Condo builders suggest tradeoff 

Thanks to a trade for higher-density housing, any three San Mateo families who bring in less than $75,000 may get a chance to live in homes normally sold for close to $1 million.

The San Mateo Planning Commission held a study session Tuesday night to discuss a 35-unit condominium complex on North San Mateo Drive on a site occupied by two medical offices. When completed, the four-story complex will include three homes reserved for low-income residents.

San Mateo requires that 10 percent of all housing complexes be sold for less than the current market rate and that units be sold to moderate-income families who make between $80,000 and $115,000. But in exchange for higher-density housing, the Nick Podell Company will sell these three to low-income families with total incomes of approximately $50,000 to $75,000.

Since there’s only a $5,000 difference between low and moderate income, Planning Commissioner Bertha Sanchez questioned if the affordability is worth the increase in density and decrease in parking.

The commission also requested the applicant look into moving their driveway north of the intersection of North San Mateo Drive and Tilton Avenue to cut down on congestion.

The density trade-off is part of the State Denisty Bonus Law. Along with the fixed additional units, Podell will be able to decrease the number of parking spaces from 70 to 62 and increase the total square feet of the project by 12,714-and-a-half square feet of space.

The San Mateo Housing Division will take applications for those units and oversee who purchases them.

Thanks in part to the requirement — originally passed by San Mateo voters in the early ’90s — there are approximately 220 below-market-rate houses in the city. That number is growing with each project.

"The three alone won’t make that big of an impact, but the impact is from San Mateo’s 10 percent affordability component for all housing projects," said Chris Mohr, Executive Director of the Housing Leadership Council of San Mateo County.

Neighbors — such as William Boudreau, who wrote a letter to the city in support of the project — also seem supportive. Associate Planner Kenneth Chin said that from the more than 1,000 notices sent out about a pre-application neighborhood meeting on April 11, only 10 residents showed up.

"No one was really opposed to it, it was more of a questions-and-answers session," Chin said.

jgoldman@examiner.com

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