The Creekside Inn on El Camino Real could be torn down and replaced with two six-story buildings with a total of 382 apartments as part of a redevelopment plan the owner submitted to the city last month.
If approved, the project known as “The Residences at Matadero Creek” would be the largest yet to take advantage of a new zoning process known as “planned home zoning,” which allows residential developers to negotiate zoning exceptions in exchange for housing provision. The owner, SF Creekside LLC, is seeking exemptions from Palo Alto’s height and density regulations, as well as a reduction or elimination of impact fees that a developer would typically have to pay.
As a “planned residential zoning” project that requires a zone change to proceed, the new proposal gives city council wide discretion when it comes to requesting revisions or denying the application. The board will hold a screening hearing on the project to offer initial feedback and help the applicant determine whether to submit a formal application.
To date, most developers who have requested such a zone change have ultimately chosen not to proceed after the initial council hearing. In some cases, such as the 290-apartment complex that a developer had proposed for 3997 Fabian Way, council members argued that the project was too big and did not offer enough units below market price. A much smaller scheme, which called for 24 apartments in College Terrace, was rejected after council agreed the zoning process should never apply in areas set aside for single-family homes.
Ted O’Hanlon, the consultant representing SF Creekside LLC, hopes to have better luck with the new proposal, which would be located at 3390, 3400 and 3490 El Camino Real. In a letter he submitted as part of the bid last month, he argued the location was perfect for an apartment project, especially as it was to rezone a commercial area for residential use – a key strategy the council employs to fulfill a state mandate. for new homes. The proponent also proposes to create a winding path with rest areas that would be open to the public along Matadero Creek, which crosses the property diagonally.
The development, O’Hanlon wrote, “provides a unified and cohesive design that creates a sense of order and a desirable environment for occupants, visitors and the community.”
He also acknowledged in the letter that almost none of the projects the council had previously considered through the “planned home zoning” process had moved forward.
“The city has learned and continues to learn from these applications. However, it is time to do more than learn – the Board should encourage formal applications to be submitted that include the changes necessary to see real housing development in Palo Alto .,” O’Hanlon wrote.
In this case, the changes include exceeding the city’s 50-foot height limit to allow for the two 64-foot-tall buildings. The city should also allow a floor area ratio of 2.49, whereas current zoning allows for zoning between 0.5 and 2.0. And that should allow the developer to build at a density of 106 units per acre. Generally, the city allows residential developments to a maximum of 40 units per acre in its densest multi-family zoning district, RM-40.
The council has, however, made a few exceptions in the recent past. O’Hanlon notes that the Wilton Court project at 3703 El Camino Real has a density of 128 units per acre and that the Alta Locale project at the corner of El Camino and Page Mill Road was developed at 127 units per acre.
Unlike Wilton Court, the Creekside Inn project would not be dedicated exclusively to affordable housing. According to the application, 76 of the units would be designated for residents in the “moderate” income category: those earning between 80% and 120% of the area’s median income. The rest would be offered at market price.
The two buildings would have 44 studios, 243 one-bedroom apartments, 86 two-bedroom apartments and nine three-bedroom apartments, depending on demand.
O’Hanlon had also asked the city to waive some of the impact fees that developers are normally required to pay, including the park impact fee of $42,468 per unit. Given the high number of units in the proposed development, these costs would amount to $16.2 million. The developer is also expected to pay approximately $7 million in housing impact fees, depending on the application, notwithstanding that it provides housing.
“These are preliminary cost estimates, but they illustrate the magnitude of the costs likely to be imposed on a project of this scale that would make it impossible to provide on-site housing,” O’Hanlon wrote. “Therefore, as part of the PHZ rezoning order, Oxford is proposing to Council to support the reduction or removal of certain charges based on project considerations such as the provision of affordable housing or publicly accessible open space. .”