Palo Alto loosens up building, parking rules to encourage more housing projects

In an effort to pick up the pace of housing construction,
the Palo Alto City Council has launched the city on a path that
aims to prod developers to build by easing some restrictions.

At the end of a marathon session that lasted roughly six hours,
the council on Monday night relaxed parking requirements for
below-market multifamily developments; paved the way for denser
housing downtown, in the California Avenue business district and in
multifamily zones; and allowed usable rooftops to count for up to
60 percent of open space requirements downtown and 70 percent along
California Avenue to free up more room for additional housing
units.

The council also exempted developers of 100 percent below-market
housing projects from having to provide parking if they can
demonstrate it’s not needed. In addition, it eliminated parking
requirements for the first 1,500 square feet of ground-floor retail
in new mixed-use buildings downtown and capped the size of new
housing units there at 1,500 square feet.

Through those policy changes, the council hopes the city will
attain its goal of permitting 300 new housing units a year.

Mayor Liz Kniss noted at the meeting that no affordable housing
project has come before the council for approval in nearly 10
years. Housing developments of any type have been rare. As an
example, City Manager James Keene noted that just one large
multifamily project — a 57-unit building at El Camino Real and
Page Mill Road — has been approved this year.

Because the council also established minimum densities for new
multifamily projects, developers will be able to triple the amount
of units downtown and double the number along California Avenue.
Meanwhile, developers will no longer be able to build single-family
homes in multifamily zones.

The council considered eliminating an incentive that allows
commercial developers pay parking fees instead of providing spaces
on site, but tabled that move for a year so the planning commission
can examine the proposal.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Palo Alto loosens up building, parking rules to encourage more housing projects