In the latest growth spurt for the rapidly evolving San Antonio neighborhood, the Mountain View City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday to approve a six-story condo project next door to some of the city's largest office and housing developments.
The 44-unit project on Fayette Drive brings much-desired ownership housing to the city on a bite-sized property -- only two-thirds of an acre -- nearby a crush of new development in Mountain View. Its neighbors include a recently completed 583-unit apartment complex and a second, 632-unit apartment project currently under construction.
The Fayette condos weren't originally part of this high-density plan. The property fell outside the city's San Antonio Precise Plan -- the blueprint for higher density in the area -- and was originally meant to be a four-story, 24-unit project. But the City Council agreed in 2016 to rezone the area into the precise plan, allowing higher density to creep further west.
The property is currently home to six vacant housing units and a small 6,900-square-foot commercial building previously used for carpet cleaning.
What makes the project unusual is its affordable housing. In order to comply with state requirements, Octane Fayette, the developer, has to provide units at the same income level that the demolished apartments were provided at prior to being vacated. The project includes five affordable units, four of which will be available to very low-income families.
Ownership units are rarely provided to families making less than 80% of the area's median income. The very low-income units are available to families making up to 50% of the median income, or about $79,000 for a family of four.
Though a rare opportunity to provide deeply affordable ownership housing in Mountain View, council members grappled with a snag in the plans. These low-income families would be subject to the same HOA fees and assessments exacted on all homeowners, and could easily be overwhelmed by an unexpected high-cost project to replace the roof or pool. Low-income families could be getting set up to fail in the future development, absent some kind of special fund.
To that end, Octane proposed setting up a $250,000 fund to help pay for "overly burdensome" HOA fees exacted on those living in the affordable units. The money will be pulled out of the developer's $691,000 public benefit package to the city.
Some council members bristled at the idea of using public benefit money meant to support the San Antonio neighborhood in order to subsidize a future HOA. Councilwoman Lisa Matichak, who voted against the project, said San Antonio has undergone rapid development and badly needs roadway improvements and open space.
"This area is in need of infrastructure to support all this development," she said. "We know we need more park space and there is congestion on the roads, and this is going to add to that."
Matichak also felt the property should not have been rezoned to be part of the San Antonio Precise Plan.
But to the majority of the council, the project was worth approving as a one-off. Future ownership housing projects will be required to set aside an HOA reserve, rather than volunteer the money through public benefits, and council member Chris Clark said the city is not setting a precedent to subsidize HOAs. Plus, Clark said, it's not exactly a huge amount of money.
"If we were talking about $1 million or something that would have a significant public community benefit in the San Antonio area then I might feel a bit differently," Clark said. "But we're talking about $250,000. You'll be lucky if that buys you a new signal somewhere."