City Council Recap – SummerHill Homes Project Approved without much Affordable Housing
By Robert Haugh
After thorough discussion, the Council voted unanimously to approve SummerHill Homes 151-unit senior housing project near the Target store on El Camino Real. It’s the first residential project in years not to have at least 10 percent voluntary amount of units set aside for affordable housing. The City doesn’t have a current affordable housing ordinance or policy.
SummerHill voluntarily offered five moderate-income units, approximately three percent of the project, but said during their testimony that they would “reluctantly” agree to more if the council insisted.
But Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe who suggested 10-15 percent affordable units during SummerHill’s presentation, only requested through an amendment that the five units be low-income, rather than moderate-income.
Her amendment did not receive support from the maker of the motion, Councilwoman Patty Mahan, or the second to the motion, Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta. Both Mahan and Caserta objected to the affordable requirement because they said that SummerHill had already made a lot of concessions to the community and the council by reducing building heights and switching from market-rate housing to market-rate housing reserved for seniors which is 10 percent less expensive to rent.
The project was then approved unanimously. Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she thinks it’s a lost opportunity for affordable housing, but voted for the project to preserve a residential opportunity.
The majority of the 29 speakers on the subject supported the project. The rumblings we heard in the community didn’t materialize as only a few project opponents showed up.
SummerHill’s Elaine Breeze says that they engaged in extra community outreach since March, when the Council vetoed the project 4-3. She said there were 35 one-to-one meetings and double the community meetings (six compared to three) and increased noticing (500 feet to 1,000 feet).
According to Breeze, an agreement was recently signed with Mayuri Indian Cuisine to retain the diner including a tenant improvement budget and seven months of “free” rent. Verizon will also return. A 3,000 square foot corner restaurant has also been signed.
Breeze says SummerHill is willing to double statutory fees to the Santa Clara Unified School District from $110,000 to $220,000.
The rest of the council meeting was mostly routine items. Nothing was reported out of executive session on the evaluation of interim City Attorney Brian Doyle.