Milpitas Planning Commission narrowly backs 84 below-market apartments – Silicon Valley

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MILPITAS – Despite concerns about the bonuses and incentives required by the state for the developer, a proposal to build 84 apartments near BART that would all be priced below the market rate is submitted to city council in early August for approval potential final.

The project narrowly won the support of the Milpitas Planning Commission at the June 30 meeting, when three commissioners voted in favor, two voted against and two abstained.

The split was in part due to the fact that some town planning commissioners bristled at the idea of ​​making concessions and exceptions to development standards, such as reducing the minimum number of parking spaces, to which city ​​staff said the developer was entitled under state laws designed to encourage construction of affordable housing. .

“In good conscience, I just cannot endorse this,” Commissioner Larry Ciardella said at the meeting. “I know it’s a state warrant, but it doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Pacific West Communities, an Idaho-based developer, is proposing to build the resort on a 1.11-acre site at 308 Sango Ct., An area near BART and other public transportation that currently has many older industrial buildings. , but where the city since 2008 has worked to foster “a vibrant transit-oriented community with a mix of housing, retail, entertainment and employment.”

To make room for the apartments, the developer would need to demolish a 14,800 square foot two-story industrial building.

Reports from the city have indicated that 51 of the apartments will be reserved for people earning between around 40% and 60% of the region’s median income, and 33 of the units will be reserved for people earning between 80 and 120% of the median income, according to city staff. There would be a manager unit that was not booked as affordable.

For a family of four, the current median income in Santa Clara County is around $ 151,000, according to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development.

City staff recommended that the developer receive several concessions and waivers, based on state law, which cannot be refused unless they create health and safety risks or damage property. historical, according to city reports.

Instead of the 140 total parking spaces required by the city for an 85-unit building, the developer will include 48 parking spaces in the building’s garage.

Although city codes require a balcony on every unit, the developer has offered to build them for just 10 units in order to save on costs, although there is a private yard for residents. Construction of the building will be modular: the apartments would be built off-site and hoisted into place by a crane, city staff said.

“The state is trying to make it easier to build more affordable housing by making it less expensive, in this case by reducing parking, and the other concessions have the same goals,” planning director Ned Thomas told the commission.

But some commissioners were not satisfied with this reasoning.

“I feel like affordable housing is what we need in Milpitas, but for some reason it feels like this project is being forced into a place that just doesn’t work,” said the Commissioner Steve Belong.

He also said the developer appeared to be trying to cut a lot of costs, and Belong appeared to dispute that the developer expects to receive around $ 25 million in government bonds to build the roughly $ 45 million project. dollars, although his biggest problem is parking.

“It looks like there will be a lot of residents just arguing over parking,” he said.

“I, too, wish everyone would use public transport, but the reality is that most people have at least one car, and when you talk about family units here, there will probably be multiple cars, and I’m planning that parking will be a problem in this small street.

Mercedes Commissioners Albana and Belong both abstained in the vote on parking issues, while Vice President Bill Chuan and Ciardella voted against the project. President Steve Tao and Commissioners Tim Alcorn and Alexander Galang voted in favor.

Albana said the decision was “difficult”. Tao said he was “troubled by the state’s mandate,” but ultimately admitted that the commission could not override state law. “It is what it is,” he said.

The total number of apartments is also affected by state incentives. The city’s zoning only allows up to 60 units per acre in the area, but since the project includes all affordable units, it is eligible for an increase of up to 50% in the number of units, due state law that allows density premiums for projects below market rates.

According to municipal staff reports, the total of 85 units represents a density increase of 27%.

The developer would normally also be required to install or commission a public art project worth around $ 250,000 based on the cost of the project, according to city staff, but Pacific West has also requested a waiver to the city to avoid paying these fees or building the art.

Representatives of the developer said they would construct a “bright yellow canopy integrated into the building as a public work of art,” city planner Michael Fossati said at the meeting, although city reports indicated that it wouldn’t be worth more than $ 10,000.

But the most pressing concern for many commissioners seemed to be the reduction in parking spaces.

“More than 47 people are going to have cars. If they have to go to the grocery store and it’s across town, or Walmart, how are they going to get there? »Ciardella said, voting against the project. “I’m going to be on the phone with our state officials tomorrow because it’s just unreasonable.”


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