With Tuesday's approval, William Lyons Homes is expected to close escrow on the property in October. Demolition is set to begin in November and could take eight months, beginning with two months of asbestos and tree removal. To be demolished is a 520,000-square-foot commercial building, once home to the region's first indoor mall and later converted to offices used by Hewlett Packard.
The five council members who were present voted unanimously to approve the planned community permits for the project. Along with council members John Inks and Ronit Bryant, City Manager Daniel Rich left the dais, saying that stock he owns presented a "potential" conflict of interest. He recused himself a second time later in the evening when the council voted on a new ordinance for cell antennas requested by AT&T.
Like a few previous council meetings on Mayfield, the former neighborhood opposition and the developer were full of praise for everyone involved. No critical words were spoken, a stark contrast to meetings several years ago at which dozens of angry neighbors turned out to harshly criticize the project.
"We've learned a way to work with developers which is mutually supportive" said Wouter Suverkropp, Monta Loma Neighborhood Association president. He said he was giving his personal opinion and did not have an approved statement from his board.
A project which once included numerous four- and five-story condo buildings for a total of 436 units is now no taller than three stories throughout the project, with traditional looking two-story single-family homes around the perimeter of the site to provide a buffer to the surrounding neighborhood. The condos have a modern, squared-off look with red, white, brown and blue paint colors.
The project includes new park space amounting to 3.62 acres in two parks. Neighbors who have complained about a lack of park space in their neighborhood will have access to the parks through a public pedestrian promenade.
A new pedestrian tunnel under Central Expressway to the San Antonio train station, costing as much as $6 million, will also be paid for by the developer, along with a "prepayment" of maintenance funds for the tunnel, according to a city staff report.
"To have (neighbors) come forward to say they are happy with the project means a lot," said Mayor Jac Siegel, who strongly opposed iterations of the higher-density project created several years ago by another developer.
A deal was made between Hewlett Packard and developers Summit Land Partners and William Lyon Homes after another developer, Toll Brothers, could not negotiate a deal to purchase the property after spending several years obtaining approval of the 436-unit version of the project. The new developers decided not to build the larger project, and their smaller proposal was welcomed by neighbors.
If homes sell for an average of $913,000, the city will receive an estimated $7 million in below market rate housing fees paid by the developer, money which is used to subsidize affordable housing in the city. Property tax revenue for the city would increase by $154,000 to $377,000 for the entire 27-acre property, which would be valued at an estimated $236 million once built.
The council also approved a permit to remove 163 heritage trees. Another 76 coast redwoods will be removed and replanted, including 21 redwoods that would have required a larger retaining wall at the edge of one of the parks under the original Toll Brothers plan. The trees will be removed and replanted once the soil is lowered to the same height as the rest of the landscape. Hundreds of smaller trees will be removed and replaced by a larger number of new trees.