Milpitas council shows support for 38-home development, includes 10 granny units

MILPITAS — The Milpitas City Council signaled its support
Tuesday for a new development that calls for building 38 new homes
in the city, four of which will be priced below-market rate, and 10
studio-style granny units, on a nearly 5-acre plot in the city’s
northeastern end.

Some of the council and supporters of called the project from
San Jose-based developer Robson Homes “innovative” because it
includes granny units built into a new development, and could help
address the lack of affordable homes in the region.

The four affordable homes would be smaller, and made up of two
“duet”-style homes, similar to a duplex, while the other 34
single-family homes would be larger, four-bedroom homes priced at
market-rate, city staff said.

While the city’s affordable housing ordinance requires
developers who want to build at least 10 units of housing to
include 15 percent of the units as affordable to very low, low, or
moderate-income households, Mark Robson, the developer, had asked
the council to grant him a special exception from those rules.

He asked the council to allow him to pay in-lieu affordable
housing fees to the city instead of building the affordable units
into the project, and his company would build 36 market-rate homes
total, a route city staff had recommended the council support.

The council pushed back in part, however, instead saying they
would support the project if Robson built four affordable homes
into the project site, which would be located on a 4.88-acre plot
of land at 1005 North Park Victoria Drive.

Robson would also need to pay some in-lieu fees to account for a
required fifth affordable home that wouldn’t be built, city staff
said, though the exact amount of those fees hasn’t been
determined yet.

Because the council expressed support for an option that changes
the project design slightly, city staff said the development’s
environmental impact review will need to be revised, and the
Planning Commission will need to consider the project again before
it comes back to the council for possible approval at a future
meeting.

“I think what you have is a plan that is innovative,”
Councilman Bob Nuñez said at the meeting about the project.

“I think putting the (accessory dwelling units) on at the very
onset of building those homes is unique, and if we can get
affordable housing built at the same time, which is something we
have not been able to do, and some dollars, I think…that’s best
for the city,” he said.

The market-rate homes would be two stories, with four bedrooms,
and range in size from 2,500 to 2,900 square feet, according to
city staff reports. The granny units would be about 485 square feet
in size, located above detached two-car garages.

Robson said the four smaller, affordable homes would each be
roughly 1,600 square feet.

While the council partially rebuffed Robson’s request for an
affordable housing exception, they indicated they would be OK
granting a range of other amendments to allow the project to go
forward, including a general plan amendment to increase the
allowable density from three to five homes per acre to six to 15
homes per acre.

The project also would need a zoning amendment to reduce the
required minimum lot size on that property from 6,000 square feet
to 3,000 square feet, allowing Robson to fit in more homes, and a
special permit to decrease the required setbacks from the
streets.

A handful of residents said they were opposed to the
development, mostly because they worried it’s too dense a project
in an area where traffic can already be clogged at during commute
hours.

“With this many units it is going to be more traffic and also
a safety issue,” Farhat Hussain, who lives across the street from
the proposed project site, told the council.

Frank Evans, who also lives one street over from the site, said
the council should not change the zoning to allow for more homes
there.

“Leave it as is. Let Mr. Robson cope with the zoning as it
exists,” Evans said.

But others expressed support for the plans, including Huascar
Castro, a policy associate with SV@Home, an organization that
advocates for more affordable housing in Silicon Valley.

“We see this as kind of a new, innovative solution towards
providing different levels of density in single-family
districts,” Castro said of the project that includes a mix of
granny units.

Though the city staff reports suggest the smaller studio-style
granny units will be “affordable-by-design,” the reports also
note those units only “have the potential to be affordable to
renters.”

The granny units in the project “are not proposed to be
deed-restricted, thus offering no guarantee of affordability among
those units placed on the rental market,” the reports said.

In August, the council granted an exception to another developer
planning to build 40 condominiums in the city, allowing that
company to instead pay in-lieu fees, so long as the developer paid
more than the minimum required, and also chipped in more toward
public art fees.

However, it was unclear at that meeting what the final agreement
would be between the city and the developer, San Ramon-based True
Life Companies, and it has yet to be finalized by the council,
which last tabled the discussion in October.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Milpitas council shows support for 38-home development, includes 10 granny units