A new residential building on El Camino Real may just look like any regular apartment complex, but walk past its tall red door and you will find a safe, accessible and affordable community.
Mayfield Place was ushered in as the newest affordable housing development in Palo Alto on Thursday during grand opening with officials from the city, Stanford University and developer Related California.
Segue Construction Inc. started building the project, designed by David Baker Architects, in 2015. The three- to four-story building includes 70 one- to three-bedroom apartments priced between $1,000 and $1,700 per month for families that earn between 50 and 60 percent of the area median income.
The grand opening comes after nearly 12 years after Palo Alto and Stanford signed the Mayfield Agreement, contracting Stanford to build 250 units of housing on two sites in the Stanford Research Park. Palo Alto Mayor Greg Scharff said that the only failure of the project was that "it didn't happen sooner."
According to Scharff, one of the challenges in bringing affordable housing to the Palo Alto community is the price for the projects.
"The rents are low so you cannot pay for the cost, so you have to get large sums of (money)," he said. "And then you have to go through the approval process, you have to get land, it has to make sense."
Mayfield Place became a possibility through a partnership between Stanford, the community and companies including Related California, Segue Construction and California Municipal Finance Authority.
"It really serves as a model of how private entities can work with the city for the common benefit of the people," Scharff said in opening remarks at the event.
The approval process was smooth — a majority of residents expressed enthusiasm about the project. Results from the Silicon Valley Leadership Group's annual "Silicon Valley" poll released this week found that 73 percent of voters in Santa Clara County support cities building affordable rental housing for those earning less than $100,000 a year.
Scharff added that Mayfield Place "not only cuts down on traffic, but allows us to understand each other and live together in a diverse environment."
Previously, residents had voiced their concerns about the project, including the long-standing argument over the traffic problems that would affect California Avenue from the addition of a few hundred more cars on the road.
Mayfield Place addresses those concerns by providing residents with EcoPasses, which allows them to ride the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority bus system for free and by servicing the Stanford University Marguerite Shuttle in the site. Additionally, Mayfield Place "is a very short distance from the Caltrain station, helping to reduce trips," according to Stanford Director of Asset Management Tiffany Griego.
Talitha de la Cruz, who has been a resident of Mayfield Place for three months, said that she has been searching for affordable housing for more than five years. She was about to move her family out of state when received she submitted an application to live at Mayfield Place, where prospective residents go through a lottery selection process.
An employee at Stanford, she decided to apply because her commute from Sunnyvale could take up to an hour and she hoped her three children could could enroll into the Palo Alto Unified School District.
"I feel extremely blessed to have all of the many benefits of living within this community within a wonderful school district and in a 10-minute commute to work," she said at the grand opening.
Mayfield Place is also home to approximately 7,000 square feet of retail and the Vista Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired, which was previously housed in a commercial building where Mayfield Place now stands. The nonprofit serves Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties.
"This is really a dream come true for Vista Center. We are so fortunate to be able to stay here at a time when rents are skyrocketing and nonprofits are really challenged to stay on the Peninsula at all and be viable," Vista Center Executive Director Pam Brandin said during the grand opening.
"Vista Center is so grateful to Stanford and Related California for making this location available to us for the long term so we can continue to provide vision-loss rehabilitation services to an ever-increasing number of people. We are especially happy that clients can easily use public transportation to come to Vista Center," Brandin said.
The public can view the Vista Center's new offices, located on the ground floor at 2500 El Camino Real, at an open house on Friday from 1-4 p.m.