BY BRADEN CARTWRIGHT
Daily Post Staff Writer
Palo Alto council members tonight (Dec. 11) unanimously endorsed the idea of building affordable housing on a downtown parking lot while giving different opinions on how to approach the project.
The city will start with a rectangular lot at the corner of Lytton Avenue and Kipling Street, behind a 7-Eleven.
Councilwoman Julie Lythcott-Haims said she wanted to pursue multiple downtown housing projects at one time, but Councilman Pat Burt said the city had its hands full with six other affordable housing projects throughout the city.
“It’s easy to throw around, ‘Let’s do a dozen,’ but these are big, complicated, expensive projects,” he said.
Councilman Greer Stone said he’d be willing to let the buildings rise to 85 feet, noting the other tall buildings around downtown.
Council voted to explore a building that goes two stories above the city’s 50-foot height limit.
Councilman Greg Tanaka said he wanted the city to build market-rate apartments and use the profits to build affordable housing somewhere else.
“We could help so many more people than just the lucky few who get a lotto ticket to access one of these units,” he said.
Tanaka also wanted the apartments to be on the smaller side. He said he lived in a studio with his mom and sister growing up, and other families do the same.
“It’s a great way for lower-income families to actually get into an area that they maybe can’t naturally afford,” he said.
Councilman Ed Lauing and a few others were interested in putting an apartment complex for seniors behind Avenidas Senior Center, at the corner of Lytton Avenue and Bryant Street, but they weren’t ready to pursue it yet.
Nine people spoke in favor of downtown housing, many encouraging the city to go bigger.
Channing House CEO Rhonda Bekkedahl wrote a letter saying her senior community employs 175 people in housekeeping, dining, maintenance and nursing assistance.
But they aren’t paid enough to live in Palo Alto and are commuting from further and further away, Bekkedahl said.
Two downtown property owners were against the idea of replacing parking with housing, even if the lost spaces are replaced in a garage elsewhere. Well-located and dispersed parking is critical to retail success, said John Shenk of Thoits Brothers, landlord to 18 tenants.
“We need to keep them healthy,” he said.