Daly City approves controversial housing project at former school site 

click to enlarge Christopher Columbus Elementary School
  • Brendan p. Bartholomew/Special to The S.F. Examiner
  • The site of Christopher Columbus Elementary School will be developed into new homes.
Despite objections from some residents, Daly City has approved the construction of 80 new homes less than a mile uphill from Serramonte Shopping Center. Located at 60 Christopher Court, the project site was home to Christopher Columbus Elementary School until declining enrollment lead to its closure in 2004. Developer Lennar Homes is buying the 13-acre site from the Jefferson Elementary School District for $18 million.

A recent City Council meeting was packed with speakers supporting and opposing the project. Supporters included William Nack, who spoke on behalf of the Building and Construction Trades Council of San Mateo County, an organization representing 26 local construction unions. Nack said the developer would employ union members and offer competitive wages and benefits.

Other supporters included school board members Rebecca Douglas and Marie Brizuela, along with Melinda Dart, president of the district’s teachers union, who said funds from the sale of the site would benefit the school district and its students.

Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo Executive Director Mark Moulton praised the developer for its plan to include 12 affordable homes, which are meant to be within reach of buyers earning 110 percent of the area’s average median income.

Saint Francis Heights Neighborhood Association President Cathy Pantazy pointed out that while the city’s inclusionary housing ordinance requires the project to include 16 affordable houses, Lennar Homes plans to pay $1 million worth of in-lieu fees rather than building and selling all 16 houses at below-market-rate prices.

Pantazy described the proposed homes as “oversized,” pointing out that their average size of 2,649 square feet is about 62 percent larger than the average for the neighborhood’s existing homes. The larger capacities of the new homes would bring in a lot more people, and most would have their own cars, she said.

Pantazy and several other speakers requested a continuance on the project due to the absence of Mayor Ray Buenaventura and Councilman Sal Torres, but the council chose to approve the project.

Lennar Homes did not respond to requests for an interview. But company division President Gordon Jones said he would consider the option of using deed restrictions to prevent homebuyers from housing more than one family in each dwelling. Jones also expressed a willingness to include language that would prevent homeowners from using their garages as storage, rather than parking. Each home will come with a two-car garage and two parking spaces in its driveway. The project also includes 48 on-street parking spaces, giving residents of the 80 houses a total of 368 parking spots.

Councilman Mike Guingona said the project had been thoroughly vetted by city staff. Vice Mayor David Canepa said that among several benefits, the developer will be paying $1 million into the city’s affordable housing fund and will also provide $1 million for Daly City parks and capital improvements. He said he envisions the 12 affordable units potentially being purchased by Daly City police officers, firefighters and teachers.

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