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Condo project could test City Council's appetite for housing on San Antonio

Proposal would bring 75 dwellings to commercial site

The Palo Alto City Council will review a proposal for 75 condominiums at 800 San Antonio Road on Aug. 15, 2022. Rendering courtesy Lowney Architecture.

A commercial site on San Antonio Road would be transformed into a residential community with 75 condominiums under a proposal that the Palo Alto City Council is set to review on Aug. 15.

The plan is being proposed by Yorke Lee of TS800 SA LLC, a Saratoga-based limited liability corporation. If approved, the project at 800 San Antonio Road, near Leghorn Street, would be located next to the site of another residential community that the council had recently approved: a 102-apartment building at 788 San Antonio Road that received the green light in November 2020.

Both projects are testing the council's recent commitment to bringing more housing to San Antonio and nearby roads that have traditionally been dominated by commercial and industrial uses. The conversion of industrial and manufacturing zones on the southern edge of the city into residential communities is one of the key strategies that the council is pursuing as part of its plan to meet a state mandate for 6,086 new housing units between 2023 and 2031.

Unlike the prior San Antonio project, the new condominium proposal is banking on the "planned housing zone," which allows residential developers and the city to negotiate over development standards such as height, density and parking. And unlike other recent condominium proposals such as 2850 W. Bayshore Road and 200 Portage Ave., this one is not subject to state streamlining rules. Because this is a "planned zoning" project that doesn't meet existing standards, the council will have full discretion to request modifications or deny the project when it holds its preliminary review on Aug. 15.

If the council gives the proposal a favorable review, the applicant will have the option of filing a formal application, which would then be vetted by planning staff the Planning and Transportation Commission before returning to the council for formal approval.

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If approved, the condominium project would take over a 0.87-acre site that currently includes the Body Kneads Day Spa and Sequoia Academy, which provides tutoring and preparatory courses to students. With a height of 60 feet, the five-story building would exceed the city's typical 50-foot height limit. It would have to designate at least 15 units as affordable housing, though the application did not specify the level of affordability at which these units would be offered.

The project would also deviate from other zoning standards, including density and lot coverage. The developer is requesting a floor area ratio of 2.99, while city code typically allows floor area ratio 0.6 for exclusively residential project, according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. It is seeking 68% lot coverage where 50% is normally allowed. And its density of 75 dwellings at a 0.87-acre site far exceeds what would typically be allowed in a multifamily residential zone, which would be 26 units in an RM-30 zone.

The project is one of several recent proposals to rely on the "planned housing zone," which the council introduced in 2020 but which to date has not led to any approved developments. In recent months, developers have proposed using the zoning designations to build housing projects at current sites of Country Inn Motel at 4345 El Camino Real; at Creekside Inn at 3400 El Camino Real; and at 70 Encina Ave., near Town & Country Village. None of these projects have been reviewed by the council to date.

A report from planning staff suggests that the council's feedback on the San Antonio proposal could influence other developers. It notes that pre-screening reviews are intended to solicit early feedback and that no formal actions would be taken.

"That said, there is interest among other home builders and property owners to learn of the Council's initial reaction to the subject request, which may influence the filing of future prescreening requests," the report states.

This map shows housing projects that have been proposed (in purple) and approved (in yellow) in Palo Alto. Yellow icons indicate inactive proposals. Map by Jamey Padojino.

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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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Condo project could test City Council's appetite for housing on San Antonio

Proposal would bring 75 dwellings to commercial site

by / Palo Alto Weekly

Uploaded: Fri, Aug 5, 2022, 9:48 am

A commercial site on San Antonio Road would be transformed into a residential community with 75 condominiums under a proposal that the Palo Alto City Council is set to review on Aug. 15.

The plan is being proposed by Yorke Lee of TS800 SA LLC, a Saratoga-based limited liability corporation. If approved, the project at 800 San Antonio Road, near Leghorn Street, would be located next to the site of another residential community that the council had recently approved: a 102-apartment building at 788 San Antonio Road that received the green light in November 2020.

Both projects are testing the council's recent commitment to bringing more housing to San Antonio and nearby roads that have traditionally been dominated by commercial and industrial uses. The conversion of industrial and manufacturing zones on the southern edge of the city into residential communities is one of the key strategies that the council is pursuing as part of its plan to meet a state mandate for 6,086 new housing units between 2023 and 2031.

Unlike the prior San Antonio project, the new condominium proposal is banking on the "planned housing zone," which allows residential developers and the city to negotiate over development standards such as height, density and parking. And unlike other recent condominium proposals such as 2850 W. Bayshore Road and 200 Portage Ave., this one is not subject to state streamlining rules. Because this is a "planned zoning" project that doesn't meet existing standards, the council will have full discretion to request modifications or deny the project when it holds its preliminary review on Aug. 15.

If the council gives the proposal a favorable review, the applicant will have the option of filing a formal application, which would then be vetted by planning staff the Planning and Transportation Commission before returning to the council for formal approval.

If approved, the condominium project would take over a 0.87-acre site that currently includes the Body Kneads Day Spa and Sequoia Academy, which provides tutoring and preparatory courses to students. With a height of 60 feet, the five-story building would exceed the city's typical 50-foot height limit. It would have to designate at least 15 units as affordable housing, though the application did not specify the level of affordability at which these units would be offered.

The project would also deviate from other zoning standards, including density and lot coverage. The developer is requesting a floor area ratio of 2.99, while city code typically allows floor area ratio 0.6 for exclusively residential project, according to a report from the Department of Planning and Community Environment. It is seeking 68% lot coverage where 50% is normally allowed. And its density of 75 dwellings at a 0.87-acre site far exceeds what would typically be allowed in a multifamily residential zone, which would be 26 units in an RM-30 zone.

The project is one of several recent proposals to rely on the "planned housing zone," which the council introduced in 2020 but which to date has not led to any approved developments. In recent months, developers have proposed using the zoning designations to build housing projects at current sites of Country Inn Motel at 4345 El Camino Real; at Creekside Inn at 3400 El Camino Real; and at 70 Encina Ave., near Town & Country Village. None of these projects have been reviewed by the council to date.

A report from planning staff suggests that the council's feedback on the San Antonio proposal could influence other developers. It notes that pre-screening reviews are intended to solicit early feedback and that no formal actions would be taken.

"That said, there is interest among other home builders and property owners to learn of the Council's initial reaction to the subject request, which may influence the filing of future prescreening requests," the report states.

Comments

Reggie Washington
Registered user
another community
on Aug 5, 2022 at 3:36 pm
Reggie Washington, another community
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2022 at 3:36 pm

The section of San Antonio Road that runs from 101 to Central Expressway is an ideal area for high-rise condo developments.


Online Name
Registered user
Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 5, 2022 at 5:09 pm
Online Name, Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2022 at 5:09 pm

"With a height of 60 feet, the five-story building would exceed the city's typical 50-foot height limit. It would have to designate at least 15 units as affordable housing, though the application did not specify the level of affordability at which these units would be offered."

What's the price of the regular market rate condos and are the 15 affordable BMR condos only slightly less than the market rate ones? Can the "poor" really afford to buy ANY condo in Palo Alto when the average price is a million to $3 million?


Josh Lancaster
Registered user
Woodside
on Aug 5, 2022 at 5:11 pm
Josh Lancaster, Woodside
Registered user
on Aug 5, 2022 at 5:11 pm

San Antonio Road from ECR to Central Expressway is a far cry from the old days when it was a mid-sized shopping center with lots of available parking.

Progress and housing needs have justified the over-development of the area and the high-rise mixed-use buildings remind me of Santana Square.

Continuing this kind of development along ECR from Monroe to Barron Park will improve the overall appearance of these areas.


Citizen
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2022 at 2:05 am
Citizen, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 2:05 am

Says the guy in Woodside. Give me a break.

The pandemic should have changed how we think about development. Continue down the path of mindless overdevelopment and we could end up like SF the next time there is a bump in the road. Destroying quality of life means people will leave suddenly without putting down deep roots, leaving lots of problems behind and less tax base to pay for it.

I’m not speaking of these projects I don’t know if they’re good or bad. I just wish I could see evidence of post pandemic soul searching.


Brett Lehr
Registered user
Portola Valley
on Aug 7, 2022 at 7:20 am
Brett Lehr, Portola Valley
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 7:20 am

Palo Alto is already overdeveloped and so it really doesn't matter if more condensed housing is added to the city's floorplan.

People (for some reason) still want to reside in Palo Alto and further accomodating them via additional housing options has become an ongoing priority for civic leaders and aspiring developers.

"If you build it (i.e. more high-rise living complexes), he/she/they will come".

There is no going back...Palo Alto is what is is.


Trey Blackburn
Registered user
Midtown
on Aug 7, 2022 at 8:12 am
Trey Blackburn, Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 8:12 am

Building more condos in Palo Alto would be a vast improvement over the Brown and Kaufman ratrap (aka house) that we rent for $3750/month.

A mixed-use arrangement with condos situated above a small street level grocery store, UPS/Fed Ex outlet, and a coffee shop would be ideal.

An underground garage could easily be accommodated by just digging deeper.

Palo Alto is becoming a compacted city and as others have mentioned, the southern corridor along El Camino Real provides an ideal location for such an endeavor.


Bystander
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 7, 2022 at 12:57 pm
Bystander, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 12:57 pm

Any condo is just as likely to be taken over by rats as any house. I suggest if someone renting a single family home and discovers rats, they should look around the property to see if they are doing anything to encourage the vermin invasion. Rats look for easy food supply and poorly stored food, leaving leaving litter around, or not maintaining garbage and living areas can attract vermin.


Dan Crockett
Registered user
Menlo Park
on Aug 7, 2022 at 3:13 pm
Dan Crockett, Menlo Park
Registered user
on Aug 7, 2022 at 3:13 pm

One way to keep soaring residential property costs down in Palo Alto would be to tear down ALL of the mundane commercial buildings along ECR (including the motels) and build mid-sized houses all along the boulevard.

It might look bizarre but somebody would buy them.


Chris
Registered user
Charleston Meadows
on Aug 10, 2022 at 8:38 am
Chris, Charleston Meadows
Registered user
on Aug 10, 2022 at 8:38 am

The water table is ten feet down. That's why we have these extremely wise building limits in place. Digging underground here is akin to filling in the bay. There is a river of water you would literally be damming if you built this project.
People need air and plants. Otherwise, they develop cancer, Alzheimer's, and other diseases. As my mother died from cancer living in this area, and several of my friend's mother's have had strokes recently, I know firsthand the cost of shortsighted policies


BG
Registered user
South of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2022 at 3:07 pm
BG, South of Midtown
Registered user
on Aug 15, 2022 at 3:07 pm

Requesting to change building zones is how developers make big $s at the expense of the residents of Palo Alto, who are in effect subsidizing this give-away through increased traffic jams, over-crowded parks, and in this case fewer commercial services being made available.

Approving this proposal is extremely poor public policy.

Hopefully the council has the backbone to represent the citizens of PA and shoot this proposal down.


resident3
Registered user
Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 15, 2022 at 3:44 pm
resident3, Another Palo Alto neighborhood
Registered user
on Aug 15, 2022 at 3:44 pm

BG,

"Requesting to change building zones is how developers make big $s at the expense of the residents of Palo Alto, who are in effect subsidizing this give-away through increased traffic jams, over-crowded parks, and in this case fewer commercial services being made available."

Changing building zones is free money to developments that in many ways serve the business lobby. A lobby that Council gives into in every possible way, based on threats. Making everything for free for everyone else and increasing costs to locals I agree is extremely poor public policy.

In a thread about recent crime, an elderly person said he doesn't dare go downtown. Added costs for safety, diminishing quality of life for everyone, and piecemeal giveaways to speculators can't be good.


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