The developer behind a 16-home project on a former orchard site on Maybell Avenue is now pitching another housing project for south Palo Alto: a 48-condominium development on San Antonio Road.
According to project plans submitted by site owner Yuorong Han, the proposal calls for demolishing two existing structures and constructing a three-story building at 788 San Antonio Road. The 45,075-square-foot development would be 49 feet tall, or one foot shy of the city's height limit. It would include 27 two-bedroom units and 21 one-bedroom units, according to the plans, as well as 71 parking stalls (or 115, if the building uses parking stalls with "stackers").
The project would require a zone change from the City Council, as well as the approval of the Architectural Review Board. The plans submitted are a "pre-screening application," intended to get early feedback from the board and the council before formal reviews.
The 1-acre site for which the new housing project is proposed is currently zoned as "service commercial," which permits a mix of uses geared toward "citywide and regional services" and "relying on customers arriving by car." The developer is looking to change it to RM-40, which allows high-density residential.
The City Council is scheduled to discuss the project on Sept. 17, though it will not be taking any formal action on it. The council's feedback is intended to help the developer determine whether to move ahead with a formal application.
The project is being submitted at a time when Palo Alto is making housing a top city priority. Even so, this proposal differs sharply from the last three housing developments that the council had looked at. The last two to win approval were a mixed-use development by Sobrato at 3001 El Camino Real, which includes 50 apartments; and a 57-unit development at 2755 El Camino Real geared toward "workforce housing," with relaxed parking standards and small apartments (average size is 526 square feet).
The council also is considering a housing proposal from the nonprofit Palo Alto Housing, which is looking to build an apartment complex at 3705 El Camino Real with 58 studios and three one-bedroom units. All of these would target individuals making below 60 percent of the area's median income.
By contrast, the new housing development eyed for San Antonio would have relatively large units, with a residential density of 904 square feet per unit, according to the project plans. And by designating 10 percent of these as below-market-rate units, Han is able to take advantage of a state law that allows developers to request a 20 percent in density bonus, or an extra 3,165 square feet, according to the application.
The building would be located near the intersection of San Antonio and Leghorn Street, about a block north of the location where Marriott is looking to build two hotels with a total of 294 rooms.
According to planning staff, the site contains and has previously contained (since 2015) an automotive service station, a fitness training center and an electrical wholesale supplier. The latter two uses, according to staff, is considered "protected retail" under a city law that bars conversions of ground-floor retail to other uses.
If the council approves the zone change from service commercial to RM-40, the retail uses would be considered nonconforming and would no longer be protected, according to staff.
Ted O'Hanlon, the project manager (who also managed the approved conversion of the Maybell orchard), argued in a letter to the city that the project would serve public interest by addressing the regional housing crisis.
"To avoid falling short of its housing goals, the City can do more to 'go big' by changing the Property's zoning to allow more housing, 40 dwellings per acre," O'Hanlon wrote.