The Belmont City Council created a plan for a vibrant and denser downtown in 2017 and that vision is on its way to becoming a reality after it unanimously approved a 250-unit apartment building Tuesday — the largest development the city has seen in decades.
“In many ways this type of project is exactly what we were hoping would occur when we started changing and updating our downtown and adjacent zoning guidelines,” said Vice Mayor Warren Lieberman.
Proposed by developer Windy Hill and located at 1325 Old County Road, the four-story development known as Artisan Crossing includes 38 “low-income” units, making the project 15% affordable. Those units will be reserved for those earning 80% of area median income, which comes out to $80,000 a year for single people or $117,000 a year for families of four.
“A school teacher could live there by themselves, a couple making $50,000 each can afford to live there and a couple making $60,000 each with two kids can afford to live in those units and that’s incredible because these types of units are desperately needed,” said Councilman Charles Stone. “It’s an incredible project really. Other than the fact that it doesn’t pay prevailing wage it’s practically perfect to me.”
Stone also celebrated the proposal for a range of community benefits, including a 1,352-square-foot “flex space” that will be occupied rent free by Community School of Music and Arts, a Mountain View-based nonprofit offering music classes to all ages. Music lessons there won’t be free, but tuition subsidies will be available.
“It’s not free, but there will be music lessons more easily accessible to many folks. Some might pay market rate and some will pay less,” Lieberman said.
And if the school were to move on from the space for whatever reason in the future, the next occupant would still have to be a community-serving nonprofit exempt from paying rent, per the development agreement.
A bike repair shop and 4,031-square-foot plaza will be publicly accessible and the latter includes a $100,000 public art installation to be paid for by the developer.
Other streetscape improvements include the construction of wider sidewalks, corner bulbouts and bike lanes. Additional street trees will be planted, a bike kitchen will be available to the public and Windy Hill has also agreed to pay $400,000 for an O’Neill Avenue tunnel feasibility study.
“The study of the Caltrain undercrossing at O’Neill is fantastic for pedestrian connectivity and will help unlock mobility throughout the corridor,” Stone said.
An underground parking garage can accommodate 258 cars and it includes 216 long-term bike parking spaces — well above the requirement — and 14 electric vehicle-recharging spots.
Close to 15 speakers express support for the project at Tuesday’s meeting, Stone said, while three or so residents were concerned about parking and traffic impacts.
“They have a legitimate concern and I’m confident the folks at Windy Hill will continue to work and see what adjustments can be made and try to address parking concerns,” Lieberman said. “I’m not going to say everything will be perfect, but we’ve got a process where folks are strongly trying to work together and it’s clear there’s an enormous amount of support in the community for this development and way it was crafted.”
Stone agreed and said a parking permit program could be explored in the future if need be.
“It’s a big day for Belmont, a big win for affordable housing and housing, but it’s still several years down the road before anyone is living in these units,” Stone said.
In other business, the council appointed Public Works Director Afshin Oskoui to serve as acting city manager. Current City Manager Greg Scoles is retiring and the council hopes to fill the position permanently by August.
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