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New Residential Development in City Moves Forward Around El Camino

Last month was notable for several milestones that advance Santa Clara’s 2010 General Plan for affordable and walk-able new housing in Santa Clara, while also advancing long-term improvement for the El Camino Real.

Leasing has started for 40 new “affordable” studio and one-bedroom apartments at Presidio El Camino. The project isn’t just about adding housing units. It’s also about the city’s long-term goal of creating more sense of “neighborhood” around the El Camino. The site, between Jefferson and Madison streets, was formerly home to a used-car lot.

“This is one of the last projects funded by the city’s redevelopment funds,” said Council Member Lisa Gillmor at the Nov. 13 meeting. “It’s a beautiful addition to the El Camino.”


The apartments include a variety of “green” features, including: use of recycled material in construction, low-flow fixtures, energy-star rated appliances, and water-conserving landscaping that filters storm runoff before flowing into the San Francisco Bay. Tenants also receive a county transit Eco-Pass – handy for the VTA buses that stop right outside the front door.

The project has been more than two years in development by affordable housing developer The Core Companies, with financing provided by Boston Financial Investment Management, Housing Authority of the City of Santa Clara, Citi Community Capital, and the Housing Trust of Santa Clara County.

The development’s mission style architecture was arrived at only after the project’s initial modernistic style was shot down by the Santa Clara City Council in 2010 – with one Council Member reportedly describing the original design as less attractive than the Taco Bell down the block. The final design is a traditional California Mission style that aims to conform with the Grand Boulevard vision for the El Camino.

The studio and one-bedroom apartments range from 453 sf to 653 sf, and cost between $700 and $1,200, plus a $500 deposit. These rents are set to be affordable for people with low and moderate incomes.

In 2012, low income in Santa Clara County is a household income under $60,600 for two people, according to the California Housing and Community Development office. The county’s median income for a household of two is $84,000, and the “moderate” income cutoff is $88,200.

At the Nov. 13 meeting the City Council also unanimously approved a zoning change that allow the proposed residential development at 4399 The Alameda (former Neto’s factory site) to go forward.

The site is part of the Santa Clara Station long term plan described in the city’s 2010 General Plan. Builder Barry Swenson plans six two-story, market rate townhouses surrounding a courtyard. The development includes four four-bedroom homes, and two three-bedroom units.

Also on Nov. 13, the Council approved the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for Citation Homes’ proposed Tuscany apartment complex at 3175 El Camino, rezoning the 3.4-acre parcel from thoroughfare commercial to planned development. The site, Car Town, is currently home to several auto repair businesses.

Some neighborhood residents continue to object to the project, which would put 133 new one- and two-bedroom units on the three-acre parcel at the congested Lawrence and El Camino intersection. A particular complaint was a perceived lack of privacy for single-family homes surrounding the four-story development.

Current plans put the development 155 feet – half a football field – from the nearest single-family house. “We are sensitive to privacy to create a good screen between our apartments and existing homes,” said project architect Vince Chuka. “We’re prepared to discuss modifying the third and fourth story design facing the existing community.” One resident observed that removing the back row of third-story apartments would “greatly appease the neighbors.”

Council Member Jamie McLeod also voiced concern about losing business potential on the El Camino with the zoning change. The City needs smart growth on the El Camino to draw the right kind of retail development in the city, replied City Planning Director Kevin Riley. “We’re really trying to develop retail that serves residents in the area.”


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