51 homes proposed for north Gilroy border

Gilroy developer James Suner, 44, who was arrested for driving

Gilroy’s planning commission on Thursday unanimously recommended
approving a 51-home project on nearly five acres of land near the
northern edge of town.
Gilroy’s planning commission on Thursday unanimously recommended approving a special exemption for a 51-home project on nearly five acres of land near the northern edge of town.

Developer James Suner’s proposed Oliveri development, which would stand on the west side of Monterey Road north of the Sobrato Transitional Apartments on Farrell Avenue, is the largest of its kind proposed for Gilroy in at least three years. The commission recommended that it qualify for a proposed city exemption for “shovel-ready” in-fill projects. The development proposal would replace a fenced-off area that now includes a billboard for Cache Creek Casino.

“If you look at the property, it’s blighted, and this is the northern gateway to Gilroy,” developer James Suner said.

The project stands on land owned by Pinnochio’s Pizza owner Sal Oliveri. As a developer, Suner would get entitlements for the project in place and then sell the project to a builder, who will compensate both Oliveri and Suner.

The project area has been approved for “senior affordable” housing, one of the housing types exempted under the city’s Residential Development Ordinance, which limits the amount of development in the city.

Suner and Olveri hope to build single-family homes on the property following changes the City Council made to the zoning code last month. On June 7, the Council approved a first reading of an ordinance that would give it discretion to approve up to 200 building allotments in areas that are surrounded by development as long as those building projects are able to be completed within three years.

Suner anticipates that construction on the Oliveri project will start no later than January, so it would meet that criteria.

“To me, what we were trying to do when we came up with this exemption was to allow something like this, especially during these economic times, and it was pretty specific that it wasn’t going to be something we were going to do forever,” Commissioner Brad Bannister said at Thursday’s meeting. “It was something we were going to do to temporarily help the housing market.”

Home prices in the development would range from $380,000 to $420,000, according to a city staff report. Suner estimated that the homes would range in size from 1,600 to 1,800 square feet. Each homebuyer would have the option of having his or her home powered by solar electricity.

“I think most (homebuyers) will take it,” Suner said of the solar option while addressing the planning commission last week.

Potential changes to the RDO process opened the door for development, Suner said. The plot of land has stood within city limits for more than 40 years.

Although the project has 28 on-street guest parking spaces, only three of its homes have full-length 18-foot driveways. Most driveways are only five feet long, said David Bischoff, Gilroy’s director of planning and environmental services.

That could be a problem, as many people use their garages to store junk and depend on driveways for parking their cars, Bischoff said.

A few City Council members expressed similar frustrations last month regarding a shortage of driveways in a 29-unit housing project developed by Michael McDermott off of Ronan Avenue in northern Gilroy.

However, Suner said each house would include two garages, providing ample space for vehicles. He has built other projects using a similar model, he said. Planning commissioners on Thursday did not discuss the project’s parking arrangements, although commissioner Ben Anderson wrote in an e-mail this week that the commission would likely consider parking when it reviews the project’s architecture and site plans at a later time.

Suner said his housing project would include a .26-acre park, and he plans to contribute play equipment to another park that McDermott is building just north of Antonio Del Buono Elementary School.

This would be the second project that potentially would qualify for the new “shovel-ready” exemption. McDermott’s Ronan Avenue project also is expected to qualify, although the exemption has not yet been adopted.

Bischoff said he expected more such projects to come.

Anderson said Monday that he liked the project, and he was happy to see the council agreeing to exempt shovel-ready projects.

“I think that it was necessary for the city to take this step to spur construction,” he said.

Suner believes his project will help spur development at a time when housing projects have run dry.

“This is part of our little economic stimulus package,” he said.

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