Town Square

Los Altos drops appeal to block five-story downtown housing project

Original post made on Sep 8, 2020

A proposed five-story housing project in downtown Los Altos will finally move forward after the city announced Saturday it will drop its legal battle against the controversial development.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 8, 2020, 12:52 PM


Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 1:10 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

To this YIMBY it seems more like the Los Altos Council, still doesn't get the idea that SB 35 is the LAW. And, even Los Altos needs to follow the LAW. If they want to challenge the LAW, up to the Calif. Supreme Court - that means that they need to put MILLIONS of their constituent's tax funds, into a Bond for the Court of Appeals.
And - other legal stuff - that The COUNCIL has the RESPONSIBILITY to understand and direct their lawyers to follow. Closed Sessions - ah, we can see what this Council has been doing about directing their lawyers.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2020 at 2:02 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

The city tried to honor SB35, but the developer was unreasonable. There were a number of true issues. The city may not have handled communicating them well. The problem was that the same owner had been trying to put a large project on that small 7000 sf lot for 7 years at that point. Many of the concerns had already been communicated to the developer. Basically, he was always trying to omit parking needed to support a building with a lot of office space. At the time of the SB35 proposal, he submitted an alternative project which is not subject to expediting, and it had some of the same problems.

What the SB35 version holds is 15 large apartments averaging 1600 sq ft and he is providing each with a single parking spot. But the city did not object to that, owing to SB35 requiring it. The city did object to the 5700 sf of office space not having a single parking space. I think the city standards are objective, but if they aren't it is not a trumped up issue to thwart SB35.

So anyway, then there is the amount of the bond. $13.8 Million is clearly too much. $7 Million is also too much. But the thing is, the city can still appeal that. If the developer still claims damages after the project is now approved. If that happens the city can appeal without submitting a bond, say if the developer claims $3 Million in damages. At that point the city can present its argument that its rejection was based on objective standards, which I think is true.

The whole project is not that large. 15 luxury apartments may sound like a big help to the housing shortage but it's really not very much. The frontage in the picture attacked to the article is just 75 feet and the lot tapers off to 50 feet in the back where it fronts the city parking lot. It's going to stick out like a sore thumb if it gets built, but a palace like that by itself can't ruin the neighborhood for the other owners. The main issue is that if EVERYONE builds up with no parking, there will be a really parking disaster.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2020 at 2:11 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Saying the project could be done now is a stretch. But imagine if it was. It would just be leasing. It would be leasing with all this Covid-inspired apartment vacancies all around it. It seems to me that opening up in this market would be a problem, not an asset. Similar would likely occur if it finished at the end of the year too.

Posted by Elna
a resident of Monta Loma
on Sep 8, 2020 at 2:45 pm

Elna is a registered user.

I am so very relieved to see Los Altos finally being forced into stepping the Bay Area need for affordable housing. I have been active in the affordable housing advocacy group for nearly 30 years and have seen the hills communities routinely shirk their responsibilities to the Bay Area as a whole year after year, hiding behind every local and state regulation they could find and getting away with it. For shame! Los Altos benefits hugely from the economics of the Bay Area, which relies just as much on lower-wage workers as it does on the highly paid. And because nobody's making new land any more, it behooves those who treasure the "small town feel" of communities like Los Altos to look for ways to help house the many lower-wage workers who provide Los Altans with the very businesses they love. It's high time Los Altos joins the real world and help shoulder it's portion of the responsibilities of affordable housing.

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2020 at 3:12 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.

This should also be a clear message.

Mountain View better not even give the state ANY reason to question if it is threatening the existing affordable housing or not adding to the current inventory.


There is new indications that developers are going bankrupt. You can read the report in the Mercury News here (Web Link).


Because the bet on building luxury housing for the "tech" workers and not on a diverse market that allows for all workers to be abler to afford housing. I used my model of the 93 Octane gas stations in the past. This is what happened, the developers "bet" on an unlimited "tech" worker customer base.

NOW COVID and AB5 has torn that business model up for good, and the market is going to have to change or more of these developers are going to go out of business.

Time to change your expectations. In fact, I wonder if many projects in Mountain View are going to freeze at best or cancel at worst.

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 3:52 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Thank the former TBM for less than one page! 2 Longer Reside? HERE Come the JUDGE! HERE Come the JUDGE! And a woman judge.

First tier state judges may make errors, and be overturned on appeal. Even the local government opponents of SB35 ("tried to honor"? that is a real laugh) need to realize that the sovereignty of the People of the Great State of California is where the power lies, not with their city councils or their city voter majorities.

Hail the Republic.

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2020 at 4:34 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.


What kind of reaction could happen if the Prop 21 actually passes?

I know the previous attempt sank like the titanic.

But this time, there is a lot of things going on, it may have a better chance.

I have noticed that no one is doing any polls. The current Googles are showing nothing but letters to the editor and not reporting on any polling. Why?

Maybe, no one wants to report bad news in the news because "Real Estate" revenues are the highest paid advertising? IDK.

We still have a very bumpy ride coming.

Posted by Tal Shaya
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2020 at 4:41 pm

Tal Shaya is a registered user.

Los Altos thumbed its nose at the new housing law. So it's good the town was forced to comply. But to put the flophouse on Main St. is a mistake. Los Altos maintained its towny atmosphere for decades but that's about to end.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2020 at 4:57 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

This project has actually got 13 luxury apartments (average > 1600 sf) and 1 smaller low income apartment and 1 smaller apartment affordable to those making up to 120% of the median area income (moderate). Los Altos has approved several larger projects with more affordable units. Interesting fact, one project a few years back was bought entirely by Stanford University. Only the affordable units (about a dozen) remain available to those not affiliated with Stanford. Also, they are the only units to result in property tax paid to the county, city and local school districts!

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 5:01 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Dress it UP! With a Mansard dark roof, to match the 4 star boutique hotel across the street from City Hall, and some dark shutters and a little window iron work - Vola!
(google street view)
Web Link

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Sep 8, 2020 at 5:02 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

There are so many details to this. The city requires either 15% or 20% of the units to be set aside for low income rentals. This unit is 15 total units, so 3 should be affordable because 20% applies since one unit is not for low income but rather moderate. The developer is using loopholes to build 1 less affordable unit than the city requires.

Posted by Steven Nelson
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2020 at 5:12 pm

Steven Nelson is a registered user.

Dear @LongReside. Yeah - the Stanford tax escape is Not That Great (In MV we have the Great Tax Diversion, Gogglevile to the City/Shoreline, over $4-5 Billion in Assessed Valuation). So many details - what Elna, and I and Goldstein are mentioning - if the LA City Council had tried to play (nicer) and work on these details, rather than trying to grandstand*, a better decision would have resulted. (*LA Mayor up in SF grandstand speaking at demonstration)
Town Crier coverage Dec 2018
Web Link

Posted by Bernie Brightman
a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 9, 2020 at 9:50 am

Bernie Brightman is a registered user.

Looks like housing advocates are allowing themselves to be used by building contractors.Doubt those apartments on Main Street are gonna be affordable at all. Of course once they're built nobody will be able to do anything about it.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2020 at 4:45 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

Different Los Altos council members have had different attitudes.
As in all cities, they each get a turn to be mayor. Eng made some
odd comments that Skinner corrected.

This particular project had been going on since 2010 or so. Continually,
the issue was with parking. Height was a secondary concern. The developer
used SB35 as a threat, and obviously did not want to build that project,
or why would he give the city an alternative proposal at the same time
with lower height, less housing and more office? The city response was
related to the THREAT aspect of the developer making 2 proposals, and also
in the context of at least one lawsuit he had filed against a neighboring
property owner claiming undue influence on the city requiring him
to meet their parking standards for the office development. This is not
a typical case of SB35 development or of housing development. Keep
in mind that the city has over produced market rate housing vs. the RHNA
quota housing. This project manages to get 13 luxury apartments
and only provide the 1 low income unit and the 1 moderate income unit.
The city is short on both of those quotas, but 1 each is not much to provide,
when the city requires 15% or 20% such units in each new project.

Posted by Jeremy Hoffman
a resident of Rengstorff Park
on Sep 10, 2020 at 6:46 pm

Jeremy Hoffman is a registered user.

To anyone blaming this particular development for being insufficiently affordable: I would love to hear your plan for adding even more and even more affordable housing to Los Altos. And think fast! Zillow says the median home price in Los Altos is $3,363,386, a 4% increase over the past year.

Posted by Steven Goldstein
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 10, 2020 at 6:52 pm

Steven Goldstein is a registered user.


Your talking about a Single Family Home, which is the most inefficient use of land, and is likely not a good comparison in this case.

Please describe the average amenities and characteristics as well?

There are so many cohorts to change the value of any residential project.

Posted by LongResident
a resident of another community
on Sep 10, 2020 at 8:49 pm

LongResident is a registered user.

The developer of 5150 El Camino Real will be including 30 affordable units, if that project ever gets built. It's at least as likely as the 40 Main project. The city asked the 200 unit project if it could have 10 more affordable units in it. The developer was willing but just needed a cash contribution of $10 Million or so. The problem is not with the zoning, it is the fact that the subsidy is not being provided by the state. It really won't work anywhere to count on 8-9 times as much market rate development as any new affordable development. There just isn't demand for that much more housing. We need subsidies just for affordable units and then they will happen. That's the plan--pony up the cash.

Also, in Mountain View as well as Los Altos, we have a demand for moderate income housing, which really is getting built even less than affordable units. The cash to be ponied up for that is much less than for the affordable units.

Posted by What is "YIMBY"
a resident of Slater
on Sep 11, 2020 at 1:22 pm

What is "YIMBY" is a registered user.

"Jeremy Hoffman" of Mountain View is shown online to be part of the high tech corporate YIMBY political group and lists himself online as an "affordable housing development and strategy consultant." High-density housing - especially with subsidized "affordable" units - with parking on the streets in single-family neighborhoods is his (potential) BREAD AND BUTTER.