A proposed 177-unit apartment building application at 815 Old County Road in Belmont that meets the city’s goal of housing development along the transit corridor has passed the first phase of the development approval process.

The Planning Commission unanimously approved the project design entitlement requests and environmental clearance at its June 1 meeting, highlighting its location, 27 affordable housing units and proximity to transit as important for the city’s future. It is at the former Belmont Iceland lot just north of Ralston Avenue.

“The location is ideal, and the walkability is huge. We need housing, and this is providing much-needed housing with 27 affordable units. It’s just great,” Commissioner Brian Kulich said.

The project proposal applicant was Carmel Partners, a multifamily housing developer based in San Francisco. Community Development Director Carlos de Melo said the proposal would move from the entitlement and design approval phase to the construction permitting phase. The new phase focuses on the applicant providing detailed construction and grading plans to the Planning Commission for approval at a later date. De Melo said the construction permitting phase could last through the end of the year as the city has a moratorium on grading in the winter. However, depending on construction phase approval and no unforeseen delay, construction in the new year is possible.

“You could see a spring 2022 construction start,” de Melo said.

He noted the project is one of the city’s largest, and construction for a project of its size and scale is 18 to 24 months.

“You don’t get 177 unit projects knocking on your door every day,” de Melo said.

The apartment building will be five stories and have 27 affordable units in the 177 total spaces. The proposal suggests 29 studio units, 107 one-bedroom units and 41 two-bedroom units. The 240,000 square feet building will have 200 parking spaces. Around 15,600 cubic yards will be grading for construction of a parking garage, landscaping, drainage, water treatment facilities and other site improvements. The basement area would have around 105 parking spaces, while the first floor would have 92. The rest of the floors would be primarily devoted to apartments.

The existing property is two separate lots, which would be consolidated. The building would be approximately 180 feet from Old County Road and 10 feet from surrounding property lines. It would have a podium-level courtyard with a pool at the center of the building. Vehicle and pedestrian entry to the building and parking garage would be through a sidewalk and driveway at Old County Road.

City staff found the project met all environmental review standards and recommended entitlement. The entitlement process focuses on the structure, meeting city plan standards and design of the structure. The city will issue density bonus waivers to physically accommodate height from 45 feet to 60 feet. The additional units need the extra height to meet the site’s physical constraints. The public appeal period for the project is until June 11.

The project is also in line with the city’s General Plan, the Belmont Village Specific Plan and the city’s overall goal of improving downtown. The city adopted a Belmont Village Specific Plan in 2017 that envisioned transforming the downtown area into a vibrant, mixed-use activity center.

Greg Pasquali of Carmel Partners said the project would create construction jobs and increase revenue. Pasquali said the city would see around $700,000 in park impact fees, $500,000 in school fees for facilities, $4 million in water and wastewater capacity enhancement and $6 million in one-time revenue to local public agencies.

Commissioner Nathan Majeski liked the project’s location near the Caltrain station and that the project would add more housing to the area.

“I like the architecture. I like the transit-oriented developmental aspects of it and the walkability to the site despite the fact that it’s a flag lot. There’s a lot of nice features to the building,” Majeski said.

Commissioner Gina Latimerlo said it was in line with the city’s general plan, added affordable housing and could reinvigorate the town center. She thought the lot could accommodate a large building and didn’t interfere too much with the neighborhood’s growth.

I think this is an ideal location for a density bonus project,” Latimerlo said.

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