The long-awaited Density Bonus Ordinance draft was presented to the Planning and Transportation Commission June 1, 2017. This draft proposes incentives for developers and is a critical piece of decisionmaking about changes to the CT zone and to downtown visioning. The proposed menu of incentives for developers includes:
a. Yard/Setback. Up to 20 percent decrease in the required width or depth of any individual yard or setback except along any property line that abuts an R1 or more restrictively zoned property. b. Lot Coverage. Up to 20 percent increase in lot coverage limits. c. Lot Width. Up to 20 percent decrease from a lot width requirement. d. Floor Area Ratio. A percentage increase in the allowable Floor Area Ratio equal to the percentage of Density Bonus for which the Housing Development Project is eligible, not to exceed 35 percent. e. Height. In any zone in which the height or number of stories is limited, a maximum of 11 additional feet or one additional story may be added to the underlying base height. f. Yard/Setback. Up to 20 percent decrease in the required width or depth of any individual yard or setback except along any property line that abuts a single-family R1 zoned property. g. Open Space. Up to 20 percent decrease from an open space requirement, provided that the landscaping for the Housing Development Project is sufficient to qualify for the number of landscape points equivalent to 10 percent more than otherwise required by Chapter 12.40 (Uniform Code for the Abatement of Dangerous Buildings) and Landscape Ordinance Guidelines "O."
How do you feel about this? Los Altos residents do have a say. Contact your City Council at: email@example.com. You can make a difference.
Use Discretion in approving Granny UnitsRead the petition
Loyola Corners History In the early twentieth century, the Southern Pacific Railroad decided to build a new rail line down the right-of-way that is now Foothill Expressway, to connect the Peninsula with San Francisco. Los Altos had a main station on First (now the home of Voyageur du Temps restaurant) and another stop near the present Rancho Shopping Center. SP also built a small depot at Loyola Corners–so named because the Jesuits (founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola) originally planned to build a college nearby. Though the plan was scrapped, the “Loyola” name stuck. The little station helped turn Loyola Corners into a bustling shopping area. By the 1950s the district had three barbershops, two beauty salons, five gas stations and three or four restaurants, including the much loved Echo, where, for six decades, commuters liked to stop for a spot of “refueling” at the end of the day. Specific Plan Loyola Corners was never a planned development. Some residents find its historic and quirky layout to be part of its charm. Others think it could use an update. In the 1990s the City of Los Altos created a Loyola Corners Specific Plan and this year sought some significant changes to that plan. Residents weren’t sold, and in a study session, April 20, 2017, the Los Altos City Council recommended a narrowing of the scope of proposed changes. What does that mean? Review the minutes for details by clicking here. Want to share your views with the Council? Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
City Council approves large outsized buildings on El Camino.
- The City council on Tuesday Sept 26th approved a modified CT Zone Amendment and Density Bonus Ordinances, effectively allowing more large residential buildings on El Camino.
- Bruins: YES, Prochnow: YES, Eng: Abstain, Pepper: YES*, Mordo: YES*
* Voiced strong reservations and verbal commitment to bring the housing reform package back to council in a staged approach later.
- Effectively, the City Council received conservative, and some would say incomplete, legal and planning guidance that the package proposal as we the residents endorsed had legal risks. The city staff did not provide any alternative options as we the residents have been asking for and even providing detailed suggestions to consider. The city attorney Chris Diaz acknowledged that his job is to describe worse case scenarios, and Jon Biggs our community planning director described a phone conversation with the state Housing Authority that warned that some elements of the package of changes that limit heights to 45′ could cause either a delay or risk a housing certification status. None of this was documented, just described as a spoken phone call, a very poor process of transaction especially in inter-governmental deliberations.
- A handful of projects will now be approved: a prominant one – where Mohr’s Clocks was – is double the size and equal in height to 4880 El Camino, so we may now have 2 adjoining outsized luxury condo buildings.
A small ray of hope
- 3 City Council members verbally committed to pushing a phased implementation of the housing reform package as proposed.
Co-sign a letter to City Council: BE BRAVE and support the residentsRead the petition
Highlights from the past few months:
- 119 residents co-signed a letter supporting Jan Pepper’s and Lynette Lee Eng’s package proposal to keep heights on El Camino to 4 stories and 45′ max, and to offset this with increases in density (number of units in a development) and increased levels of affordable housing units. These resident signatures were collected remarkably fast, over a long weekend.
- Our Preserve El Camino Neighborhood Petition calling for 45′ maximum has 365 resident signatures.
- On Sept 12th,and 26th the City council heard you. The chambers were full of supporting residents, and more than a dozen speakers protested the controversial proposal to put into our CT Zone code that future developments like 4880 El Camino are ok!
The resident initiated petition below is circulating to facilitate voices being heard in this process. If you wish to support this, please sign the petition here, and we’ll add your name to the list of resident supporters.
Preserve the Neighborhood Character for the El Camino CorridorRead the petition
Want to share your views with the Council? Attend the city meetings as we communicate then, and contact the City Council with an email at email@example.com that says you support preserving the neighborhood character in and around the El Camino neighborhood and having transparent processes for determining zone regulation maximum limits in the CT Zone.
More Background on the CT Zone zoning and the Density Bonus Ordinance:
Following the surprises associated with the 4880 El Camino Real project which exposed the failure of the city to have an ordinance addressing the California Affordable Housing Density Bonus law, the council imposed a building moratorium on the CT zone (which expires in Nov), the neighborhood adjacent to El Camino from Los Altos Avenue to Rengstorff. The City Council directed staff and the Planning and Transportation Commission to review all related zoning requirements for possible updating. During the moratorium, the Council expects to amend parts of the CT zoning code and to approve a new ordinance implementing state law on density bonus requirements and incentives, which will apply city-wide. This ordinance, in addition to getting residents voices heard, is a critical piece of decision making about changes to the CT zone.
- The CT Zoning building moratorium was put in place a few months ago because of the fiasco with the development at 4880 El Camino, the location where Hunan Homes restaurant was located, next to Jack in the Box.
- A fiasco was created because the city was caught unprepared for the first time that a developer (for 4880 El Camino) requested a height exception based on the California Density Bonus Law. The law basically says if you put in a certain amount of below market units, you can ignore one or more of the zoning regulations, such as height. The problem was that the city had not thought through and had no set limits on how much added height (or other zone limits) the developer can get.
- An uproar from the residents was caused by the City Council negotiating with this developer for a 58′ height building plus an 11′ elevator structure above that, for a total of 69′ — when in fact the 45 foot height limit was just put in place. The city was governing by exception, again!! As a result a building moratorium was put in place for the El Camino (CT) zone.
- To remedy this, the Planning Commission was tasked with creating a city Ordinance that defines what developers can get (for example for height) if they put in below market rate affordable housing, per the state law the Density Bonus law. The first draft was developed and reviewed June 1 and while helpful it allows building heights to go an additional 11′ above the current zoned height. Similar concerns exist for setbacks.
- This new ordinance and the accompanying ZT zone new regulation limits are being drafted NOW by the city staff, and will be reviewed on Aug 3, and Sept 12.
Text of the Petition to Preserve the Neighborhood Character of El Camino in Los Altos:
- Reject developments that exceed a maximum height of 45’. Retain the 45’ height criteria in the CT zone as a “maximum total height”. Redefine the CT zone height to 34’ and incentive structure with maximum affordable housing units so that the total height of 45’ is never exceeded.
- Maintain the neighborhood character for retail businesses. Require retail businesses that are neighborhood supporting in future developments. Set design criteria to promote neighborhood supporting service businesses, such as eliminating the requirement for minimum retail ceiling height of 12’. Adopt the recommended exception for new retail development in the affordable housing linkage fees schedule.
- Provide for safe and walkable streets. To compensate increased development density in the CT zone, define these public benefits: Wider sidewalks, increased visibility at cross walks on El Camino with better lighting and crosswalk visibility signage, speed mitigation measures and safe walking paths or new sidewalkson side streets. Tie costs for these to developer fees as deemed appropriate.
- Provide for adequate setbacks and privacy screening for residences adjacent to multistory developments. Define increased side yard setbacks that face adjacent R1 and R3 zones for those portions of development above 2 stories. Implement design requirements for at least 4 feet minimum window height requirement above 2nd floor windows that face adjacent R1 and R3 zones.
- Define Public Benefits and Concessions pertaining to the California Density Bonus Law. Define an ordinance with specific developer benefits and concessions that may include public benefits in addition to affordable housing units. Public benefits may include: wide sidewalks on El Camino, cross walk visibility measures along El Camino, traffic mitigation measures and safe walking paths or sidewalks on high traffic side streets, and measures to promote neighborhood supporting businesses.