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August 12, 2009 > Changes to Centria West approved

Changes to Centria West approved

By Simon Wong
Photos By Courtesy of James Lindsay

Milpitas City Council approved changes to the proposed Centria East building to provide more units, increase building height, relocate shared leisure amenities within the building and reduce the allocation of affordable units to zero on August 4.

The Centria Project, approved in May 2005, consists of two buildings on South Abel Street with 481 units zoned Multi-Family Very High Density. The site was sub-divided into two parcels to complete the project in two phases - Centria East (Phase I) and Centria West (Phase II).

D.R. Horton, the project's original owner and developer, was granted approval to provide 464 units, of which 93 were set aside as affordable housing, instead of 481. Phase I was completed in 2008. Centria East has 137 condo-units, including 26 for moderate- and lower-income households.

In June 2008, the project was sold to Lyon Milpitas, LLC who agreed to provide the remaining 67 affordable units as part of Centria West, as per a September 2008 owner participation agreement (OPA) with the Redevelopment Agency ((RDA). Construction of Phase II's 327 units has yet to start.

Lyon Milpitas sought approval for four changes to Centria West.
First, construction of a total of 381 units, instead of 327, with a different mix of unit-types. A five-story, multi-family, residential building, comprising 23 studios, 140 one-bedroom units, 198 two-bedroom units, and 20 three-bedroom units, will surround an eight-story parking structure with 650 spaces. Centria East has the same wrap-around design.

There are slight changes to the original facade envisaged by D.R. Horton. Earth-tones will be used. Different colors, tiered facades, alternating heights and 3-D pop-outs/setbacks will improve aesthetics. Masonry stucco and iron balconies will create a sense of durability and permanence.

Second, a common area, originally intended for the ground floor, will sit atop the parking structure with a club house. Leisure amenities will include a club room, Wi-Fi lounge, kitchen, fitness center, landscaped deck, spa and swimming pool.

Third, the height of Centria West will increase from 5 stories (75 ft) to 8 stories (89 ft) at its highest point once the club house is in situ. The project satisfies the intent and requirements of the Mid-Town Specific Plan.

Fourth, the 67-unit, affordable-housing requirement will no longer be extant on termination of the OPA.

The City's RDA has exceeded its affordable housing obligations. The Housing Element encourages 20 percent of all residential development be offered as affordable. This contrasts with the 15 percent-statutory requirement under State law [9 percent for low- and moderate-income and 6 percent for very low-income households]. The City has a surplus of 315 affordable units. The RDA is adding to that stock; the downturn in the housing market has facilitated the purchase of properties that can be re-sold as affordable housing.

The developer has upgraded Centria West to appeal to executives and professionals. This will increase the types of housing available in the City without hindering the RDA's goals. Improved amenities, floor-plans and architecture will enhance the project's assessed value by $3M.

Councilwoman Althea Polanski sought clarification on how the elimination of the 67 affordable units, the development's enhanced value, affordable housing targets and possible in-lieu fees might be reconciled.

"We don't have an established in-lieu fee for the absence of affordable housing," stated Planning & Neighborhood Services Director James Lindsay. "The $3M investment and 67 units equates to about $50,000 per unit. This is a pretty generous amount. That investment is in fact an in-lieu component because the developer is really re-investing in the project by providing higher-specification amenities."

"Has staff considered the introduction of an in-lieu fee for affordable housing in the future? The property market may change." asked Polanski.

"We certainly hope the market does change. A number of cities have such an in-lieu fee and it's something that we would certainly consider'" replied Lindsay.

The Mid-Town Specific Plan requires parkland and open space of 3 1/2 acres per 1,000 people. A Park in-lieu fee of $1,079,598 is payable to the City for the Centria West project because it does not include the open space required. The City uses these funds to develop new parks. The City acquired 0.5-acres adjoining the Centria West parcel from Santa Clara County; Lyon Milpitas will develop this as parkland and the associated costs will be deducted from the in-lieu fee.

Council voted unanimously to approve the project and requested that staff consider an affordable housing in-lieu fee [outside the RDA].

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