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Request for El Camino affordable housing complex brought to Palo Alto City Council


As a result of a unanimous vote by the Planning and Transportation Commission, an affordable housing complex in Palo Alto will now be passed on to the council, according to Palo Alto Online.

This is Palo Alto’s first affordable housing development in the last seven years.

The housing, if approved to be instated by the city council, would be located in the Ventura area in Palo Alto at 3705 El Camino Real.

The plan includes a breakdown of which apartments will be located for individuals who meet specific criteria. The housing will be a 65-apartment complex, saving 16 units for adults with developmental disabilities, along with 41 parking spots in total.

It would provide housing for those in the Below Market Rate Housing Program (BMR). This is a program that allows individuals that make up 30 percent to 60 percent of Palo Alto’s median income to purchase homes at a price far lower than the market rate. Palo Alto’s median price is currently at $137,000 per year.

This would only come with the approval of the city council, which would make this complex the only fully below market housing to be accepted in the past 7 years. Throughout Palo Alto, there are other complexes that have below market housing that allow opportunities for those with lower incomes to be able to live in the high housing market of Palo Alto.

Senior Zharit Brand has lived in a BMR program home for several years.

“I believe that another affordable housing complex would allow for people to have opportunities to live in a great area like Palo Alto and access to better education. Otherwise, many of those people wouldn’t be able to live in Palo Alto because of the expensive housing market.”

Senior Zharit Brand

Long time resident of the Palo Alto area, Keith Yarak, is in full support of the prospective construction of this complex and expanding it to include many others.

“I’m a supporter of extending housing to all groups in the community, ” Yarak said. “Local jobs would result, renters would be long term and communities become much more stable.”

Yarak continues, describing the ideal conditions that extending housing would make possible to achieve.

“Low income folks would not be squeezed out. Teachers and police and firefighters and artists and regular working folks up to pretty high income all lived together. So yes, Palo Alto should make its own plans and own complexes to handle dense housing and mostly rent based housing.”

Keith Yarak

Former resident of the Ventura area, Conor Kennedy, believes that this can spark the production of more affordable housing complexes.

“I think that it will positively affect Palo Alto, but it’s just the beginning of something that more cities will follow,” Kennedy said.

Although Kennedy believes it will be beneficial, he also takes a reasonable, neutral standpoint, recognizing that the plan does have its flaws. There are limited spaces available for residents to park — only 41 parking spots — and the residents will need to adjust in order to live comfortably.

“Yes the parking will be an issue, but I do not think it’s that big of an issue,” Kennedy said. “Palo Alto is very bike friendly and the complex is very close to Caltrain.”

The project is attempting to receive a waiver from the mandatory ground retail stores; being on El Camino requires the street level to be a retail store. With this space, the project would want the ground floor too so that they would have space for laundry rooms, gym and a community room for the residents of the complex, among other additions.

The next steps for the housing are to receive approval from the architectural review board.

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