Welcome to our second edition of “Council Corner”. This time, we’re going to take a look at major council action on housing and transportation issues from January.
On January 22nd, the council adopted, unanimously (with Kniss and Filseth recused), a motion narrowing the set of options to consider for grade separation to 6 (discussed in the staff report). The council’s direction was largely in line with the staff recommendation, but it chose to preserve the city-wide tunnel option. The council has prioritized grade separation as a city-wide priority for 2019, so expect to see progress on further narrowing of options.
Wilton Court Project
The council approved, unanimously (Kniss absent), the application of the 2018 Affordable Housing (AH) zone to Palo Alto Housing’s proposed Wilton Court development. The AH zone was a major accomplishment from 2018 that enabled the council to relax development standards (including parking requirements) for affordable housing projects. This vote was the first time the new zone was applied to a proposed project. If carried through, the Wilton Court project will be Palo Alto’s first new 100% affordable housing project in 7 years!
Housing Work Plan
The council adopted, with some modification, the staff’s proposal for the final phases of the housing work plan that had been continued from December. Specifically, the council:
- Passed updates to the California Ave that relaxed unit density requirements (allowing other parts of the zoning to limit development), modified open space and requirements around housing-only projects, and created a housing incentive program (to provide an alternative to SB35 for developers building housing). This vote was 5-1 (Kou no, Kniss recused)
- Passed similar changes on El Camino on a 6-1 vote (Kou no)
- Passed changes to the laws governing rooftop gardens on a 6-1 vote (Kou no)
- Exempted some affordable housing projects from the retail protection ordinance (6-0 Filseth recused).
On the last item, there was some back and forth about the definition of affordable housing. The city typically defines it as up to 120% of AMI (Santa Clara County Area Median Income) but the council extended these policies only to developments with average not to exceed 80% AMI (the threshold that qualifies for certain affordable housing funding streams).