The housing complex would provide apartments for residents who make between 30% of area median income and 50% of area median income, according to the application. While the exact affordability mix has yet to be determined, Charity Housing said the average affordability level is expected to be at 40% of area median income.
The community space would include a community room with a kitchen that could be used for social gatherings, a pantry to store and stage food that would be provided in partnership with organizations like Second Harvest Food Bank, a laundry room and offices for on-site social service providers.
Because the project provides affordable housing, it is entitled to obtain numerous concessions under the state density bonus law. The building would occupy 74% of the project site, well above the 50% threshold that the zoning code would typically allow. And it would not meet the city's requirement of providing 150 square feet of usable open space per dwelling.
Furthermore, because the project is within half a mile of a major transit stop, it qualifies for unlimited density under state law.
The application comes at a time when the city has been struggling to make inroads in meeting its own — as well as regional — targets for affordable housing. While Santa Clara County has spearheaded the development of below-market-rate projects at 231 Grant Ave., designated for teachers, and 525 E. Charleston Road, the city's only major 100% affordable-housing development in recent years has been Wilton Court, a 59-apartment complex at 3705 El Camino Real that the council approved in 2019 and that is now under construction.
The city's struggles on affordable housing were highlighted in a recent Santa Clara County Civil Grand Jury Report, which compared Palo Alto's progress on housing development to that of Mountain View. The grand jury recommended that Palo Alto speed up its planning process, identify additional funding mechanisms to support affordable housing and explore the creation of "area plans," vision documents that target particular areas of the cities and typically involve significant zoning changes and redevelopments that align with the city's goals.
The shortage for residents in the "low income" and "very low income" categories have been particularly acute in Palo Alto. The grand jury noted that the city approved just 80 residences for these income categories between 2015 and 2019, which represents just 7% of its obligations under the Regional Housing Needs Allocation process.
Project plans for 3001 El Camino Real show an S-shaped building with courtyards in the front and the back of the development. The building's height would not exceed 60 feet, according to the application, and it would provide a "pedestrian-scale environment in keeping with the adjacent neighborhood," the application states.
It would also provide 106 parking spaces in its garage through use of parking lifts as well 142 bicycle parking spaces, according to the application.
This isn't the first time that the city is considering adding residences to the former Mike's Bikes site, which today consists of two unoccupied commercial buildings and a parking lot. In 2017, The Sobrato Organization proposed building 50 apartments and nearly 2,000 square feet of retail space at the site, though it later withdrew its proposal.
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