The Los Altos City Council will decide Tuesday night the fate of a proposed condominium project at 5100 El Camino Real that more than 400 residents have petitioned against. The project has prompted at least one resident to run for a council seat this fall and was the catalyst for a review of the city's ethics code and possible changes in zoning laws.
The planning commission says the 29-unit, three-story condominium proposed for the corner of El Camino and Distel Drive, where Yamane's jewelry store is located, meets all of the city's criteria and is recommending that the council approve the project.
Neighbors in the Distel Drive-Marich Avenue area say the project is too large, too close to single family residences and will create too much traffic. They plan to halt the project in court, if necessary. They were in the process of hiring an attorney last week.
Planning Director James Walgren said he was surprised by the opposition to the project. The condominium not only meets all city guidelines, but is something that the General Plan actually encourages in the commercial thoroughfare zone along El Camino. The city updated its plan in the 1990s to specifically encourage mixed-use projects along El Camino, he said.
Resident Chris Croudace, who plans tto run for council in order to keep future developments in check, asked the council to halt the project Thursday until the city investigates proposed zoning changes on the planning commission's agenda this week that would eliminate setback protections from residential properties that share less than 8 feet of common property line with commercial developments, such as the one on El Camino.
Neighbors say that a project should have setbacks if it touches any amount of space on a residential property.
Walgren said large setbacks are required from commercial properties along El Camino when they abut residential properties. However, the city's definition of abut is when contiguous property lines abut.
Traffic is another conflict. Croudace said the city allegedly needs to complete an environmental study that addresses traffic impacts. The Marich-Distel intersection already has more than 2,700 daily car trips - the maximum acceptable traffic volume, he added.
Walgren said the proposed project is not expected to change traffic levels.
Conflict of interest
In a petition last month, neighbors asked the council to thoroughly investigate any conflict of interest by the planning commissioner who is an investor in this project. The personnel committee is scheduled to determine if there was any wrongdoing and submit a recommendation to the council Tuesday before any action on the condominium project is taken.