The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to allow two large apartment building projects to move through the city's planning process, possibly adding 535 homes to the city.
Under the proposed zoning changes, the Urban Housing Group could build a 203-unit apartment building on 2.91 acres at 2650 and 2656 West El Camino Real, near the city's western border, while on the other edge of town, at 870 East El Camino Real, the Archstone Group could build 332 apartments and 5,400 square feet of retail space on 9.7 acres.
The zoning changes were met with some consternation by Mayor Jac Siegel, who asked why the city was considering such large buildings when they would be built according to density and height limits that have only been proposed for the city's 2011-2012 General Plan, not yet approved. He also said the projects wouldn't do anything to help the fact that 42 percent of the city is rental property, which hurts the city's tax revenue.
Council member Ronit Bryant said she expected the Urban Housing Group (UHG) project near the city's western border to be a "showpiece project" as it will be near the gateway to the city from Palo Alto.
"I will expect the very best quality," she said. And that includes how well it "fits the neighborhood," she said.
The Archstone project would replace the existing 180-unit Archstone apartment complex built in the 1960s, while the UHG project replaces the San Antonio Inn, with the drawback of eliminating a source of hotel tax revenue for the city.
Designs have not been submitted for either project. But developers said both would feature a mix of one- and two-bedroom units. At the Archstone site, heights could rise as high as four stories along El Camino Real, with retail on the first story, and taper down to three stories at the rear. The density prosed is 37 units per acre for Archstone, and 70 units per acre for the UHG project. UHG did not indicate how tall its project might be.