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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(15) comments

jazzpants

Now can they please fix up and reopen Belmont Iceland? It’s a sad sight of seeing this rink not open anymore. The new residents would probably want something active to do besides music lessons. Not that I’m against music lessons and all. I was a former musician, but I would like some form of artistic outlet that is also a form of physical exercise too... and I used to go there on my lunch break too!!!

jenpoobear

First off, there will NOT BE affordable housing! Same was said when Station Park Green (in San Mateo at Delaware and Concar), and Trestle Apartments (San Carlos on El Camino, where you can reach out and touch the train on one side, look out onto Taco Bell on the other, or down on El Camino on another). Studios in these places go for over $3,000/mo. Hardly affordable.
2nd...there is a large plot of dirt/land on 5th Avenue, between O'Neil and Broadway; if "housing is so desperately needed", why not build it there where there won't be such a nightmare of traffic congestion?
3rd...are you kidding with the lame excuse to build near public transportation so that people won't get into cars? That won't stop them when people want to go to the city, San Jose, half moon bay, anywhere....people want their cars!
Did you all read the whole article? Only 258 parking spots in underground parking....for 250 units?! So that leaves 8 guest parking? And you know there will be more than one person living in the one, two and 3 bedroom units, so where is everyone going to park?
Project "Nightmare on Old County" is something not well thought out. Bad idea for all residents and businesses! These business will go out of business due to no one able to get on the street.
Think about it.

Sabrina

I love music too. Lots of apartments have swimming pools. How many apartments could feature an Ice Rink? Music goes with figure skating and dance. It would have been nice had the developer thougt that serving the community could perhaps include music and skating lessons.

jazzpants

Ditto here!!! I would like to see some effort towards fixing up and reopening Belmont Iceland. It’s really sad to see this long time business closed and I used to go here a lot on my lunch break to skate. (Nothing wrong with music lessons and all, but this was a long time family entertainment and fun and I hate to see this part of someone childhood go away. It really should be preserved!!!)

Coralin

Kamala Harris, as former CA attorney general, said in a formal opinion, that local authorities may not institute preferential parking regulations that discriminate among residents based on the residents’ dwelling type,
https://www.jdsupra.com/legalnews/municipalities-may-not-grant-19209/

So Council member Stone suggesting that placing parking restrictions might solve the parking problem in neighborhoods may not work as well as expected.

This Harris restriction might also be applied to Fire House Square development on 5th, where residents could ask for a parking permit to protect themselves from new high density condos.

kevinburke

"Anyone who lives in any building built before 2017 is eligible for a parking permit." Done.

MarieS

I think this is awesome. Good job, Belmont.

jc1313

I love it. This is exactly what is needed. Grumpy NIMBYs like jenpoobear are why we don't have the housing units to support the growing population. I bet she already has a home and is too selfish to realize that others are struggling.

jenpoobear

Gee you know so much about me. I happen to rent an apartment on Old County Road so I know exactly what is like around here. You are so foolish to think this is such a good idea. Not only is there no room for this project, where are people suppose to park when they want to patronize the local businesses? We can't accommodate everyone. There is a whole country out there; go build there!

jc1313

There literally IS room for this project. And like I said in another comment, the whole point of projects like this is to build near public transit so people have to drive less. It's good for the environment and a better use of land space.

Intelinside

You must be relatively new here to the area? To refer to someone as grumpy because of the growing frustration of traffic and congestion....then we are all grumpy. I don't own a home and feel this is not the solution! I have attended council meeting fighting against such a nightmare of a project. This is not the street to add such a structure. Are you familiar with this part of Old County Road, between Harbor Blvd. and Ralston? This is going to be a terrible impact on all the small business where parking is already limited, and too much traffic due to overcrowding on 101 and El Camino so people use this road. It is as if the Council wants to see these businesses vacate. All this does is add to the existing problem. Bad idea.

jc1313

Not new to the area. Born and raised on the peninsula. We have a housing crisis and additionally, traffic is getting worse. So when we build housing units NEAR public transit that is a good solution to both of those things. We should be encouraging people NOT to drive and refusing to build anything will just increase rents, making it more un-affordable.

jenpoobear

Ridiculous and inconsiderate to build on a road that is constantly clogged due to 101 being clogged all the time, and El Camino, so commuters use this road. We need all the small little businesses on this road: auto shops, sheet metal, iron works, delis, Marvin Gardens hamburgers, etc., and along O'Neil! There is no room! Building more housing is not the answer! If you stop building, then people won't come here! This is nothing but a negative impact for all! When does it end? How much traffic, cars, people, garbage, noise, pollution, is enough! Way to go City Council members adding more stress for all! Happy?

kevinburke

The evidence around displacement and home price trends suggest that people are coming here whether we build housing for them or not.

There are plenty of renting families who are stressed every day wondering whether they will be able to make ends meet or whether the landlord will raise their rent. 38 of them will get their housing costs locked in. The others will have less competition from richer residents for the same apartment buildings.

kevinburke

For all of the talk about “luxury” apartments, at $1,000 per square foot these are actually going to be cheaper than pretty much every home on the market in Belmont right now. Smaller unit sizes are a great way to make housing more affordable and too much of Belmont’s housing supply requires you to overpay for a backyard.

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