Developer asks Menlo Park to let it build fewer affordable apartments than required
Palo Alto Daily News (CA), 2014-02-14
Feb. 14--The developer who collaborated with Facebook to design a $120 million residential community within walking distance of the social media giant's Menlo Park campus now wants to build 16 fewer affordable units than required, according to city planners.
When the Menlo Park Planning Commission last fall allowed St. Anton Partners to build a 393-unit complex at 3639 Haven Ave., it required the developer to provide 53 of those apartments at below-market rates so low-income households could afford to move in.
Although planning commissioners were advised about St. Anton Partners' request at Monday's meeting, they didn't take any action because it was presented as an informational item only.
The change "makes more financial sense" to St. Anton Partners, Senior Planner Deanna Chow told the commission, adding that the developer also is seeking to build 17 more market-rate units than approved.
According to city planners, state law allows dense housing projects if they include a percentage of affordable units.
Though St. Anton Partners wants to build fewer affordable units than required, it told city officials that 22 of the remaining 37 would be offered at rents priced for "very-low" income households, defined as 50 percent or less of the area median income.
Because California gives even more density credits for such units, the reduced number would still comply with the state law, Development Services Manager Justin Murphy told the commission.
"Those calculations are based on state law that we have no control over," Murphy said. "That formula is hard-wired."
Community Development Director Arlinda Heineck has the discretion to approve the changes, Chow told commissioners.
Commission Chairman John Kadvany noted that the reduced number of affordable units is "a big difference."
Facebook has agreed to subsidize 15 of the affordable units as part of a deal it struck with the city in exchange for permission to build a West Campus near the company's headquarters. That won't change even if the total number is reduced as requested.
Facebook also helped to design the apartment complex, which will feature a convenience store, coffee shop, sports pub, bike repair shop, pet spa, yoga room, rooftop deck, clubhouse and a pool area with cabanas.
The 10-acre project site is in a light industrial area north of Marsh Road and east of Highway 101.
St. Anton Partners representatives did not respond to requests for comment Thursday.
Email Bonnie Eslinger at email@example.com; follow her at twitter.com/bonnieeslinger.
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