Following is an open letter to the Los Altos City Council.
The Los Altos Affordable Housing Alliance is committed to Los Altos completing a housing element that can achieve state approval. We read the city’s recently submitted Regional Housing Needs Allocation appeal letter with interest.
We see in it compelling evidence that we can indeed achieve our RHNA numbers for the upcoming 2023-2031 RHNA cycle. We are confident Los Altos can resolve the issues brought up in the letter and create a successful housing element.
Accessory dwelling units are a critical first step in meeting our upcoming RHNA obligations. The letter pointed out that while many ADUs are being built in Los Altos, they might not be used for housing. This is unfortunate for our housing stock, but irrelevant for RHNA purposes. Each ADU counts for RHNA, whether it is rented to a low-income tenant, used for a pool house or home office, or used for any other purpose.
The letter says that upzoning El Camino Real and the downtown periphery resulted in a number of new projects currently in planning, in construction or recently built. This is great news: We now know that when we upzone areas for multifamily housing, developers step up to build it.
At a guess, approximately 200 units now in the planning process will eventually get their building permits in 2023 or later and will count for the 2023-2031 RHNA cycle we’re now planning for – more great news! Furthermore, the development at 5150 El Camino Real should give us another 196 units toward our RHNA numbers.
With ADUs and the multifamily approval pipeline, we can reasonably expect some 600-800 housing units out of our total RHNA of 1,958. In other words, we are starting the RHNA process with a third of our goal already in sight. Our task will be to find areas for the remaining 1,100 to 1,300 units, or possibly more. Following
are some suggestions of places to look at for upzoning for housing, based on the encouraging results of our previous upzoning.
• The east side of San Antonio Road between Foothill Expressway and the library. These are big parcels, suitable for big projects, whether for-profit, mixed-use projects with offices and housing or all-affordable projects.
• Loyola Corners. This is an area ripe for an upgrade.
• The downtown parking plazas. The Downtown Vision plan calls for affordable housing in one of the plazas. Let’s implement this plan.
• Downtown Los Altos. Allowing housing worked so well on First Street. Let’s allow it throughout downtown. Many of the parcels are small, but as the developers on First Street and the Packard Foundation have demonstrated, parcels can be aggregated.
• The area around Lucky Supermarket. As with Loyola Corners, this is an area that could benefit from an upgrade.
These are only suggestions; there are other possible sites for housing as well, and we may be able to encourage more ADU production with streamlining programs. The Los Altos Affordable Housing Alliance does not take a position on exactly where our RHNA should be planned for, but we are confident that if the city commits to planning for the full allocation, taking into account that not all sites will be built, we can have our housing element approved and achieve our RHNA.
The RHNA appeal letter notes that Los Altos is a net provider of housing to our area. Indeed, it is. As a net provider of housing, Los Altos must commit to providing housing. We look forward to a successful housing element and the development of many homes for new residents.
Anne Paulson is a member of the Los Altos Affordable Housing Alliance.