News

Condominium project proposed next to Town & Country Village

Developer looks to use 'planned home zoning' process for density, height exemptions

The proposed development at 70 Encina Ave. in Palo Alto would consist of 20 condominiums. Rendering courtesy Hayes Group Architects.

A developer has asked the city of Palo Alto for a zone change that would enable construction of a 20-condominium development next to the Town & Country Village shopping center.

The request, filed on May 23 by Edward Storm of Stormland LLC, relies on the city's recently created "planned housing zone," which allows residential developers to negotiate with the city over development standards. In this case, the project in the commercial zone would require exemptions to allow for greater height and density.

If approved, the project would be located at 70 Encina Ave., a site just north of Town & Country and just south of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation that is currently a parking lot. Under the existing commercial zoning, the site would only be allowed to have a floor area ratio of 0.6, which would limit the development to four units, Jeff Galbraith, principal at Hayes Group Architects, wrote to the city.

"This limited development potential severely hinders the number of housing units that can be built," Galbraith wrote. "Coupled with the high price of land it also further challenges the inclusion of affordable housing."

The developer is requesting that the city quadruple the allowed density to 2.4. The project would also exceed the city's 50-foot height limit, according to the architectural plans, with the parapet raising its height to 55 feet. The council would have to sign off on that exemption for the development to advance.

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According to Galbraith's letter, the project would include 12 one-bedroom condominiums with an average size of 1,035 square feet and an average price of $1.29 million. The remaining eight units would be two-bedroom condominiums with an average size of 1,320 square feet and priced at $1.65 million.

Galbraith further states that four of the residences "will be sold or rented" as below-market-rate units, in keeping with the city's requirement that new developments include low-income housing.

Because of the site's commercial zoning, the council will have broad discretion over the project. Other recent residential projects such as The Sobrato Organization's proposed 74-townhome development at the site of the former Fry's Electronics building and SummerHill Homes' 48-condominium complex at 2850 W. Bayshore Road are relying on state laws such as Senate Bill 330 to ensure swift approval and minimal modifications by the city to the initial proposal. But because Stormland is relying on "planned home zoning," the project at Encina will have to go through a pre-screening hearing, giving the council an opportunity to alter or deny the project.

Galbraith wrote in the letter that the proposed design is "supported with the surroundings as there are adjacent planned community and hospital buildings of similar height." The proposed development would be about a block away from the LifeMoves' Opportunity Services Center, which provides transitional housing and services for unhoused individuals. The LifeMoves building at 33 Encina Ave. also exceeds the city's height limit.

Stormland is one of just a handful of developers that have opted to rely on the "planned home zoning" process since the council established it in 2020 to encourage more housing. While numerous applicants had gone through the pre-screening process for their projects, most ultimately refrained from advancing their proposals. The only exception is Smith Development, which last December filed a formal application for a mixed-use complex at 660 University Ave.

Smith had recently revised the plans for the four-story project, which now consists of office space on the ground floor at 65 residential units on the three upper floors. The application is currently being reviewed by the city's Department of Planning and Development Services.

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Gennady Sheyner
 
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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Condominium project proposed next to Town & Country Village

Developer looks to use 'planned home zoning' process for density, height exemptions

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Tue, Jul 5, 2022, 2:19 pm

A developer has asked the city of Palo Alto for a zone change that would enable construction of a 20-condominium development next to the Town & Country Village shopping center.

The request, filed on May 23 by Edward Storm of Stormland LLC, relies on the city's recently created "planned housing zone," which allows residential developers to negotiate with the city over development standards. In this case, the project in the commercial zone would require exemptions to allow for greater height and density.

If approved, the project would be located at 70 Encina Ave., a site just north of Town & Country and just south of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation that is currently a parking lot. Under the existing commercial zoning, the site would only be allowed to have a floor area ratio of 0.6, which would limit the development to four units, Jeff Galbraith, principal at Hayes Group Architects, wrote to the city.

"This limited development potential severely hinders the number of housing units that can be built," Galbraith wrote. "Coupled with the high price of land it also further challenges the inclusion of affordable housing."

The developer is requesting that the city quadruple the allowed density to 2.4. The project would also exceed the city's 50-foot height limit, according to the architectural plans, with the parapet raising its height to 55 feet. The council would have to sign off on that exemption for the development to advance.

According to Galbraith's letter, the project would include 12 one-bedroom condominiums with an average size of 1,035 square feet and an average price of $1.29 million. The remaining eight units would be two-bedroom condominiums with an average size of 1,320 square feet and priced at $1.65 million.

Galbraith further states that four of the residences "will be sold or rented" as below-market-rate units, in keeping with the city's requirement that new developments include low-income housing.

Because of the site's commercial zoning, the council will have broad discretion over the project. Other recent residential projects such as The Sobrato Organization's proposed 74-townhome development at the site of the former Fry's Electronics building and SummerHill Homes' 48-condominium complex at 2850 W. Bayshore Road are relying on state laws such as Senate Bill 330 to ensure swift approval and minimal modifications by the city to the initial proposal. But because Stormland is relying on "planned home zoning," the project at Encina will have to go through a pre-screening hearing, giving the council an opportunity to alter or deny the project.

Galbraith wrote in the letter that the proposed design is "supported with the surroundings as there are adjacent planned community and hospital buildings of similar height." The proposed development would be about a block away from the LifeMoves' Opportunity Services Center, which provides transitional housing and services for unhoused individuals. The LifeMoves building at 33 Encina Ave. also exceeds the city's height limit.

Stormland is one of just a handful of developers that have opted to rely on the "planned home zoning" process since the council established it in 2020 to encourage more housing. While numerous applicants had gone through the pre-screening process for their projects, most ultimately refrained from advancing their proposals. The only exception is Smith Development, which last December filed a formal application for a mixed-use complex at 660 University Ave.

Smith had recently revised the plans for the four-story project, which now consists of office space on the ground floor at 65 residential units on the three upper floors. The application is currently being reviewed by the city's Department of Planning and Development Services.

Comments

M
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2022 at 4:29 am
M, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 4:29 am

We need the housing, and I support high-density, but any way to give this building some character?


HM
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:16 am
HM, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:16 am

The one bedrooms are bigger and more expensive than the two bedroom units?


Gennady Sheyner
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:20 am
Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:20 am

@HM. Thanks for the catch and sorry for the error, which has been corrected.


I can't breathe pollution
Registered user
Greenmeadow
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:37 am
I can't breathe pollution, Greenmeadow
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 8:37 am

These guys always complain that we won't approve their projects- it's because they don't meet our standards! We have very wise, environmentally friendly building limits set in place. Follow them, and your project will be approved! Or you could spend years and years buying off Sacramento so they rip away our rights to govern ourselves and our city (looking at you Toni Atkins)


stephenlevy
Registered user
University South
on Jul 6, 2022 at 9:59 am
stephenlevy, University South
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 9:59 am

Gennady,

I believe the proposal includes 20% or 4 units of BMR for sale housing.

Is this correct? Are there any details on the BMR units ?

Steve


Shirley 'Mac'
Registered user
Barron Park
on Jul 6, 2022 at 10:35 am
Shirley 'Mac', Barron Park
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 10:35 am

The parking lot is always full, where are shoppers suppose to park for T & C with the new housing. Hope it doesn't replace the car wash. Best available currently in our area.


stephenlevy
Registered user
University South
on Jul 6, 2022 at 10:38 am
stephenlevy, University South
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 10:38 am



The proposed housing is not in T&C. It is between the Opportunity Center and PAMF


Gennady Sheyner
Registered user
Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
on Jul 6, 2022 at 10:42 am
Gennady Sheyner, Palo Alto Weekly staff writer
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 10:42 am

@StevenLevy,

You are correct in that four units would be offered at BMR, though the applicant does not specify whether these would be sold or rented. The letter from the applicant states that "20% of units will be sold or rented as BMR units. Pricing for Below Market Rate units shall be established by the Director of Planning & Development Services in accordance with the City’s website."


SusanB
Registered user
Professorville
on Jul 6, 2022 at 11:06 am
SusanB, Professorville
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 11:06 am

The article refers to location as "currently a parking lot". There is a fenced off portion of the T&C parking lot on Encina Ave side that, in my understanding, is separately owned from T&C. That appears to be the location of the project. It would most certainly be close to, tower over, and be inconsistent with the architecture of T&C.


stephen levy
Registered user
University South
on Jul 6, 2022 at 11:46 am
stephen levy, University South
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 11:46 am

If you read the article and look at a map, the proposed housing is on the same side of Encina as the Opportunity Center that also slightly exceeds 50 ft. They are across a street and T&C parking lot from any buildings. Go to T& C and see if you think the Opportunity Center is intrusive on T& C.


mjh
Registered user
College Terrace
on Jul 6, 2022 at 1:41 pm
mjh, College Terrace
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 1:41 pm

@Steve, What map are you looking at that shows the even Encina Avenue numbers on the same side as the Opportunity Center? According to Google Maps the even numbers are on the same side of Encina Avenue as Town and Country.

Or do you think the article got the wrong street number?


Allen Akin
Registered user
Professorville
on Jul 6, 2022 at 3:58 pm
Allen Akin, Professorville
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 3:58 pm

If you check the Planning Department documents, you can see that the project occupies some of the existing T&C parking lot on the "south" side of Encina, opposite several PAMF buildings and down the street from the Opportunity Center.

Our planning website is difficult to use (I don't see a simple way to post a link to the project files), but you should be able to find the documents here: Web Link Click the "Record Info" drop down menu, select "Attachments", and you'll get a list of PDF files. The overview is called "C1_70 Encina PLAN.pdf"


Allan
Registered user
Old Palo Alto
on Jul 6, 2022 at 11:07 pm
Allan, Old Palo Alto
Registered user
on Jul 6, 2022 at 11:07 pm

Thank you Allen Akin for the link. The 50+ foot high Encina building covers about 55 parking spaces in the present T&C lot, and is a driveway width (about 10 feet) from the existing T&C buildings! Good bye T&C parking (and charm).


Pops9
Registered user
Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 7, 2022 at 9:44 am
Pops9, Duveneck/St. Francis
Registered user
on Jul 7, 2022 at 9:44 am

T&C charm? Hard to say that side of T&C has any charm. The housing would be close to the train and shopping. If people really care about housing and environmental factors (walk to shop, walk to train, walk to restaurants, condos aren't towering over single family homes), this site is about as good as it gets. If T&C is leasing some of the land for parking, T&C should have bought the land to preserve the parking spots.


Grew Up Here
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 10, 2022 at 3:44 pm
Grew Up Here, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Jul 10, 2022 at 3:44 pm

Glad my last child just graduated from Paly. With all the condos being built in Palo Alto, the traffic will be horrendous.


stephen levy
Registered user
University South
on Jul 12, 2022 at 1:53 pm
stephen levy, University South
Registered user
on Jul 12, 2022 at 1:53 pm

The parking spaces owned by the project proposer have been fenced off for quite a while. I have not heard complaints about lack of parking.

I went there yesterday at busy lunch time and there were lots of diners (great) and not all the parking was full.

As to obstructing the view, one that is simply not true and two, this is a shopping center. I have not heard anyone complain that there are large buildings at Stanford shopping center.

It seems strange to complain about housing next to a shopping center, a major medical facility, a Caltrain station, ECR bus lines and near Stanford.

People are in stores or eating. I walked up and down the nearest aisle and could not see anything but what was in front of me.



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