News

Developer proposes condominium project in Ventura

City Council to consider 49 residences on a Lambert Avenue property

Property owner Roger Fields is proposing a 49-condominium development at 300 Lambert St. in Palo Alto. Rendering courtesy Hayes Group Architects.

As Palo Alto continues to reconsider the future of the Ventura neighborhood, which most city leaders see as ripe for change, a developer has come forward with a plan to build a five-story condominium complex in the planning area.

Roger Fields has proposed a 49-condominium proposal at 280 and 300 Lambert Ave., a property within the 60-acre area that the city is evaluating as part of the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan. He is the fourth property owner in the plan area to step forward with a housing project in recent months. The Sobrato Organization, which owns the property at 340 Portage Ave. that formerly housed Fry's Electronics, has proposed an 85-residence townhome development at a nearby site at 200 Portage. Smith Development, which also owns numerous properties in the Ventura area, has proposed a project with 75 housing units and 35,996 square feet of commercial space at 150 Grant Ave., 123 Sherman Ave. and 2501 Park Blvd.

The boldest plan to date is a 113-apartment project proposed by Acclaim Companies for 2951 El Camino Real. In an informal hearing in January, the City Council indicated that it would be willing to support the Acclaim project and encouraged the developer to file a formal application.

Much like the Smith and Acclaim projects, the Lambert project is relying on the "planned housing zone," a new zoning mechanism that allows residential developers to exceed development standards such as height and density limits. As proposed, the project would exceed both the city's 50-foot height limit and the typical density restrictions that would normally apply at the site's "service commercial" zone. The zoning typically allows residential floor-area-ratio (FAR) of 0.60; the project is requesting a residential FAR of 2.07.

The new housing complex would consist of two major elements. The front portion would consist of 10 townhouse-style condos. It would be three stories high, with a height of 35 feet. The remaining 39 condominiums would be in a complex at the rear of the property, which would be 55-feet high. The project would offer 20% of the residences at below market rate, according to the plan, though the application did not specify what income levels these residences would target.

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In a letter accompanying the application, the Jeff Galbraith, principal of Hayes Group Architects, states that the additional 5 feet of building height "allows for the construction of an additional floor of residential units which makes a significant difference in the financial viability of the project, specifically the ability of the project to offset the cost burden of the 20% affordable requirement."

In making the pitch for "planned home zoning," Galbraith notes that under existing zoning, the site would be limited to a maximum of 18 residential units, though would "most likely result in 12 or so units due to practical realities."

"Application of PHZ (planned housing zone) regulations would allow for roughly a four-fold increase in unit count as illustrated in the attached plans," the letter states. "The proposed residential use is compatible with the surroundings as there are parcels designated R-1 and RM-30 in the immediate vicinity, and Lambert street marks the transition from the more commercial area of the North Ventura neighborhood to the more residential South Ventura neighborhood."

The "planned housing zone" gives the council full discretion on whether to approve or deny the project. Fields' first test will come during the council's "pre-screening" session for the development proposal, which is expected to occur sometime shortly after the council returns from its summer recess.

The council also plans to resume this fall its discussion over the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan, which aims to come up with a new land use vision for the 60-acre area.

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Gennady Sheyner covers the City Hall beat in Palo Alto as well as regional politics, with a special focus on housing and transportation. Before joining the Palo Alto Weekly/PaloAltoOnline.com in 2008, he covered breaking news and local politics for the Waterbury Republican-American, a daily newspaper in Connecticut. Read more >>

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Developer proposes condominium project in Ventura

City Council to consider 49 residences on a Lambert Avenue property

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Thu, Jul 1, 2021, 9:53 am

As Palo Alto continues to reconsider the future of the Ventura neighborhood, which most city leaders see as ripe for change, a developer has come forward with a plan to build a five-story condominium complex in the planning area.

Roger Fields has proposed a 49-condominium proposal at 280 and 300 Lambert Ave., a property within the 60-acre area that the city is evaluating as part of the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan. He is the fourth property owner in the plan area to step forward with a housing project in recent months. The Sobrato Organization, which owns the property at 340 Portage Ave. that formerly housed Fry's Electronics, has proposed an 85-residence townhome development at a nearby site at 200 Portage. Smith Development, which also owns numerous properties in the Ventura area, has proposed a project with 75 housing units and 35,996 square feet of commercial space at 150 Grant Ave., 123 Sherman Ave. and 2501 Park Blvd.

The boldest plan to date is a 113-apartment project proposed by Acclaim Companies for 2951 El Camino Real. In an informal hearing in January, the City Council indicated that it would be willing to support the Acclaim project and encouraged the developer to file a formal application.

Much like the Smith and Acclaim projects, the Lambert project is relying on the "planned housing zone," a new zoning mechanism that allows residential developers to exceed development standards such as height and density limits. As proposed, the project would exceed both the city's 50-foot height limit and the typical density restrictions that would normally apply at the site's "service commercial" zone. The zoning typically allows residential floor-area-ratio (FAR) of 0.60; the project is requesting a residential FAR of 2.07.

The new housing complex would consist of two major elements. The front portion would consist of 10 townhouse-style condos. It would be three stories high, with a height of 35 feet. The remaining 39 condominiums would be in a complex at the rear of the property, which would be 55-feet high. The project would offer 20% of the residences at below market rate, according to the plan, though the application did not specify what income levels these residences would target.

In a letter accompanying the application, the Jeff Galbraith, principal of Hayes Group Architects, states that the additional 5 feet of building height "allows for the construction of an additional floor of residential units which makes a significant difference in the financial viability of the project, specifically the ability of the project to offset the cost burden of the 20% affordable requirement."

In making the pitch for "planned home zoning," Galbraith notes that under existing zoning, the site would be limited to a maximum of 18 residential units, though would "most likely result in 12 or so units due to practical realities."

"Application of PHZ (planned housing zone) regulations would allow for roughly a four-fold increase in unit count as illustrated in the attached plans," the letter states. "The proposed residential use is compatible with the surroundings as there are parcels designated R-1 and RM-30 in the immediate vicinity, and Lambert street marks the transition from the more commercial area of the North Ventura neighborhood to the more residential South Ventura neighborhood."

The "planned housing zone" gives the council full discretion on whether to approve or deny the project. Fields' first test will come during the council's "pre-screening" session for the development proposal, which is expected to occur sometime shortly after the council returns from its summer recess.

The council also plans to resume this fall its discussion over the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan, which aims to come up with a new land use vision for the 60-acre area.

Comments

Jonathan Brown
Registered user
Ventura
on Jul 1, 2021 at 11:44 am
Jonathan Brown, Ventura
Registered user
on Jul 1, 2021 at 11:44 am

How does this proposal mesh with creek re-naturalization? Isn't the best plan for this segment to have Lambert dead-end at a re-naturalized creek, and use Portage to connect El Camino to Park?


William Hitchens
Registered user
Mountain View
on Jul 1, 2021 at 5:39 pm
William Hitchens, Mountain View
Registered user
on Jul 1, 2021 at 5:39 pm

Better pricey, medium density condos with adequate onsite parking (2 cars per condo), than high density apartments with inadequate parking, or ultra-high density "so-called affordable housing units" with no off-street parking. People who purchase their condos and who face financial risk if the community deteriorates are far more responsible citizens than those who can move at a whim and not be held accountable for supporting policies that destroy property values. They have "skin in the game", to use a gambling term --- and these days real estate is in a huge gambling bubble.


Native to the BAY
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 3, 2021 at 5:16 am
Native to the BAY, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jul 3, 2021 at 5:16 am

HOA’s and R1 Zoning is killing the vulnerable, poor and the unhoused. Profits over the health and prosperity of California’s, Bay Area residents are our death nell . Q: Why is it Palo Alto turns a surreal, blind Internet screen away from our internal humanity. It’s a crush to social responsibility, lack of empathy coming from the Libertarian sect. USA now a country of laws, lawyers, real-estate & greed. Sad. So very heartbreaking. As if we can just push the @[email protected] button and the unhoused crisis disappears. Reuse, recycle, repurpose. Palo Alto lack of compassion for those w less is a National disgrace . Vested, vexing value of the monied. It’s mean too.


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 3, 2021 at 11:15 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jul 3, 2021 at 11:15 am

Native - what posesses anyone to make comments about a city that is one of the older cities on the peninsula and is built out to the borders. Every city has a percentage of high and low cost homes. Every city has a basic predominanat business base. We are not a farming area. We are not a Costco wharehouse area. We are not a military base area - Moffatt is now more private. We are a University and high tech area. Our housing reflects the type of jobs that people have available in this city.
San Mateo County has a more diverse business base - more manufacturing, major airport which has lots of jobs of all types. People who are looking for a more lower price area need to go where the lower prices jobs are - SFO and the hotels and auto rentals that support the food, hotel, and tourist business.


Name hidden
Downtown North

Registered user
on Jul 5, 2021 at 10:28 am
Name hidden, Downtown North

Registered user
on Jul 5, 2021 at 10:28 am

Due to repeated violations of our Terms of Use, comments from this poster are automatically removed. Why?


Staying Young Through Kids
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 7, 2021 at 11:57 am
Staying Young Through Kids, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2021 at 11:57 am

@Resident 1-Adobe Meadows :

I love your comment: "Every city has a percentage of high and low cost homes. Every city has a basic predominant business base."

Can you please offer a run-down of the low cost housing options and the basic business base for Atherton, Woodside, LAH, and Hillsborough?


Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
Registered user
Adobe-Meadow
on Jul 9, 2021 at 11:14 am
Resident 1-Adobe Meadows, Adobe-Meadow
Registered user
on Jul 9, 2021 at 11:14 am

WOW - people get paid to perform those functions. Your local news groups spend a lot of time on those topics - they get paid to do that. Note that some of your cities are in San Mateo County. San Mateo County has a different tax base than Santa Clara County. More commercial ventures - giant SFO hub which feeds the tourist industry. People do not come to Santa Clara County to be tourist - they come to inspect the universities that their children may want to go to and our athletics. Our sports teams. Different type industry at the county level. Santa Clara has more tech - but lots on the border of San Mateo County.

You have to start with the tax base - could be commercial or property tax base. Then ownership of property. Following the real estate section of the papers Palo Alto is getting bought up by out of state companies. They start leveraging behind the scenes.
Your local universities play a part - they are big landholders. SU has expanded their presence in RWC with a hospital, campus, and giant apartment complexes. Check out the land breaking at Woodside Road and Broadway near 101. Will be big village - a good model for our proposed sites. Someone has already paid for these great ideas - go look and use those ideas.

Meanwhile we have the hackers who break into your systems via your email address. Is that all of the techies who have been home getting bored? Google getting tasked for the"cookies" that check out what sites you are visiting to see what they can sell you. What the trends are. Unfortunately the search engines that are behind the face pages are now running amuck. Who else is in your computer? The tech industry has reached a point where it has lost control of their purported function and now it is all spilling out. That will be a trend that goes backward. They are getting themselves in trouble. Lots going on at a very fast pace.
Woodside and LAH - lots of land for sale there - in a fire danger zone with little support. Lots going on the market now.


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