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Developer proposes 73 housing units on University Avenue block

Original post made on Aug 10, 2021

After dropping its plans to build apartments next to the California Avenue Caltrain station, Smith Development is now proposing another residential development, one that would bring 73 dwellings to a University Avenue block.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, August 10, 2021, 6:04 PM

Comments (17)

Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 10, 2021 at 8:35 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

The vast majority of units are small (a little under 450 sq ft), so this is single-worker housing.

One parking place for each studio and 1BR unit, 2 parking places for each 2BR unit, one parking place per 250 sq ft of office. The offices are under-parked, but on the whole, this is better than a lot of other proposals we've seen.

As always, implications for traffic, water, etc. are left for future generations to deal with.

If you're curious about the plans, you should be able to find them here:
Web Link


Posted by Amy
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 10, 2021 at 10:08 pm

Amy is a registered user.

Didn’t we just lose a bunch of apartments in the Presidents building coming a hotel? It seems like now we need to add more congestion by replacing those lost apartments with more development


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 11, 2021 at 7:35 am

Online Name is a registered user.

We certainly did lose the apartments in the President Hotel. Weren't there 84 low / moderate income apartments there?

450 sq feet?? Another "coffin hotel" for techies, not for families or low-income workers, and of course more offices with a loss of parking for the rest of us but more money for the city coffers for the loss of "public benefits"


Posted by MLF
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Aug 11, 2021 at 11:57 am

MLF is a registered user.

I favor this project - a good addition to Palo Alto housing stock This project seems to be of a similar overall size and scale as The Hamilton next door - 4 stories tall, filling most of the available area. It is different than the Hamilton - rather than 36 luxury 1500+ square-foot condos, these are 450 square foot apartments, plus some retail space, close to downtown and Caltrain / buses. Smaller living spaces are popular with some people: We have a 315-square foot attached ADU which has been (before Covid) continuously rented to Stanford post-doc singles and couples a year or two at a time.


Posted by Rose
a resident of Mayfield
on Aug 11, 2021 at 12:30 pm

Rose is a registered user.

We need to change the zoning laws so HOUSING can go higher and the rent needs to be affordable -- not just some small fraction of the total units should be affordable. And get rid of the office space -- we need more housing, not more offices! If the housing is close to transportation, then they don't need a car. They can rent a zCar as needed and ride their bicycles. Make sure the housing has good bicycle parking. ADUs aren't going to solve the problem. We have to build up where it makes sense, and NO MORE OFFICES.


Posted by Stuart Berman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2021 at 12:59 pm

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I wonder what the purpose of our zoning laws is.


Posted by Miriam Palm
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2021 at 1:20 pm

Miriam Palm is a registered user.

I am a patient of both dental offices on this site. Leave them alone!


Posted by Rebecca Eisenberg
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 11, 2021 at 6:51 pm

Rebecca Eisenberg is a registered user.

Due to Palo Alto's intentional policies, every MF housing proposal currently proposed involves micro-units of 300-500 square feet: the exact size that Palo Alto staff attributes per employee for commercial rentals. In other words, Palo Alto's entire proposed housing stock provides each *family unit* with the amount of space of a work office or cubicle.

Worse, developer plans estimate rents of $5000/month, averaging $12.50/square foot/month. That is 3-4 times the typical rent in SF & Manhattan. These prices are outrageous under any analysis, but especially for homes that cannot serve family units larger than two without potentially creating unhealthy conditions. Rarely, for example, do these one-room units have sinks in bathrooms.

This is a plan built to fail. These units will not serve the biggest need, and even the subsidized units are unlikely to be recognized as affordable under the State's strict equity rules. A housing market filled almost entirely with micro-units also violates Palo Alto's Comprehensive Plan, which clearly states PA's obligation to provide a *variety* of housing across *multiple* affordability levels.

These are problems of City Council's own making - and all it takes to solve them is to embrace the same solutions as our more successful neighboring cities.

All other CA cities create their housing funds by taxing big businesses. With an emergency tax measure, we can tax our largest employers, who create the housing need for their tens of thousands of employees, and we also must tax our biggest commercial developers who make billions off Palo Alto office space which attracts these employers to town. A well-designed payroll and receipts tax on only our largest would generate at least $100 million a year, as Pat Burt knows.

We also can follow our neighbors and lift height limitations and parking requirements. Those outdated mandates make it impossible for housing developers to serve our market.

We CAN fix this - but must act now.


Posted by kate
a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 11, 2021 at 9:34 pm

kate is a registered user.

Absolutely - this is a step toward ruining our sense of place.
Too tall, too many micro units and it takes away what makes PA ideal - simple, walkable /bikeable services like the dental offices.


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 13, 2021 at 5:56 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

University is our prime city street. Why would the city approve an apartment complex that has tiny apartments? Is this the same group that wanted to put tiny apartment at T&C? It sounds like this apartment complex would be more appropriate in the East Meadow circle near the bike bridge so that the techies can get to work. If that is the intended market for these apartments then put them where the victims are.
I have never seen so many pointless social experiments going on in one place. Are we a drawing card for pointless social experiments?

We have a city planning department - please plan this city accordingly so the right pieces go in the right places.


Posted by Online Name
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Aug 13, 2021 at 6:05 pm

Online Name is a registered user.

Shame on the city "planners" for continuing to threaten resident-serving businesses like the dentists. You know they'll be spending money to convince us to get out of our cars which we'll need to get to our NEW dentists who've been forced to relocate if they're even still in business.

Enough with the car-light fairy tales. Enough with these "coffin-like" apartments that do nothing for families, only for the highly paid single techies employed by the companies backing this high density push at OUR expense.


Posted by eileen
a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 14, 2021 at 9:31 am

eileen is a registered user.

None of these housing projects will solve the lack of housing for families. All these small micro-units are being built for Stanford post-doc students, singles, or couples. It is difficult for families to live in 400 sq. ft. Families are leaving to find someplace where the kids have a little garden or open space. The rich couples with children are buying houses in Palo Alto with a bit of open space. How about some of these developers build small detached townhouses with a garden space? Cato tried to build a micro-unit development of 24 units in R1 College Terrace. If townhouses with garden space were proposed, instead of 350 sq. ft. units, unsuitable for families, it might have had a better chance of going through. We NEED housing for FAMILIES!


Posted by Online Name
a resident of University South
on Aug 15, 2021 at 11:12 am

Online Name is a registered user.

I guess anyone can propose anything, but this dense building of coffin-like apartments is horrific. Why not just make a proposal that states, "we are going to build whatever we want and won't follow any building requirements in this town!"
Suggestion that Council turn this down like similar near California Ave. and College Terrace. One would think this proposal was a joke except it's not.


Posted by Allen Akin
a resident of Professorville
on Aug 15, 2021 at 12:18 pm

Allen Akin is a registered user.

@Online Name: I take your point, and I have a lot of sympathy for it.

But if the state continues on its path to destroy existing communities until a prescribed number of housing units is built, it's worth considering that this might be an example of how to reduce the amount of harm. Existing neighborhoods aren't being destroyed, the market-rate units while far from affordable are as low-cost as possible (because they're very small), and the total population increase is minimized.

One condition that should be imposed is that the entire development should be deed-restricted to be ineligible for any parking permits outside the property. If developers keep proposing car-lite projects, then that assumption needs to be enforced.

It's still going to do damage -- more people means more traffic, more water shortages, less open space per capita, higher prices for home ownership, and on and on. But given that the political power in this state is hell-bent on growth regardless of the consequences, until that changes, this might be the least-bad approach. I'm not convinced this is true, but I am thinking about it seriously.


Posted by Curmudgeon
a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 15, 2021 at 5:09 pm

Curmudgeon is a registered user.

450 sq ft is ideal for the small professional offices which would probably occupy the building despite residential zoning. Who's going to bother monitoring and enforcing the zoning anyway?


Posted by Resident 1-Adobe Meadows
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Aug 18, 2021 at 3:49 pm

Resident 1-Adobe Meadows is a registered user.

A commercial building is very different from a residential building. In a residential building you have a full bathroom in every apartment and kitchen. That is very different from a commercial building which has a number of bathroons on each floor - not full bathrooms. Different construction criteria - different plumbing and water useage assumptions. Different waste removal assumptions. Different storage of personal goods assumptions. That is why there is zoning - put the right type of building in the right place. The city needs to enforce zoning and the requirements for the correct placement of the correct type building in a location. Do not let Sacramento herd everyone down a donkey path to stupid end results. Tiny units on University is not a good use of property. Put the tiny units somehere else.


Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 18, 2021 at 8:11 pm

Anonymous is a registered user.

Units are too small.


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