At the 11/5 meeting, the Milpitas City Council decided to move forward with an amended proposal on a five-acre single-family home development on North Park Victoria Avenue.
In what Councilmembers Carmen Montano and Bob Nuñez called an “innovative” plan, the development will see the construction of 38 new single-family homes. Four of the homes will be priced below market rate, and 10 of the homes will have accessory dwelling units (ADUs), more commonly known as “granny units,” attached to them.
The 34 market-rate homes will range from approximately 2,500 to 3,000 square feet, according to a city memo. The attached ADUs — the first of their kind in Milpitas — will come in at approximately 485 square feet, and will be attached in different configurations according to the project’s blueprints.
“Staff is impressed that we have incorporated ADUs into the design and created additional housing while preserving and enhancing the charm and character of the existing neighborhood,” wrote Robson Homes Project Manager Richard Yee in a memo to the city.
Cities like neighboring San Jose have looked to granny units in recent years to help solve the Bay Area’s affordable housing crisis by using already-existing housing.
Instead of Robson meeting the requirement to supply the project with at least 15 percent of affordable units per city ordinance, the company instead requested to pay in-lieu fees to the city’s affordable housing plan, an exception allowed under the ordinance, and a course recommended by city staff.
The council countered Robson’s offer, requesting the firm build four affordable homes instead. At one point, Mayor Rich Tran said he “wouldn’t support” the project if it didn’t provide enough affordable housing.
The founder of Robson Homes, Mark Robson, who led the project presentation on Tuesday, agreed. The four affordable homes would span approximately 1,600 square feet, about 30 to 50 percent smaller than the other 34 proposed homes.
The project, which was approved by the Milpitas Planning Commission in August, also required rezoning the area to allow for more homes. With the new zoning regulations in the lot, Robson is now able to fit two to three times more homes per acre than before.
In addition to the almost-three dozen single-family homes, the five-acre site will also have a free-to-use public park. Rankin Drive will be widened in anticipation of new residents.
Some residents who currently live across the street from the proposed development voiced concerns, saying the project would increase traffic and reduce road safety in the quiet neighborhood.
“Now we’re going to have 36 properties, that is ridiculous. It can be fine for another area, but not this subdivision,” said Farhat Hussain, one such resident, who took specific exception to the project’s ADUs. In the past, she had applied for an addition to her home to house the caretaker of her husband, who was ill. The city denied her permit. “No offense to the developer, but why is there a double standard?”
“Leave the zoning as it is,” said Frank Evans, who lives on Rankin Drive. He pleaded with the council to reject the proposal, saying that the project had “too many houses” on such a “small piece of land.”
His comments drew applause from some in the audience who opposed rezoning.
However, Huascar Castro of housing advocacy group SV@Home called the project “innovative,” and encouraged the council to adopt the housing project, citing the city’s lack of affordable housing, and the cheaper cost of ADUs when compared to apartments.
“ADUs are a key part of the solution to our housing crisis,” said Castro, who has been a fixture at the city’s myriad of affordable housing-related meetings. “We hope this project serves as a model for other single-family developments that may take place around the county.”
Cheryl Jordan, the superintendent of Milpitas Unified School District, agreed. In the past few years, she claimed, teachers have left the district due to the area’s expensive housing.
“This past summer we’ve lost three highly-qualified teachers that I know of because they can’t afford to live here,” said Jordan. “Housing is definitely a need for our educators.”
The council eventually approved the project’s next steps unanimously. Since the body amended Robson’s plans from their original presentation, further action on the development was tabled until a new environmental report can be completed.
“The designs are exceptional,” said Montano of the plan. “I know that building this will increase the value of the homeowners nearby.”
The project was the latest to apply for an exemption to the city’s 15 percent-minimum affordable housing requirement. In August, the city council controversially voted 4-0, with Tran absent on National Guard duty, to allow 40 condos to be built near Milpitas’ future BART station, with no affordable housing.
Instead, the council allowed developer True Life Companies to pay $1.8 million to the city’s affordable housing fund — a move that caused tension between Tran and Vice Mayor Karina Dominguez.
To see the Robson project’s blueprints, click here.