Los Altos launches web page tracking new developments

Town Crier File Photo
The Los Altos City Council June 25 approved a 20-unit, multifamily complex at 425 First St. The city has now created a web page to track new developments.

With an increasing number of retail and housing projects planned in Los Altos, the city recently introduced a “New Development” web page to enable residents to track reviews, approvals and the status of construction.

The city’s previous efforts at community outreach on development are detailed in “Development Updates,” hard-copy documents outlining each project’s progression through the city’s planning process along with details on type of use, the stage of the project and who the applicant is. Two such updates have been released in 2019, one in March and another in June.

With the new online setup, residents can click links for each property and review elements of the plans including the design, proposed materials and number of affordable housing units offered.

As of the Town Crier’s Monday press deadline, nine proposals and one code amendment were undergoing commission or council review, four proposals had been approved (including the new Hillview Community Center) and four proposals had turned into developments under construction.

Housing in the works

Most recently, the Los Altos City Council June 25 approved a 20-unit, multifamily complex at 425 First St. The three-story building will feature two levels of underground parking. Developer Jeff Warmoth requested no incentives or waivers, despite offering three below-market-rate units (two moderate income and one low income).

The next housing development on the council’s agenda is 385-389 First St., a multiuse complex with nearly 3,000 square feet of office space for applicant Steve Johnson’s company, SJR Ventures, and 10 condominium units. The proposed design, set for review Tuesday, after the Town Crier’s press deadline, includes two levels of underground parking and a rooftop deck. In exchange for offering one moderate-income unit, Johnson and his team requested an increase in the building’s allowed height and a waiver to accommodate an elevator tower that rises above the rooftop deck.

In the development pipeline are 444-450 First St. and 4898 El Camino Real, both recommended for approval by the city’s Complete Streets Commission at its June 26 meeting.

444-450 First St., proposed by 5150 El Camino Real’s Dutchints Development LLC, boasts four stories of housing with one level of underground parking. The 26 housing units include four deemed “affordable” – income yet to be designated. In return for the affordable units, the developer is requesting an increase in the building’s height that exceeds city code.

Mircea Voskerician, developer of the 4846/4856 El Camino Real project, is proposing 21 units across five stories of multifamily housing at 4898 El Camino Real. If approved, the building would include two levels of underground parking. In return for four affordable housing units (two moderate income and two very low income), Voskerician is requesting a standard 35 percent density bonus, an incentive for increased height and a waiver to allow a taller elevator tower.

The First Street development is set to advance to the Planning Commission for review at a date to be determined later in the summer. The El Camino Real complex is scheduled for an Aug. 1 Planning Commission review.

Bigger picture

The projects proposed, approved and already under construction will boost the city’s affordable housing supply, a requirement enforced by the state.

In September 2018, the previous council voted to increase the mandated percentage of the amount of development in any given complex that must be affordable from 10% to 15%. The target applies to both rental and ownership developments that include five or more new dwelling units. The change was a part of a larger road map in the city’s Housing Element, a document regulated by the California Department of Housing and Community Development to ensure that Los Altos is on track to meet its Regional Housing Need Allocation (RHNA). Each RHNA cycle covers an eight-year period of growth.

At the time of the modification, city staff told the council that the city had less than 10% of the below-market-rate units necessary to meet the 2015-2023 RHNA cycle.

According to annual reports the Town Crier obtained through a public records request, the city approved two very-low-income, 28 low-income, two moderate-income and 428 above-moderate-income units between 2015 and 2018. Speaking in percentages, this means the city met approximately 1% of its very-low-income requirement, 28% of its low-income requirement, 2% of its moderate-income requirement and exceeded the above-moderate-income mandate three times over.

The city has five years left in the cycle – if including 2019, already halfway complete – to build the remaining 167 very-low-income units, 71 low-income units and 110 moderate-income units required through state law.

The council has explored the possibility of participating in an RHNA subregion through the Cities Association of Santa Clara County. Collaborating in the group would give the city the option of hammering out a deal with surrounding cities to absorb some of their required units and build them outside of Los Altos. However, subregions for the current cycle have long been in place; Los Altos would have to wait until the 2023-2031 cycle to participate.

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