Controversial Colma housing project moving forward 

Affordable housing advocates praised a decision by county supervisors Tuesday to push through plans for a new apartment complex despite protests by Colma city officials.

The board unanimously rejected an appeal by the city of Colma and approved the Bridge Housing project near the BART station to avoid putting $1.75 million in Metropolitan Transportation Commission funding for transit-oriented development at risk.

The project was approved with major issues still to be worked out with the city of Colma, including parking and traffic flow, architectural design and whether a drop-off lane will be allowed.

"I think this is precisely the type of project we have been looking for on the Peninsula," said Supervisor Mark Church, who highlighted the project’s affordability, location near public transit and higher-density design on El Camino Real — all part of broader county housing and transportation strategies.

Nearly half the cost of the estimated $38 million development is funded by state and federal funds, much of it earmarked for affordable housing, officials said.

"I’m very pleased the board saw the value in this development," Bridge Housing Executive Vice President Lydia Tan said, pointing out that 123 of the 155 housing units would be for working-class families making $50,000 or less a year.

Colma Mayor Fro Vallerga had requested a delay in the decision as part of an appeal to supervisors after the county Planning Commission approved the project in November. While the project at 7880 El Camino Real is on county property, Colma maintains the surrounding streets and city officials have said its location would impact the small city of 1,280 people.

Colma has threatened not to allow construction of a drop-off lane on city-maintained streets for parents bringing their children to a new 60-child day care center that is part of the project. The drop-off lane is likely to cause congestion backing up onto El Camino Real, according to Colma officials.

While disappointed in the decision, Vallerga said the city planned to keep working to resolve its differences with Bridge. "I understand [the supervisors’] need to go ahead because of the funding," Vallerga said.

The style of the proposed complex is too "modern," rather than fitting in with the city’s and another nearby apartment complex’s Mediterranean flavor, according to Vice Mayor Larry Formalejo.

Under the approved conditions, Colma city officials and Bridge will have 30 days to come to an agreement on the parking lane. Failing an agreement, the lane will be added further down F Street on county property, but several yards from the day care entrance, said Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, whose office has been acting as a go-between in the disagreement.

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