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LA council set to review all-affordable housing project at Tuesday’s meeting

330 Distel Circle
Los Altos Town Crier

September 13, 2022 – One major hurdle remains before the first all-affordable housing project in Los Altos becomes a reality: city council approval.

The council is scheduled to consider the five-story, 90-unit project targeted for 330 Distel Circle at its meeting next Tuesday.

The project is the culmination of two years of work, headed by Santa Clara County officials. 

 The county purchased the 0.87-acre property, which formerly housed Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District offices, and is financing planning and construction with funds from Measure A, the 2016 $950 million bond aimed at boosting the affordable housing supply. The county hired EAH Housing of San Rafael as the project developer.

Eligibility requirements

With units ranging from studios to three-bedrooms, the project is restricted to occupants earning 120% or less of the area median income (AMI) and a minimum of 75% earning 80% or less of the AMI, according to a memorandum of understanding between the city and county. Annual salaries to qualify for the units range from $33,160 for one person (30% of the AMI) to $88,480 (80%). For a family of four, the range is $47,360 (30%) to $126,320 (80%).

The project, which includes 90 parking spaces, is set to come before the council with the unanimous recommendations of the city’s Planning and Complete Streets commissions. Both boards met Aug. 18 to conduct a final review of building materials and landscaping, among other elements.

Los Altos officials and most residents have been receptive to the project. The project’s 90 units will make a dent in new, state-mandated housing requirements. Los Altos is tasked with providing conditions for construction of nearly 2,000 new units – its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) – by 2031.

“I am really excited about this project,” resident Joe Beninato told commissioners, “first of all, from the affordable housing perspective and RHNA numbers, but also the use of modular techniques and mass timber, which I haven’t seen much of at all around Los Altos. It’s a really great technique for trying to build something that looks great and also is lower (in cost).”

Planning commissioners appreciated design changes the developer incorporated after feedback, but they also acknowledged the concerns of neighbors in nearby single-story homes facing the prospect of a five-story building.

“Whatever you can do to work with the neighbors as you’re doing is very good,” said Planning Commissioner Richard Roche.

County Supervisor Joe Simitian, who helped bring the project to Los Altos, took note of the “very deliberate process” in gaining approvals. He said the approvals could have been secured more quickly, but the county and developer wanted to take more time to get buy-in from Los Altos residents.

“If we’re going to have consensus about building affordable housing, you need to be working with the community,” Simitian said. “This is a project that has benefited from considerable community support.”

Pending council approval, construction on the project is targeted to break ground in the second quarter of 2023, followed by occupancy in 2025.

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