New preliminary plans have been revealed for a twenty-unit project at 11511 Summit Wood Road in Los Altos Hills, Santa Clara County. The residential proposal is the first seen in the Bay Area to use the highly anticipated Builder’s Remedy, a Zoning Holiday provision enforced by the State for cities with non-compliant housing elements. Sasha Zbrozek is the property owner and applicant.
The 1.84-acre property is located in Los Altos Hills, an incorporated town of 8,489 people during the 2020 Census. The city’s notable residents include several billionaires, athletes, and prominent Silicon Valley elite. As far as YIMBY can see, the low-slung residential proposal could become the largest single residential building in Los Altos Hills, just north of Black Mountain and close to Palo Alto, Mountain View, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino. The town, including the existing lot of 11511 Summit Wood Road, is dominated by single-family housing.
Initial plans for 11511 Summit Wood yield around 32,700 square feet of total floor area, with 10,450 square feet in the five townhouse-style units and 12,410 square feet for the 15-unit building, all units spanning around 815 square feet. All residents will have access to an 815-square-foot amenity space on level two of the larger structure. Four units will be designated as affordable housing for low-income residences.
There will be two three-story duplexes and one three-story single-family home. Protected parking for 28 cars will be included, with eight exposed spots and 20 covered spots. The vehicular capacity is far below the city’s required zoning for 80 spaces. Bicycle parking is not specified. The existing pool and driveway will be retained throughout the development.
OpenScope Studio is the project architect. Illustrations provided in the plan set are preliminary, with the design, layout, and facade materials liable to change as the project moves forward. The project design is intentionally simple to save costs. Facade materials include corrugated metal siding. The apartment complex will be covered with cement stucco, while vertical Redwood panels will add warmth and character to both townhome duplexes and the single-family home.
Speaking with Sarah Klearman of the San Francisco Business Times, the project architect Mark Hogan had hinted at plans for Los Altos Hills, describing the then-unknown project applicant as “someone with a large lot which feels like we should be building alt more housing and wanted to take advantage” of the Remedy.
The project has been made public since the preliminary application was submitted to the Town of Los Altos Hills Planning Department. Within the application, Zbrozek writes that “while the town has adopted its 6th-cycle housing element, I do not believe it is substantially compliant with state law. Due to the failure to adopt a substantially-compliant element by the statutory deadline, the town is barred from denying housing development projects such as this on the basis of noncompliance with zoning or the general plan.”
While the project appears compliant and suitable for protection via the Builder’s Remedy, Zbrozek has shared with YIMBY an opinion shared with many, writing, “timelines are enormously unclear since it’s likely litigation will be required to establish the entitlements.” The developer hazards to guess construction will take at least five years to start.
Along with the 20-unit plans, Zbrozek has submitted a five-unit version with the two duplex buildings and single-family residences.
The Builder’s Remedy is a provision first put into state law over two decades ago in the Housing Accountability Act. Recent state laws have galvanized strength around the provision, and now dozens of cities across the Bay Area will see its consequences.
The Builder’s Remedy will impact cities after the Housing Element is deemed non-compliant with the state’s housing law. The remedy removes all local zoning control from the city, though applications must still comply with the California Environmental Quality Act, i.e., CEQA. All Remedy applications must designate 20% of units as affordable, or all units must be affordable for moderate-income households.
For more information about the Builder’s Remedy, see the recent article by Sarah Klearman of the San Francisco Business Times, and visit the YIMBY Law website for details about how to utilize the provision.