Developer of city’s first SB9 project plans to live in one home, sell the others off to pay the bills

From left, Derek Deaton, Asma Jafri and Bill Wu are working together to turn one old home into four new ones in the Barron Park neighborhood, the first project of its kind in Palo Alto. Post photo by Braden Cartwright.

BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer

Developer Bill Wu, one of the people behind Palo Alto’s first single-family lot split using the controversial Senate Bill 9, plans to sell some of the homes he is creating so he can afford to live in one of them.

Wu and his business partner, investor Asma Jafri, said in an interview yesterday that projects like this are necessary to solve the housing crisis.

Wu and Jafri are closing in on a purchase of a one-acre property at 940 Matadero Ave., and they applied with the city on Monday (Jan. 3) to split the lot in half. The new lot on the street would be developed with a two-story house and an accessory home, and the back lot would have twin one-story houses.

“We’re not pushing the limits,” Wu said yesterday in front of the home that he plans to have demolished.

Under SB9, a state law that took effect on Jan. 1, the city has no choice but to approve the lot split and development if it checks all of the boxes.

Palo Alto City Council has written letters against the bill, arguing that it takes away local control and will harm low-density neighborhoods.

Wu and Jafri were introduced to the tree-filled property by Realtor Derek Deaton. Wu said he was looking to buy a flat property between one or two acres in Los Altos Hills, and Deaton pointed him to a close match at the end of Matadero Avenue in the Barron Park neighborhood.

The house is vacant, and the property is owned by the trust of Sue Madrigal, who died at age 70 in July. Madrigal grew up in Barron Park and worked as a social worker in San Francisco.

Sale will be final soon

Deaton said they will finalize a deal in the coming weeks. He wouldn’t say how much they’re buying the property for until the transaction goes through. Zillow estimates that the property is worth $4.5 million.

Wu and Jafri hired architect Randy Popp, a former member of the city’s Architectural Review Board, to get the project through. Popp filed an application as soon as possible. The team met with the city yesterday, and planners said they needed to make sure that the new houses would be set back far enough from the property lines.

Other than that, Wu said the project is good to go. While Palo Alto has a reputation for being anti-development, he said city planners were open to the project.

“We really want to work with the city,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be quick.”

Under SB9, the property owner is required to sign an affidavit saying that he or she intends to live in one of the homes for at least three years. Wu said he wasn’t sure if it’d be the large two-story house or one of the smaller houses in the back.

Wu, a Cupertino resident, can nearly pay for his new home by developing the lot, Deaton said.

Jafri preemptively addressed concerns from opponents of SB9, which she said is a necessary bill.

Dimensions

Under Palo Alto’s zoning, someone could build a house up to 5,000 square feet on an 8,000 square foot lot. In comparison, this project will create about 12,000 square feet of homes altogether on 45,000 square feet of land, Jafri said.

The neighborhood already has several “flag lots” — properties that aren’t up against the street but require access from a long driveway that goes to the street. While this flag lot will uniquely have two homes, they will be tucked away, Jafri said.

The homes won’t be cheap, but building affordable housing is nearly impossible, Jafri said.
“We have to give more space to our next generation,” she said.

Jafra and Wu both said they plan to pursue more SB9 projects in the Silicon Valley.

“I’m a developer, so I’m always pro-development,” Wu said.

2 Comments

  1. Understood. Wu is a developer and so, always pro-profit. That is ALL that this is about. Greed and the enrichment of a few people at the expense of a community. Palo Alto is where the most money is to be made so no surprise that developers are circling. This isn’t new. Everyone, including Palo Alto homeowners have re-developing to sell at ever-escalating prices. Houses as cash machines and the housing market as casino is happening everywhere now and especially in CA where greed and ever-escalating prices look more like a Ponzi scheme than community planning. There were, and maybe still today are places where the impact of proposed development was weighed against the overall impact on the neighborhood – ‘sustainable’ development. SB9, whatever it’s merits (none) will ruin towns like PA because all that matters is higher density and the greed of a few. It’s not that SB9 finally resolves the density problem. That problem is decades old. If anything SB9 might just accelerate turnover because the higher density makes PA one big over-congested traffic snarl where everything is just too crowded and too expensive. Wu and Jafri are about to make it worse because they only see profit. For all the boasting about the land and sustainability and justice this and that, California (which has every possible natural benefit) has developed wall to wall ugly – sprawl connected by congested interstates and strip malls and a few nice communities, like PA used to be. All for profit over community. SB9, brought to towns like ours by the Woke like Weiner, Newsom, etc. steals too much from the community for so little gain.

  2. There is a petition to put a ballot on the November election which will create a constitutional amendment to the California constitution. This amendment will says that all local zoning laws will override state laws. This will give cities back their control. Go to ourneighborhoodvoices.com for more info

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