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‘A project with potential’: Planning Commission gives props to Lyell Street developers’ plans

140 Lyell
Ryan Molinari/Special to the Town Crier
An older home on Lydell Street in Los Altos sits at the site of a proposed two-story, 5-unit development.

The Los Altos Planning Commission last week praised the general design of a proposed two-story, five-unit condominium complex at 140 Lyell St. 

Commissioners considered an early-stage presentation by development team member Samir Sharma at their June 4 online study session. The proposed project, located in a zoning district previously targeted by a former Los Altos City Council for higher density, requires Sharma and his team to apply for maximum density, meaning the developers could ask for a density bonus of up to three concessions. Density bonuses allow developers to secure building concessions such as increased height or reduced parking if they provide affordable housing units or public space in their projects. Sharma has asked for no variances but promised that one of the five 1,400-square-foot units would be offered at a below-market rate at the “very low” level.

The house currently at 140 Lyell sits between two other multi-family residences and is near multiple single-family residences.

Sharma said he and his fellow developers and architect Rick Hartman held a neighborhood outreach meeting May 14 that five neighbors attended. A few opposed the project’s proposed 30-foot height and the lack of sidewalk connectivity. After the meeting, neighbors contacted the city with privacy concerns because of its second-story windows. The design is being adjusted to address the objections, Sharma said.

The commissioners, receptive to the project, said they appreciated that five dwelling units would occupy a site where one currently exists. Aside from a few minor complaints, this is a “project with potential,” Commissioner Sally Meadows said.

“This is an example of where the city made a policy decision that we wanted more housing in this area,” Commissioner Ronit Bodner added. “This just shows how long it actually takes for those decisions to actually come to fruition.”

Guido Persicone, the city’s planning services manager assigned to the project, will work with Sharma to address residents’ concerns before submitting a formal application for the project.

Delayed again

The Planning Commission was scheduled to discuss and finalize its recommendations for an amendment to the city’s zoning ordinance regulating accessory dwelling units, but a lack of time to prepare between city and state meetings led to another postponement. The matter has come before the commission four times in the past few months.

Persicone, who has led the city’s effort to align the city’s ADU standards with the state’s, said he and his colleagues need more time to revise the proposed changes to the ordinance.

“Theoretically we could have brought back some of the changes, but (staff decided) we should have one final walk-through,” he said of the delay. “Hopefully, the fifth time is a charm with the commission.”

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