Hotel California will be converted next month into an apartment complex for low-income residents -- a project that will bring 20 units of affordable housing into the heart of Palo Alto's "second downtown."
The building at the corner of Ash Street and California Avenue will be made available for individuals with incomes between $10,000 and $40,000 a year, said Candice Gonzalez, CEO of the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, the local nonprofit that will be managing the single-room-occupancy units. Rents will range from $400 to $800 a month, depending on income level, Gonzalez said.
The project was made possible by the building's recent change in tenancy. The new tenant, which Gonzalez described as "a local, faith-based Christian organization," recently signed a lease for the building and approached the Housing Corporation to ask about ways to convert the hotel to allow longer-term residential use.
Gonzalez declined to say who the tenant is, saying that the organization has requested to remain anonymous while the project is getting established. The Weekly wasn't able to immediately confirm the identity of the tenant.
"They really wanted to give back to the most vulnerable in the community, and we agreed to help them convert and to be the property manager," she said.
Gonzalez said the nonprofit will start accepting applications for rooms at Hotel California on Aug. 1. The nonprofit will not be using the lottery system to fill the units, Gonzalez said, because that system takes several months to fill the units while "the need to house the most vulnerable in our community is urgent."
Interested parties can call the Housing Corporation's main office at 650-321-9709.
For the Housing Corporation, which manages more 700 units of affordable housing, the project in the heart of the California Avenue Business District represents a small victory in what has been a challenging few years. In 2013, the organization sought to build 60 apartments for low-income seniors at a former orchard site on Maybell Avenue. The project, which also included 12 single-family homes on the site's periphery, was approved by the City Council but was ultimately shot down by the voters in a referendum later that year.
The nonprofit subsequently sold the land, and the new owner, Golden Gate Homes, last month secured the city's permission to build 16 single-family homes there.
The Hotel California project isn't nearly as costly or ambitious. The nonprofit did not purchase the property, and no public money is involved in the conversion, Gonzalez said. The main difference is that the units will now be leased to low-income residents.
Each of the 20 units in the building will have a microwave (the nonprofit is also trying to add refrigerators, she said). There is also a community kitchen and an outdoor deck area.
The project comes at a time when the City Council is increasingly shifting its focus toward addressing what some members refer to as the city's "housing crisis." Earlier this year, when the council commissioned a poll to gauge the public's appetite for a November tax measure, "cost of housing" topped the list of the city's most urgent problems, with 76 percent of the residents calling it either an "extremely serious problem" or a "very serious problem" (drought conditions and "traffic and congestion" followed with 65 percent and 53 percent, respectively).
In June, when the council was discussing a proposal to preserve the Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, Councilman Cory Wolbach talked about "the housing crisis that is destroying our community and our region" and made the case for doing more to encourage the construction of affordable housing.
And this week, the Planning and Transportation Commission is set to discuss two separate proposals aimed at helping with this endeavor: encouraging more secondary-dwelling units (also known as "granny units") and charging developers higher fees to support the city's affordable-housing programs.