‘Granny Units’ Could Aid Housing

Posted on October 26, 2016 by  
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number-0fIn a joint study session, the Los Altos City Council and the Planning and Transportation Commission last week reviewed how secondary living units might allow for new housing in Los Altos.

City officials concluded that secondary living units, small outbuildings often called “granny” or “in-law” units because of their customary inhabitants, could help alleviate Silicon Valley’s housing crisis.

Community Development Director Jon Biggs asked the council if Los Altos should lower the minimum lot size allowed for secondary units from 15,000 square feet. Out of the city’s 9,439 total parcels, only 1,501 are more than 15,000 square feet.

David Kornfield, the city’s planning services manager, said the meeting provided enough information to move forward.

“There are more eyes on the streets in places with second living units, and there’s different patterns of living,” he said. “When we come back (to the council), we will provide a much more comprehensive report on what the benefits are to the community and what the requirements are from the state.”

After the study session focused on secondary units, the conversation shifted to affordable housing. Los Altos has been without an affordable housing administrator since a 2015 request for proposal proved unsuccessful.  That’s at least partly due to the fact that no one seems to know the scale of affordability in Los Altos.

The city has partnered with Palo Alto Housing to administer affordable units in downtown Los Altos. According to Los Altos Mayor Jeannie Bruins, no one knows if units designated affordable are occupied by families that need the assistance, because the city has a complaint-driven compliance system.

Citing his experience living in Los Angeles, Alex Samek – another member of the Planning and Transportation Commission – suggested annual registration of below-market-rate units, including secondary housing.

City staff indicated that they would take Samek’s suggestion into account as they form an affordable housing strategy, which will not yet require a housing administrator.

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Downsizing? Come Visit The Parc Regent

Posted on July 8, 2015 by  
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One West Edith SignAs you may know, Los Altos is a highly desirable place to live. Whether you are preparing to move from the home in which you raised your family, or are the child of parents who are making such a move, you may well be facing an inevitable question “Are there any convenient local options available today?” Well, yes there are.

The Parc Regent combines the advantages of carefree living with the unique sense of community. Located across from downtown Los Altos, thes elegant condominiums are truly a gem. For the 55+ population, 3 bedroom, 2 bath units are a rare find. And large 2 bedroom units are a wonderful opportunity.

Carol & I are holding an Open House this weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, July 11th and 12th. We will be open 1:30pm-4:30pm both days. We will have both the 2 bedroom and 3 bedroom available for your viewing pleasure.

This community offers luxurious living with beautifully maintained grounds and tastefully designed interiors. Take advantage of being minutes away from shopping, city and emergency services, fine dining, medical centers and more!

Of course, you are welcome to contact us today to schedule your very own private tour (650-823-1434). Either way, we look forward to seeing you soon.  For more information, visit: LosAltosParcRegent.com

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New Affordable Housing Options

Posted on July 7, 2015 by  
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Colonnade Los AltosMore affordable housing options are coming to Los Altos, and prospective residents have until the end of the month to submit their applications for a lottery drawing.

“It’s a terrific opportunity for very high-quality apartments in an urban setting so close to shopping on El Camino,” said David Kornfield, the city’s planning services manager.

Colonnade Los Altos at 4750 El Camino Real will rent 17 below-market-rate (BMR) apartments – 16 one- and two-bedroom apartments for residents with very low incomes and a one-bedroom unit for a renter with a low income.

The salary range for those qualifying under the “very low income” requirement is $37,250 for one person to $57,450 for five people. The “low income” requirement limits the range from $59,400 for one person to $76,4000 for three people. The amounts are based on Santa Clara County’s median income of $106,300 for a four-person household.

The rent on the BMR units will run between $923 and $1,561 monthly. Comparatively, market-rate apartments are in the $3,000-$5,250 range.

In addition to income limits, the city will assign prospective renters priority rankings, with preference given to salaried employees of the city, school districts and fire department serving Los Altos residents. Other rankings include current Los Altos residents and workers. Final priority will go to those who either live or work in Santa Clara County.

According to Sares-Regis Group property manager Justin Whitsitt, the Colonnade’s management team has received 60 BMR preapplications and expects “a lot more.” To include more eligible applicants, Sares-Regis Group extended the deadline for preliminary applications from July 17 to July 31.

Of 167 units total, Stanford University leased 150 apartments for staff housing. The 17 BMR units will be spread throughout the complex and include the same amenities as the rest.

“We’ve found that you don’t want to segregate anyone,” said Karen Bowman, Sares-Regis Group regional vice president. “You just want it to have one sense of community.”

Kornfield said the Colonnade features the city’s largest number of BMR rentals in one location. Los Altos has 105 affordable multiple-family BMR units, including 32 rentals, 22 senior units and 44 second-living units, he added.

After the preliminary application deadline, the Colonnade management team will schedule a lottery drawing for the apartments. Whitsitt anticipates that four apartments will be available by the end of summer and the others will open through four project phases.

To submit a preapplication for the lottery process, visit leaselosaltos.com/affordable-housing-information.

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Past Meets Present In Los Altos Home

Posted on May 27, 2015 by  
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Dauer’s Los Altos homeThe past and the present meld in the Cotswold-style home of Stephanie and Chris Dauer on University Avenue in Los Altos. It looks as if it were lifted from a Beatrix Potter storybook because of its ivy-covered chimney and whimsical wavy cedar-shingle roof.

However, behind this cottage like facade is a spacious, light-filled home that combines early-20th-century details with 21st-century amenities.

The house was built circa 1931 and most likely had two bedrooms. Access to the kitchen was via the living room and dining room. Today, a slate foyer welcomes visitors and provides views of the courtyard through floor-to-ceiling divided-light windows.

Extensively remodeled in 1995, the house now features 3,300 square feet of living space on two levels. The Dauers purchased the house three years ago to be closer to Chris’s job at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. It was love at first sight for Stephanie, who was resigned to living in a ranch home.  “This has the character of an older house but with modern features,” she said.

Their first order of business was to replace the random-pattern roof in front. They also updated the kitchen and the lighting.

The living room, original to the house, has a high coved ceiling with exposed hand-hewn beams, parquet wood flooring and a Rumford fireplace with classic mantelpiece. Recessed display shelves are built in on either side of the room’s entrance.

Opposite the dining room, French doors open to a brick-paved loggia, garden and pool. The loggia is the family’s favorite place to eat dinner.  The kitchen and adjoining family room are just down the hall from the loggia. They’re unified by a wood paneled ceiling that rises to a center peak.

The Dauers updated the kitchen, replacing countertops, appliances and lighting fixtures. What once was all white is now warmed up with earth-toned granite on the island, creamy Caesarstone counters and handmade ceramic-tile backsplashes. The base of the island is painted a sage color.

Divided-light windows wrap the family room, which boasts an elevated fireplace with a slate hearth. They added a banquette to a corner of the room for casual dining. Stephanie refinished the banquette’s round oak dining table.

In addition to the office, there are two bedrooms and two bathrooms downstairs. The master suite – with skylights, coved ceiling with exposed beams, en suite marble bath, dressing area and built-in closets and dressers – occupies the entire upper level. There’s only one problem: The closets and drawers are unusual in size because they’re tucked under the eaves of that undulating Cotswold roof.

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Affordable Program Could See Changes

Posted on March 25, 2015 by  
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Sherwood Gateway by LennarLos Altos currently has 149 below-market-rate (BMR) living units: 105 multiple-family living units – apartments, condominiums and townhouses – and 44 affordable second-living units, usually considered small, backyard dwellings.

City officials are in the process of updating the housing element, a policy document that addresses how to meet diverse community housing needs over the next eight years. The 2015-2023 Housing Element outlines opportunities to develop 268 additional BMR units, including 84 for “extremely low-income” residents.

Planning Services Manager David Kornfield noted that it is the city’s first housing element that includes an “extremely low-income” category, aiming to serve those who make 30 percent of Santa Clara County’s median income ($150,500 for a four-person household).

The state approved the city’s draft 2015-2023 Housing Element Feb. 19, contingent on implementing a rezoning ordinance to allow for emergency shelters. The council is slated to adopt the 2015-2023 Housing Element formally in May.

City staff will pursue joining a Santa Clara County nexus study assigned to explore levying commercial linkage and residential impact fees to help fund affordable housing. Although the study would be a cooperative effort, cities would be free to adopt or not adopt fees as they see fit. Staff estimated that the nexus study would cost $15,000 to $23,000 per city – substantially less expensive than undertaking such a review alone, Kornfield said.

If the city decides to proceed with collecting fees, it could eventually build a complex with affordable units, either in the city or in collaboration with other jurisdictions in the region.

A March 7 letter from the League of Women Voters of Los Altos-Mountain View urged the council to pursue the nexus study and consider fees to support Los Altos’ low-income residents and workers who commute to the city.

“Now is the time to naturally revisit our housing administration and look at that contract for services,” Kornfield said. “It’s not coming from a performance perspective. If that were the case, we’d just end the contract and find something else.”  Kornfield added that he anticipates issuing an RFP by the end of the month.

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Senior Living Option In Los Altos

Posted on December 20, 2014 by  
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TOLASearching for an even more vibrant retirement life? The Terraces at Los Altos offers a new option in senior living and a fresh take on retirement.

Life is easy there, and more convenient. Brand new, maintenance-free residences provide a worry-free way of living. The stylishly designed continuing care retirement community (CCRC) has the comforts of a cozy neighborhood — making it easy to quickly feel at home.

With no yard work, home repairs or housekeeping, seniors at The Terraces can spend more time doing what they love: creating flexible, personalized programs that focus on all areas of their well-being, taking part in stimulating activities with close-knit friends or family or enjoying the multiple cultural excursions offered.

Just beyond The Terraces’ beautiful campus, the surrounding areas also provide a variety of entertainment. Downtown Los Altos’ quaint village atmosphere has unique cafes, salons, boutiques and a bustling seasonal farmer’s market, and nearby Stanford University offers a wealth of educational and cultural activities.

With a progressive approach to retirement, including modern services and amenities that offer life-enriching opportunities, The Terraces takes senior living to a whole new level.

For more information, contact The Terraces at Los Altos at 650-917-9661 or visit www.theterracesatlosaltos.com.

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Local BMR Units Coming To Market

Posted on November 20, 2014 by  
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100 First StreetThree significant construction projects in Los Altos should be completed within the next 12-18 months, and all include affordable housing units.

According to Los Altos Planning Services Manager David Kornfield, the city is slated to add 24 below-market-rate (BMR) units – including 17 rentals – in the next year and a half. The new BMRs will be offered at the 48-unit condominium project at 100 First St., the Colonnade apartments at 4750 El Camino Real and the mixed-use office and 20-unit condo development at 86 Third St.

“We’ve got a lot of good projects coming online,” said Kornfield, who added that the city’s affordable housing program is administered via Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley (NHSSV), a nonprofit real estate services agency. “Our production (of affordable housing) is limited by developer investments in the city, so we’re fortunate to have these.”

Kornfield noted that developer Randy Lamb’s 100 First St. complex, former site of the post office, is scheduled to wrap up in early 2015, the first of the projects completed. The development will offer five BMR units for sale: three one bedrooms and a pair of two bedrooms. He added that four of the residences are designated as moderate-income units, with one single-bedroom unit classified as low income.

According to NHSSV, low-income BMR units are available to eligible buyers earning no more than 80 percent of the Santa Clara County Area Median Income (AMI) – $59,400 for a single person. Moderate-income dwellings are limited to prospective buyers making no more than 110 percent of the AMI.

Other factors – such as priority criteria outlined by the city – limit the pool of eligible buyers for the deed-restricted units.

In addition to Lamb’s soon-to-be completed development, city officials anticipate the completion of the 167-unit Colonnade apartment complex – located on the former Los Altos Garden Supply site – next spring. That development, Kornfield noted, includes 17 BMR rentals – 11 one-bedroom and six two-bedroom units. Of those, 16 are designated very-low-income units, 50 percent of the AMI, while the other is rated a low-income unit.

Finally, developer David Luedtke’s mixed-use development at 86 Third St. will eventually add two new BMR units – one moderate-income three-bedroom unit and one low-income two-bedroom unit – to the city’s stock. Kornfield said he expects the project to be completed by the end of 2015 or early 2016.

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Los Altos Home Values Rank #1

Posted on November 18, 2014 by  
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Estrellita-Front(photo of 1030 Estrellita Way, Los Altos, sold by David & Carol Casas)

Los Altos just barely beat out Newport Beach as the most expensive real estate market in the country for larger homes, according to a new industry analysis. The report analyzed the average listing price of over 50,000 four-bedroom, two-bath homes across the country and found that Los Altos topped the list with an average of $1,963,100 for a home of that size.

Lack of inventory is a strong reason behind that high average price tag. Other than Newport Beach, which was just about $60,000 shy of stealing the top honors, the rest of the top-five most expensive markets were all in Silicon Valley as well. Saratoga came in third, with an average listing price of $1,867,980.

There was a sizable drop to $1,430,329 for Redwood City/Woodside at number four, followed by Los Gatos at $1,307,408. San Francisco was in the number six position—coming in just $30K over Sunnyvale’s seventh place average listing with $1,294,250. Moraga and San Mateo took the eighth and ninth spots with an average listing of $1,129,300 and $1,093,346, respectively.

Finally, rounding out the top ten was an actual non-California city: Wellesley, Massachusetts ($1,090,088). On the other end of the spectrum, Cleveland took the top spot for the most affordable city to buy a larger home with an average list price of $64,993—which is equivalent to about three years of property taxes on the same-sized home in Los Altos.

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Seniors Discover Talents At BridgePoint

Posted on November 3, 2014 by  
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BridgePointBridgePoint at Los Altos residents keep busy with a wealth of activities offered through the retirement community’s Continual Learning Program. And a few residents have uncovered talents they didn’t know they had.

BridgePoint Wellness Director Alex Gerasimov said he’s inspired every day he goes to work and sees firsthand how the activities enhance residents’ lives.

“It encourages them to step out of their box and brings excitement and fun into their lives,” said Gerasimov, who has served at BridgePoint for seven years.

The Continual Learning Program offers older adults the opportunity to flex their mental muscles and stay sharp. Classes include music therapy, poetry, art appreciation, discussions on current events, computer skills, creative writing through Foothill College and health seminars through Stanford Hospital. All activities are free of charge for residents.

Gerasimov recounted the achievements of several residents and the impact the program has had on their lives.

According to Gerasimov, Mary Nell Venable, 87, started attending the creative writing classes and became so inspired that she started writing her own poetry. She has written more than 100 poems to date. Her poetry fills BridgePoint’s newsletters and Facebook page, and the International Council on Active Aging has published her work.

Darinka Lenarcic, 86, has always been interested in the tech world, Gerasimov said, so she started taking computer classes so that she could stay up to date on the news from her native Slovenia. She now surfs the Web with ease.

Gerasimov noted that 80-year-old resident Patrick Jordan used the skills he learned from the computer classes to create his own website, where he keeps up with family and friends and posts his own writing and videos. Jordan is the “volunteer salesman” of BridgePoint, Gerasimov added, and eagerly serves as tour guide for prospective residents.

Loretta Hodson, 95, who moved to BridgePoint five years ago, was in a wheelchair but now walks on her own. Gerasimov said she credits her rehabilitation to the many seminars on healthful aging and to fitness activities at the community.

The Continual Learning activities are some of the highest-attended events at the community, according to Gerasimov. With increased participation in mind, BridgePoint plans to expand its computer lab and increase the bandwidth for Wi-Fi and streaming services such as Skype videos, which residents use to keep in touch with friends and family.

One of the most popular creative projects is the annual fall Project Runway Fashion Show. Residents pick a theme, the community supplies the fabric and creativity is unleashed as participants create and model hats, purses and even ugly sweaters on the runway.

“It is inspiring to watch as older adults discover skills and talents they never knew they had,” Gerasimov said.  BridgePoint, a Kisco Senior Living community, is located at 1174 Los Altos Ave. For more information, call 397-2200 or visit lifeatbridgepoint.com.

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Affordable Housing Comes To Market

Posted on March 26, 2014 by  
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Sherwood GatewayEvery few years, the local real estate market lets daydreams root in reality, at least for one family.

A one-bedroom apartment in the Los Altos Gardens complex recently came on the market for $981 a month. Part of a city-sponsored affordable housing program, the “below market rate” (BMR) unit is reserved for low-income candidates.

Based on Santa Clara County income averages, an eligible single person could make no more than $37,150, with the income limit rising with family size. Qualified buyers are entered into a lottery for BMR units, with candidates such as local teachers, police officers, firefighters and city employees given preference.

Los Altos established the BMR homeownership program in 1995 to provide housing options for a select few of the people who otherwise can’t afford to live in the city. The homes are deed restricted for 30 years, meaning that they can’t be resold at market rates or rented out. The program aims to provide more homes, not investments, in Los Altos. The city determines an affordable sales price for each unit, and Neighborhood Housing Services Silicon Valley administers the program.

The city requires that developers of multifamily housing projects set aside units for low-income applicants in exchange for incentives such as eased requirements for parking or development area.

Four townhouses at Sherwood Gateway went on the market for $461,913 last month, drawing 31 applicants. They’re part of a 38-unit development by Lennar Homes just off El Camino Real. Those houses had an $85,235 income cut-off for a single applicant. Two one-bedroom and one two-bedroom units in the 100 First St. development are expected to open for application soon, and 17 more rental units may hit the market later this year. The rental deadline for the Los Altos Gardens apartment is 4 p.m. Friday.

Applicants must apply through a BMR program with multiple eligibility requirements. For more information, visit bmrnhssv.org.

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