Planning Commission Approves Farmer Housing in Half Moon Bay

555 Kelly Avenue pedestrian view, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack555 Kelly Avenue pedestrian view, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

The Half Moon Bay Planning Commission has approved plans for a five-story affordable housing project at 555 Kelly Avenue in the heart of the coastal San Mateo County city. However, this approval was not simple, as several commissioners voiced strong disapproval of the project and vocalized potential conditions of approval that would contravene state law. The decision is appealable, and the project awaits final approval from the City Council.

Mercy Housing is the project developer, working alongside local non-profit Ayudando Latinos A Soñar, or ALAS. The team has described their project as providing “much-needed housing and support services to members of the local senior and farm working community.” Along with 40 units, the five-story complex will expand ALAS’s footprint in the heart of the agricultural community, include with a permanent Farmworker Resource Center and community room equipped with a commercial kitchen to assist the food outreach work by ALAS.

555 Kelly Avenue overlooking the street, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

555 Kelly Avenue overlooking the street, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

According to project plans published in early April, the 40-unit mix will include six studios, 26 one-bedrooms, and eight two-bedrooms. Parking will be included for 46 cars with reconfiguring the Ted Adcock Community Center parking lot and an on-site garage. Mercy Housing has indicated that two of the two-bedroom units might be downsized due to pressure from the Planning Commission. Van Meter Williams Pollack is the project architect, with Jett working as the landscape architect. The facade will be clad primarily with fiber cement for lap siding, board and batten paneling, and faux shingles.

News of the delay by the city’s Planning Commission during the April 30th meeting reverberated across the state, including direct condemnation by Governor Gavin Newsom. California Department of Housing & Community Development published a letter directed to the City of Half Moon Bay highlighting their legal obligations for the 100% affordable proposal, including that “subjective standards, such as how the project contributes to the ‘character’ of the neighborhood or city, cannot be the basis for disapproving, reducing density, or rendering infeasible a housing development project under the Housing Accountability Act (HAA).”

555 Kelly Avenue view from a car entering Half Moon Bay, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

555 Kelly Avenue view from a car entering Half Moon Bay, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

Like every city in the state, Half Moon Bay is subject to the Regional Housing Needs Allocation. The Association of Bay Area Governments established that the city needs to approve 480 new homes by 2031, of which 285 need to be for lower-income households. HCD reminded the city that plans for 555 Kelly Avenue are a substantial part of the city’s Housing Element, representing 14% of the city’s total lower-income RHNA obligations.

HCD explains that state law provides a five-hearing limit to any project after the review process of objective standards has been deemed complete. After this Tuesday’s meeting, the city has held three such meetings, and any meeting to discuss an appeal of the project will count toward the five-hearing limit. Concluding the letter, HCD highlights that “a project that meets the eligibility requirements of the State Density Bonus Law is entitled to a density bonus, concessions, development standard waivers, and reduced parking ratios.” Without substantial evidence that the waivers are unlawful or unnecessary to increase density, the city must give approval.

555 Kelly Avenue, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

555 Kelly Avenue, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

555 Kelly Avenue potential mural inclusion, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

555 Kelly Avenue potential mural inclusion, rendering by Van Meter Williams Pollack

During this meeting, commissioners quibbled on building height, concerns around parking while disregarding public transit, attempting to reduce unit sizes, and an odd fixation on the commercial kitchen, just to give a broad overview of how most commissioners attempted to adjust the project to a form the developer said would be financially unfeasible. One commission even claimed the structure would be the biggest in the city, a figure that will comfortably still be held by the five-story Ritz Carlton hotel.

Yesterday’s reporting by J.K. Dineen for the San Francisco Chronicle provides a brief summary of the exhaustive list of the various criticisms leveled by Commissioners Hazel Joanes, Rick Hernandez, Dave Gorn, and ​​Margaret Gosset, with a more supportive voice coming from Commissioner Steve Ruddock. For an even more exhaustive summary of the meeting, Jordan Grimes of the non-profit Peninsula For Everyone live-tweeted from the meeting Tuesday evening, which lasted from 7 PM to midnight.

The 0.38-acre parcel is a few blocks from Main Street along Kelly Avenue, next to the Ted Adcock Community Center and the Saturday market run by the farmer-owned Coastside Farmers’ Markets.

555 Kelly Avenue, image via Google Street View

555 Kelly Avenue, image via Google Street View

The project has already secured $5.2 million in state and local funding. If the project is approved by this summer, Mercy and ALAS plan to seek low-income housing tax credits and start construction in 2025. If the summer deadline is missed, construction will likely be delayed until 2026.

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8 Comments on "Planning Commission Approves Farmer Housing in Half Moon Bay"

  1. Build it. This is something concrete to help our low income workers and seniors. Hope they can break ground in 2025.

  2. Concerned Citizen | May 16, 2024 at 9:49 am | Reply

    Fantastic that Mercy & ALAS finally got approval on this. But what an appalling process and needless delay. The Half Moon Bay commissioners should be ashamed of themselves. Nit-picking the programming of the project, acting like they know better than Mercy and ALAS. All red-herrings when they really just object to 5-stories. The Ritz built 6, but hypocrisy shouldn’t come as a surprise.

  3. The nice tallest structure is between SF and Santa Barbara along the ocean coast range.

  4. Pretty awful that people actually showed up to the meeting to oppose this. IMO this is the only type of development that should be happening in a coastal town – dense, walkable infill – and much more is needed.

  5. Dense walkable infill? Are you a commie? Or a UN secret agent? The only permissible development is 3,000 square foot houses on quarter acre lots with plenty of parking for my 6,000 pound truck. Hey! It’s an electric truck, which makes me green!!!

  6. To any commissioners reading this: Don’t like tall buildings? You could have avoided this by allowing “missing middle” 2, 3, and 4-plexes over the past 30 years. That would have enabled a slow, gradual densification that wouldn’t have disrupted the ‘character’ of the neighborhood (though you would have claimed otherwise). But now your collective inaction has left you 30 years behind the needs of your community, and your ability to choose the nature of the growth has been taken from you. All you can do now is make better choices going forward.

  7. Something I would like to point out as being a Half Moon Bay resident for 20 years now. Is that one hidden sad part of the town, is the lack of rail service which in that case there is a lack of flexibility for making commutes to different parts of the Bay Area that other places benefit from in terms of access and mobility.

  8. Jennifer Moore | June 4, 2024 at 9:21 pm | Reply

    I so sad that people don’t understand our community and what we truly need. Mass density is not it. If you want to live that way we have plenty of areas for that! Half Moon Bay is not one of them!!! The City the governor mercy and alas are lying to our local farmers. This project is a lottery that can go to any undocumented senior (55 or older) farm worker in California. This project has a bigger agenda than to help our small farming community. Wake up California!

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