A 100% affordable apartment complex that would add 84 units to the city’s below market rate housing stock is slated to be approved by the Mountain View City Council at its Dec. 6 meeting tonight.
The five-story project, located at 1265 Montecito Ave., was recommended unanimously by the Environmental Planning Commission in early November and received support from housing advocacy group Mountain View YIMBY during public comment. The proposal would replace a vacant office building that’s currently on the site, and is surrounded by buildings with multiple uses, including a shopping center, two other residential projects and a car wash. The site is also located within half a mile of a major transit stop.
The proposed 85 units are considered a “large family unit mix,” said Marvel Ang, senior project manager with affordable housing nonprofit Charities Housing, the project applicant. The unit breakdown includes 24 studios, 18 one-bedrooms, 21 two-bedrooms, 21 three-bedrooms, and one three-bedroom staff unit. That makes for 84 affordable homes (plus one staff unit) with income restrictions between 30 to 60% of the area median income, meaning extremely and very low-income households, said Ang.
The site’s existing general plan designation is neighborhood commercial, meaning the site isn’t currently zoned for residential use. So if the council approves the project tonight, it will also need to amend the parcel’s zoning to high density residential, also known as R4 zoning.
“The R4 standards allow up to 80 units per acre and 84 units per this parcel size,” said city senior planner Edgar Maravilla at the Nov. 2 EPC meeting. “The project is proposing 85 units, one more than the allowed city density. For that reason, the applicant is requesting a 1.2% state density bonus.”
The state density bonus law allows projects to build higher and more densely in exchange for making units affordable. The project is proposing 100% affordable units, so it qualifies for a state density bonus. The law also allows qualifying projects to get concessions that make it easier for the project to pencil out financially.
In the case of 1265 Montecito, the project applicant asked for just one concession: to provide no additional personal storage for residents, as is typically required. Maravilla said the proposed units will still include bedroom closets, plus some common area closets. However, the storage concession was a concern for some Environmental Planning commissioners at the Nov. 2 meeting.
“In my experience at least, especially for families, it’s really hard to just use the coat closets, because there’s just larger items,” said Vice Chair Joyce Yin at the meeting.
The project applicants responded that in addition to in-unit storage, they’re offering bike storage for every unit, a total of 85 bike racks.
“Our storage is also proportional to the size of the units, so the studios get a closet, the one bedrooms get a closet plus a smaller hall closet, and then the two- and three-bedrooms actually have fairly sizable closets in the hallway,” said architect Kevin Bussett on behalf of the applicant.
The three bedroom units, for instance, will have 320 cubic feet of closet space, Bussett said, while the zoning requires just 160 cubic feet of storage for units of that size.
“We’re forced to make trade-offs every day with a lot of competing interests, one of which being financial feasibility and providing as many affordable units as we can,” Bussett said.
The EPC ultimately recommended the project unanimously to the city council, which will vote on the proposal tonight.
“This is a wonderful project,” Commissioner Hank Demsey said at the EPC meeting. “We don’t get to see 100% affordables come through (often), so it’s kind of a special thing, and the fact that it’s got an emphasis on larger families with the larger two- and three-bedroom units, that’s fantastic. We need that, and those families need that.”