Business & Real Estate

Local officials discuss Los Altos' first all-affordable housing project

Distel
Eric He/Town Crier
The city of Los Altos plans to partner with Santa Clara County to redevelop a property currently owned by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District into a 90-unit affordable housing project.

An all-affordable housing project in Los Altos, the first in the city’s history, is projected to break ground by the end of next year.

At a community meeting Jan. 27, officials from the city and Santa Clara County presented a brief overview of the proposed development – which could contain as many as 90 new units – and took questions from the public.

The project, located at 330 Distel Circle, will be a joint undertaking by the city and county because the county is purchasing the property from the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District using funds from Measure A, a 2016 ballot initiative that provided $950 million for the county to partner with cities on affordable housing projects.

In October, the Los Altos City Council agreed to a memorandum of understanding with the county and to waive $4.6 million in park in-lieu and traffic impact fees to leverage costs for the project.

While some members of the public expressed concern about traffic and noise, many were supportive of the effort to provide more affordable housing in Los Altos, where high property rates have priced out many who work in the city, such as teachers, first responders and grocery store employees. Los Altos is also far behind on reaching state-mandated goals for planning for affordable housing units, and would get credit toward those figures if the project comes to fruition.

‘Appealing’ site

Consuelo Hernandez, acting director of the county’s Office of Supportive Housing, said the project checked many boxes in what the county is looking for in potential sites to build affordable housing. The development will be located just off El Camino Real, in close proximity to public transit and other services, and it straddles the border between Los Altos and Mountain
View.

“If we had a metric or a score, this site does very well from that perspective,” Hernandez said. “From a financing perspective, it scores very well with tax credits. And really it’s so close in proximity to two cities. It’s an area the county is particularly interested in developing. That makes it very appealing.”

Jon Biggs, the community development director for Los Altos, agreed, calling the site a “rare circumstance where a lot of opportunities are presenting themselves.”

“We have the county and city partnering together to see some affordable housing created, and it’s one of those situations where we have an idea, we have leadership and we have desire to provide affordable housing,” Biggs said. “All of those combinations of factors really makes this the key reason why this is a good site for providing affordable housing to the community.”

In response to a concern raised over the height of the building, Biggs said he didn’t anticipate the development being more than five stories tall. The site area is 38,000 square feet, or 0.87 acres. While Los Altos’ city code limits the maximum number of dwelling units per acre to 38, Biggs said the city plans to present the developer with density bonus ordinance opportunities that could increase the number of units on the site to 90.

The developer is expected to be selected at the end of the month. The county issued an offer request to 12 pre-selected developers in December and proposals were due Thursday.

Last week’s meeting was the first of two virtual community listening sessions. The second is scheduled Feb. 11.

I encourage residents to join us at our community meeting so that we can hear what they would like to see in our city’s first 100% affordable home development,” Mayor Neysa Fligor said. “This is a wonderful opportunity for our community, and we want to make sure our residents’ ideas and concerns are considered as part of the final proposal.”

Timeline

According to a project timeline presented at the meeting, conceptual plans would be submitted by July, followed by a third community meeting and a Planning Commission study session before the application would be sent by September. The Los Altos City Council would conduct a public hearing in March 2022, paving the way for ground to break by December 2022 and the first residents to move in by 2025.

Los Altos will take the lead on the project, with the city council holding final authority over approving the developer’s application and sending it back for modifications.

One overarching goal is for the project to be able to give opportunities for those who work in Los Altos but cannot afford to live in the city the chance to obtain below-market-rate housing.

“We’re talking about people who work in stores, or in shops; people who work in schools; people who do all kinds of work in the service sector,” said Tom Myers, executive director of Community Services Agency. “Jobs in other communities that might be able to qualify for market-rate housing, but in this environment don’t necessarily – those are the kinds of income levels we’re talking about.”

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