The Palo Alto City Council celebrated a rare and tiny victory on the housing front last week when members unanimously supported a proposed development with seven condominiums at a property that once housed Pizz'a Chicago.
The Palo Alto City Council unanimously approved on Dec. 16 a tentative map for the project at 4115 El Camino Real, a 0.36-acre parcel on a triangular property bracketed by El Camino Way. The three-story building would have retail space on the ground floor and an office on the second floor. It will also feature four residential condominiums on the second floor and three on the third. One of the seven units will be offered below market rate.
For the applicant, Bill Wu, the Dec. 16 vote was the final step in a lengthy approval process that has also included public hearings and approvals from the Architectural Review Board and the Planning and Transportation Commission.
The council, which has fallen well short of meeting its goal of producing 300 new housing units per year, welcomed the opportunity to add seven condominiums to the city's housing stock. Prior to this project, the only multifamily complex it has approved this year was a 57-unit apartment building for low-income residents and adults with disabilities.
The approved 16,726-square-foot building will include 47 parking spaces, of which 24 will be allocated for retail use. Some of these spaces will be provided by mechanical lifts that will vertically stack cars in the garage.
The only point of concern came from Councilwoman Alison Cormack, who noted the busy traffic conditions in the area, which includes a T-intersection and a nearby Goodwill store. Construction logistics will be important, she said.
"There's tons of kids riding their bikes to school and that Goodwill lot is full of Marie Kondo devotees," Cormack said, citing the bestselling author who famously champions abolishing objects that don't give their owners joy.
While council members acknowledged that the number of housing units in this project is relatively small, they were happy to support the project. Councilwoman Liz Kniss said it's "wonderful" to be voting on a project that includes housing, even if the development also has an office component.
"We are not voting on enough housing," Kniss said. "I'm delighted to support it."
Councilwoman Lydia Kou was slightly less enthusiastic and suggested that the project, thanks to its commercial component, will actually worsen the city's jobs-to-housing imbalance. Even so, she supported the building. Vice Mayor Adrian Fine, the council's most vocal housing advocate, disagreed with Kou's assessment.
"We are getting one unit of BMR (below-market-rate) and a few other units of housing," Fine said. "I think, on the whole, that's a good balance for us."