher-density apartments between three and eight stories with limited ground-floor retail or simply three- to six-story-tall multi-family residences. The plan could provide some permanent, deed-restricted affordable housing and prevent the eviction of existing residents, officials said Monday. The retail, office and hotel revenue would improve the city's fiscal stability.
City leaders have previously said that a high amount of commercial use, including a hotel, is needed on the Westside for a program that might subsidize rent increases and preserve low-income housing. Fifty-seven percent of the city's residents are renters.
The city also needs to develop revenue sources for improving roads, lighting and sidewalks.
Many of the 50-plus attendees indicated a preference for mid-range building heights as opposed to the top 8-story options.
City officials noted that the zoning changes are not forced redevelopment.
The city will hold public meetings on other aspects of the general plan in December and January. Meetings include: Transportation and Parking on Dec. 9; and Public Health and Quality of Life on Jan. 8. Both meetings take place from 6:30-9 p.m. at the East Palo Alto Senior Center, 560 Bell St.
Public review and comment on the first draft of Vista 2035 is expected in late spring 2015. City Council adoption of the final general plan and the more specific Westside Area Plan and Environmental Impact Report is scheduled for December 2015.
More information regarding the general and Westside plans is available at [http:www.vista2035epa.org www.vista2035epa.org.