News

Palo Alto Housing project clears big hurdle

City's Architectural Review Board approves proposal for 59 below-market-rate units at El Camino Real and Wilton Avenue

Palo Alto Housing scored a major victory on Thursday morning when the Architectural Review Board unanimously approved its proposal to build a 59-unit project for low-income and disabled residents in the Ventura neighborhood.

The development at 3705 El Camino Real is the nonprofit's first bid to build in Palo Alto since 2013, when voters overturned in a referendum its plan to construct 60 units for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes on Maybell Avenue. Unlike that project, the new four-story building near Wilton Avenue would consist entirely of below-market-rate units, some of them designated for individuals with disabilities.

With the board's endorsement, the project has overcome its most significant hurdle before it goes to a largely sympathetic City Council. But the board's approval spells good news for local proponents of affordable housing, several of whom testified at the hearing. The design didn't sit well with some area residents, who complained about the neighborhood impacts of the new development.

Todd Lewis, who owns two residential buildings on Wilton Avenue, told the board that while he supports the goals of the project, he and other neighbors have a problem with height, density, the number of people and the number of cars the project would bring.

One board member, Robert Gooyer, also voiced some reservations about the project's mass.

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"It still looks like a large, four-story shoebox to me," Gooyer said.

His colleagues noted that the size and density of the building are fully consistent with the council's recent zone changes, including the creation of the new "affordable housing overlay zone" that allows more density. The Palo Alto Housing project is the city's first application under the new zone.

"This is what the council wants us to build at this time. This is the shape of it," board member Peter Baltay said.

Ultimately, Gooyer joined the rest of the board in supporting the project, which would bring affordable housing to a city where the housing shortage had become a top priority.

Earlier this year, the City Council adopted a goal of building 300 units annually — a target that it has failed to meet. So far this year, it had not approved any below-market-rate projects. The only significant residential development that advanced was a 57-unit market-rate project at El Camino Real and Page Mill Road that the council classified as "workforce housing."

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Despite a year of anemic production, council members gave housing advocates some reasons for hope when they approved on Monday night and Tuesday morning a series of zone changes that they hope will spur the creation of more residential units in the future. These include the creation of a new "housing incentive program" that gives participating developers generous density bonuses and a new "minimum density" provision for projects zoned for high-density residential use.

On Thursday, board Chair Wynne Furth said she was "delighted" to see the Palo Alto Housing project move ahead.

"All of us know that we're all in favor of affordable housing and we find particular proposals difficult. The question is always, 'What about the real proposal in front of us? Does it meet our standards?' I believe it does," Furth said.

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Palo Alto Housing project clears big hurdle

City's Architectural Review Board approves proposal for 59 below-market-rate units at El Camino Real and Wilton Avenue

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Dec 6, 2018, 12:57 pm
Updated: Mon, Dec 10, 2018, 8:30 am

Palo Alto Housing scored a major victory on Thursday morning when the Architectural Review Board unanimously approved its proposal to build a 59-unit project for low-income and disabled residents in the Ventura neighborhood.

The development at 3705 El Camino Real is the nonprofit's first bid to build in Palo Alto since 2013, when voters overturned in a referendum its plan to construct 60 units for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes on Maybell Avenue. Unlike that project, the new four-story building near Wilton Avenue would consist entirely of below-market-rate units, some of them designated for individuals with disabilities.

With the board's endorsement, the project has overcome its most significant hurdle before it goes to a largely sympathetic City Council. But the board's approval spells good news for local proponents of affordable housing, several of whom testified at the hearing. The design didn't sit well with some area residents, who complained about the neighborhood impacts of the new development.

Todd Lewis, who owns two residential buildings on Wilton Avenue, told the board that while he supports the goals of the project, he and other neighbors have a problem with height, density, the number of people and the number of cars the project would bring.

One board member, Robert Gooyer, also voiced some reservations about the project's mass.

"It still looks like a large, four-story shoebox to me," Gooyer said.

His colleagues noted that the size and density of the building are fully consistent with the council's recent zone changes, including the creation of the new "affordable housing overlay zone" that allows more density. The Palo Alto Housing project is the city's first application under the new zone.

"This is what the council wants us to build at this time. This is the shape of it," board member Peter Baltay said.

Ultimately, Gooyer joined the rest of the board in supporting the project, which would bring affordable housing to a city where the housing shortage had become a top priority.

Earlier this year, the City Council adopted a goal of building 300 units annually — a target that it has failed to meet. So far this year, it had not approved any below-market-rate projects. The only significant residential development that advanced was a 57-unit market-rate project at El Camino Real and Page Mill Road that the council classified as "workforce housing."

Despite a year of anemic production, council members gave housing advocates some reasons for hope when they approved on Monday night and Tuesday morning a series of zone changes that they hope will spur the creation of more residential units in the future. These include the creation of a new "housing incentive program" that gives participating developers generous density bonuses and a new "minimum density" provision for projects zoned for high-density residential use.

On Thursday, board Chair Wynne Furth said she was "delighted" to see the Palo Alto Housing project move ahead.

"All of us know that we're all in favor of affordable housing and we find particular proposals difficult. The question is always, 'What about the real proposal in front of us? Does it meet our standards?' I believe it does," Furth said.

Comments

Time for Change
Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm
Time for Change, Downtown North
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:00 pm
7 people like this

So glad to see this move forward. A great step in the right direction for Palo Alto! Now we need four more like it!


Yay!
another community
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:19 pm
Yay!, another community
on Dec 6, 2018 at 2:19 pm
9 people like this

I am so elated that this project was approved. The most exciting part about this project is the unit set-asides for people with developmental disabilities. This development surely will improve so many lives that need access to affordable housing. Thank you Palo Alto ARB for this!!

I can't wait to see it all finished in a couple years :)


Monroe
Monroe Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 5:52 pm
Monroe, Monroe Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 5:52 pm
4 people like this

HURRAH! I am so gratified that the ARB approved and has taken this project another step toward reality. Affordable housing for our community is welcome. Thank you to Palo Alto Housing for your continuing commitment to this project and thank you to the members of the ARB!


Max
Evergreen Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:27 pm
Max, Evergreen Park
on Dec 6, 2018 at 8:27 pm
Like this comment

This is such good news and is a good start in making housing available to lower income families as well as our developmentally disabled population. I'm hoping there can be a few changes in design so the near-by residents can feel comfortable with this kind of development.


Din
Community Center
on Dec 7, 2018 at 1:21 am
Din, Community Center
on Dec 7, 2018 at 1:21 am
4 people like this

What does “affordable” housing mean in Oslo Alto? Average house is over $2M. This is a joke. What is driving this madness? I do not see Atherton debating “affordable” housing?


Mark Weiss
Registered user
Downtown North
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:26 am
Mark Weiss, Downtown North
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:26 am
19 people like this

This is not really for Palo Alto or people who actually live here this is a amenity for the large corporate interests that are colonizing our community, the investors and stockholders who make literally billions off of us.
Palo Alto Housing is a corrupt group of quislings.
Yes this stinks like Maybell.
I would prefer the coin company; my favorite teacher from Terman Mrs. Jean White worked there in her later days. (ironically she was the advisor to the Student Council)
Yes I’m a NIMBY.
I think the brave new world of tech oligarchs and plutocrats should go carpet bag Corvallis.

Why don’t we ask the struggling renter families what they want or need.


R.Davis
Registered user
Crescent Park
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:45 am
R.Davis, Crescent Park
Registered user
on Dec 8, 2018 at 9:45 am
39 people like this

QUOTE: "It still looks like a large, four-story shoebox to me," Gooyer said.

The Architectural Review Board (ARB) is an oxymoron to some extent. Don't these board members have any sense or knowledge of visually appealing architecture?

Part of the problem with all of these new housing developments is that most of them border on the mundane in terms of overall appearance.

It's as though the designers went to the Bronx Projects School of Architecture.


Design Major
Stanford
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:26 pm
Design Major, Stanford
on Dec 8, 2018 at 2:26 pm
25 people like this

Agreed. Housing developments in the form of Geodesic Domes, Giza Pyramids and mini-biospheres would add an aesthetic appearance to Palo Alto.

Even the most ardent of anti-development mindsets would appreciate their unique look.

But if they're going to run with a boring shoe box design, why not consider a building in the shape of a huge Converse high-top sneaker or a giant Louboutin stiletto with an elevator in the heel?




JimmyD
another community
on Dec 10, 2018 at 1:40 pm
JimmyD, another community
on Dec 10, 2018 at 1:40 pm
1 person likes this

It might look like a shoebox, but it's a sight for sore eyes if you are homeless or cannot afford to pay your rent and put food on the table at the same time.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2018 at 3:19 pm
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 10, 2018 at 3:19 pm
Like this comment

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North

>> I think the brave new world of tech oligarchs and plutocrats should go carpet bag Corvallis.

What did Corvallis do to you? How about Rome, GA, or Auburn, AL instead?


John
College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2018 at 9:19 am
John, College Terrace
on Dec 11, 2018 at 9:19 am
1 person likes this

This is such great news! Our community has been exclusionary for far too long. Housing costs are so high that our low income workers (janitors, childcare, restaurant workers) have to drive from far away towns where rent isn't as bad. A dedicated low-income community like this one provides direct access so that our hardworking employees can enjoy the fruits of their labor and all the great amenities in Palo Alto.


Selby Resident
Atherton
on Dec 11, 2018 at 9:42 am
Selby Resident, Atherton
on Dec 11, 2018 at 9:42 am
8 people like this

> I do not see Atherton debating “affordable” housing?

FYI...Palo Alto is not Atherton. Atherton is an exclusive residential community with no office complexes, parking garages, motels/hotels, restaurants and/or the like.

While it is certainly not inexpensive to reside in Palo Alto, you are comparing apples to oranges.

If people wanted Palo Alto to be like Atherton, the city fathers should addressed that issue 150+ years ago. End of story.


Anon
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2018 at 10:10 am
Anon, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Dec 12, 2018 at 10:10 am
1 person likes this

Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace

>> This is such great news! Our community has been exclusionary for far too long. Housing costs are so high that our low income workers (janitors, childcare, restaurant workers) have to drive from far away towns

That's good news. I guess they won't need cars, then? The folks on Wilton can relax, knowing that parking is not going to get worse. :rolleyes:

Yes, I'm being sarcastic. In a word, "parking".


Dig Deeper
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2018 at 8:29 am
Dig Deeper, Duveneck/St. Francis
on Dec 13, 2018 at 8:29 am
3 people like this

> parking is not going to get worse. :rolleyes:

Doesn't underground parking eliminate these woes? Just dig a deeper hole prior to erecting the building.


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