When California shuttered state Redevelopment agencies in 2011, development of an affordable senior housing project came to a screeching halt on six acres of city-owned land on Winchester between Pruneridge and Stevens Creek, as ownership of the land was thrown into question and Charities Housing backed out of the project. Santa Clara bought the land from the state at less than market price in 2002. Currently, the city must begin building the project by 2017.
The problem now is that the original 2002 concept of an 165-unit exclusively low-income apartment building with ground-level parking and a lot of landscaping may not be financially viable now for any builder – even non-profits and companies that specialize in tax-credit subsidized low income housing, said City Manager Julio Fuentes. at the Nov. City Council study session.
His suggestion was to start with a clean slate and ask for RFPs for the land, including mixed affordable and market rate housing. Regardless of how the city develops the land, it’s obligated to provide 165 affordable units.
Council Member Patrick Kolstad reminded his colleagues that two measures were passed by city voters regarding development of the entire BAREC property and that whatever new plan was adopted, those requirements remained fixed. And if the project is changed substantially, noted Council Member Jerry Marsalli, a new or modified Environmental Impact Report would likely be required.
“Given the prices of real estate, by putting it out for bid, I think we’re going to get some really creative proposals,” said Council Member Lisa Gillmor. “Now is the time to do it. I don’t want to hold this project to what we think it should be. I want to throw this project out there to the creativity we know is out there.”
“We’re going to have to look at some other possibilities,” added Riley. “It’s a different ballgame today.”
Council Member Teresa O’Neill noted that there might be substantial funds available for veterans’ housing, a need that was previously mentioned by Council Member Debi Davis with regard to the General Plan revision. “Perhaps we increase the density of the affordable housing, and perhaps have a veterans component. The plan is over 10 years old. It’s a new day. It’s very rare that we have this amount of space available for a project.”
Although the Council couldn’t take any action Friday, it clearly will in the next month or so, and will be issuing an RFP for a new project.