MILPITAS — An apartment complex of 84 below-market-rate units soon may rise near the Milpitas BART station and the Great Mall.
The City Council unanimously approved the project Thursday despite some members’ gripes with a state law that requires far fewer parking spaces than the city would like to see for projects that size.
Idaho-based Pacific West Communities plans to build the complex on a 1.11-acre site at 308 Sango Court, in an area near BART that the city has spent years trying to transform into a dense housing and retail hub.
During their discussion of the project, council members criticized a state density bonus law that aims to spur more affordable housing developments by skirting some local requirements, such as minimum parking. Although the city code mandates at least 140 parking spaces for an apartment complex of 84 units, the state law says only 48 are needed for affordable projects.
“People are saying there’s no parking. Well, you’re right, there is no parking, absolutely is no parking,” Mayor Rich Tran said.
“Folks are going to have to make some business decisions if they want to live there. There is no street parking. There is no street parking on the cul de sac. Sango Court? I don’t think so. Montague? I’m afraid not. Great Mall Parkway? Yeah, right,” Tran said.
State law grants parking waivers and other exemptions to local development standards for affordable projects within half a mile of major transit hubs.
According to a city staff report, 51 of Pacific Commons Communities’ apartments will be reserved for people who make 40%-60% of the area median income and 33 for those who make 80%-120%. One apartment is for the complex’s manager.
For a family of four, the current median income in Santa Clara County is roughly $151,000, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For some of the higher priced units in the project, a family of four would be eligible to rent if their total income doesn’t exceed $180,000 annually, according to city staff.
The developer can build 18 more apartments than local codes allow under the state law and can get by with providing 10 balconies altogether instead of one per unit.
Despite their quibbles over parking, the council broadly expressed support for the project because it will be affordable and near transit.
“If it wasn’t affordable housing, it would be a definite no,” Tran said. He acknowledged that “one of the biggest mistakes” the city has made in the last decade was not building or requiring affordable housing near BART and the mall, where thousands of other market-rate apartments and homes have been approved.
“Zero affordable housing, literally, zero,” Tran said.
Across the street from this planned development, an affordable 100-unit apartment project at 355 Sango Court approved several years ago has yet to be built.
Vice Mayor Carmen Montano said she Pacific Commons’ project.
“It’s 100% affordable. People will trade their car to have a place to sleep, to have a place to live that’s affordable,” she said.
“The whole purpose of density bonuses is because the state is trying to reduce air pollution, climate change, and we have to take bold steps,” she added.
The council rejected the developer’s request to waive a $225,000 public art fee.
When Pacific Commons representative Mike Kelley asked if the company could at least “split the baby” with the city and pay $150,000, Tran replied, “We don’t really bargain in this town.”
“We’ll pay it, don’t worry about it,” Kelley responded.