2,163 new homes pass the first test

Planning Commission makes recommendations
– now the City Council will review and approve or change
GILROY – Stressing a desire to create affordable and senior housing, fill in existing areas of the city and complete existing developments that are already underway, Gilroy’s Planning Commission has recommended approval of 2,163 new housing units through 2013.

The units come from 14 of the 20 projects that applied through the city’s residential development competition, a process traditionally held every two or three years to divvy up the amount of available housing units set by the City Council through a growth-control law called the Residential Development Ordinance.

City Planning Manager Bill Faus said Monday that Gilroy is taking a different approach than in past years, allocating a greater number of units at one time instead of over several separate competitions.

If approved by the City Council, the recommendation would leave just 314 allocations available under current limits Council set for the next decade. Although developers could be awarded the remaining units in future competitions, they could not hope to begin building with them until 2009.

“We are trying to give projects an indication that these are the ones we’d like to move ahead,” Faus said Monday.

The commission’s plan, finalized at its meeting Thursday, distributes a set number of allocations per year to developers. Most will receive their allocations over the next three or four years with the exception of the largest project in the competition – and in city history – the Filice family’s 392-acre, 1,413-unit Glen Loma Ranch.

When fully built, the proposal between Christmas Hill Park and Santa Teresa Boulevard on the city’s west side will include 17 distinct neighborhoods, 300 apartments, a commercial center and park, trails, fire station and elementary school. It was awarded 30 units in the 1999 competition.

That project received 812 of the 1,380 allocations it requested through 2013 with an effective start in 2006, a two-year delay from what the Filice family had requested.

However, if approved by the City Council, the commission’s recommendation would still give Glen Loma roughly half of the city’s available yearly allocations from 2008 through 2013. And Faus said that the Filice family can also gain approval for units through pursuit of a specific land-use plan for the development and by providing affordable housing.

“This was the first step in acheiving the necessary buildout for that project,” Faus said. “They’ve always recognized they’d achieve buildout through several different mechanisms.”

The Eagle Ridge, Deer Park, Glen Loma, Rancho Hills and Carriage Hills projects – mostly single-family subdivisions – all gained the allocations they needed to complete their projects, Faus said. Projects with higher densities or targeting multiple families and seniors projects also won favor.

“Multi-family (development) certainly came out on top, in-fill came out on top, and there was a continuance of existing projects,” Faus said. “Those were the ones that tended to fare better.”

Among winners were the Vineyard Apartments, a 170-unit high-density project, and several senior projects like Village Green and Oak Commons.

Projects that required annexations did not do well in the competition, including the 111-acre Carnadero proposal across Santa Teresa Boulevard from Gavilan College and Sunrise Trails, a 182-unit project near Antonio Del Buono Elementary.

Also failing to gain units – for the second time – was the Mission Gateway project, a 300-unit mixed-unit development proposed for the north edge of town between Day Road and Sunrise Avenue.

“New projects at the far reaches of the city did not fare as well,” Faus said.

The commssion deliberated for three hours to divvy up the allocations, working through a Rubix-cube-like challenge of numbers and information spelled out in hundreds of pages of staff reports. Developers’ representatives sat interspersed throughout the Council Chambers, fidgeting and occasionally rolling their eyes.

The council is scheduled to review the recommendations at its May 28 meeting, although Mayor Tom Springer and some other councilmembers have raised the possibility delaying a decision on the allocations until a dispute over the city’s impact fees is settled.

The Homebuilders Association of Northern California has taken issue with the city’s proposed fees – which are projected to nearly triple by 2007. The association claims the fees are up to 100 percent higher than allowed by law.

The council was originally scheduled to review the RDO recommendations tonight, but instead scheduled a study session on the impact fees.

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