Palo Alto Housing, a nonprofit developer that has been building affordable housing for 50 years, has changed its name to Alta Housing, a move that signals the expansion of its ambitions beyond the confines of its hometown.
The nonprofit, which has also been known as the Palo Alto Housing Corporation, will remain headquartered in Palo Alto, a city that has struggled over the past decade to build affordable housing and that is now in the midst of implementing a Housing Work Plan with incentives for residential construction. The only significant affordable-housing project in the city's pipeline is Wilton Court, a 59-unit complex for low-income residents and adults with disabilities that is being developed by Palo Alto Housing at 3805 El Camino Real.
Since its birth in 1970, the nonprofit has focused its development efforts in Palo Alto, which is home to 23 of its 24 existing residential complexes (the only exception is its most recent development, Eagle Park, a 67-unit project in Mountain View). Its first residential community, the 60-unit Colorado Park Apartments, was completed in 1971. Today, its properties house more than 2,000 residents and its local properties range in size from the four-unit Emerson House to the 68-unit Webster Wood Apartments. The nonprofit also administers the city's below-market-rate program.
Not all of its local efforts had borne fruit. In 2013, the nonprofit found itself at the center of a heated citywide debate when residents challenged the City Council's approval of a housing development in the Barron Park neighborhood, which included 60 units for low-income seniors and 12 single-family homes. The referendum passed, killing the project, and the land on Maybell Avenue is now being redeveloped for 16 single-family homes.
Since the 2013 referendum, the nonprofit began to look for new opportunities beyond the borders of Palo Alto, where affordable housing had screeched to a halt.
The Wilton Court project, which the council approved last year, is the first major below-market-rate project to get the green light since the referendum.
Alta is also moving ahead with a 67-unit development at 2821 El Camino Real in the North Fair Oaks neighborhood in San Mateo County that is slated to be completed in October. The project, which includes units for low-income families and veterans, will be its first project outside Santa Clara County.
Randy Tsuda, president and CEO of Alta Housing, said the nonprofit is also preparing to break ground next month on its second Mountain View project, a 71-unit development at 950 W. El Camino Real.
Later this year, it is scheduled to break ground on Wilton Court, Tsuda said. The nonprofit is now in the process of selecting a general contractor for the project.
Tsuda told this news organization that the nonprofit considered more than 100 names before selecting Alta Housing. The name, which means "high" in Spanish, has an aspirational tone and reflects the nonprofit's "uplifting work" to support residents, he said. It also reflects its broader geographical reach, he said.
"We are now working in Mountain View and in San Mateo County, in addition to Palo Alto," Tsuda said. "We wanted to adopt a name that reflects the larger geography in which we're working."
The nonprofit was planning to announce its new name at a 50th anniversary celebration, which was set to take place at the Mitchell Park Community Center. The event was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the county's shelter-in-place order in response to the virus.
Sandy Sloan, board chair at Alta Housing, said in a statement the organization's new name is also a nod to the historic name of "Alta California," meaning "Upper California." She called the organization will "continue to deliver on Palo Alto Housing's mission to provide our community residents with opportunities for growth and advancement through quality affordable housing."