Quality of Life:
It must be pointed out that the proposed Maybell Orchard Senior Apartments, unlike nearby Palo Alto Commons or Stevenson House, was NOT an assisted living facility. There were no on-site dining facilities. No services such as housekeeping were provided. This was an apartment house for seniors. (See the excellent analysis on “Who is a Low Income Senior“)
Let’s look at what was proposed:
- Fifty-nine senior 1-bedroom (600 sq. ft.) apartments.
- One 2-bedroom manager’s apartment
- 35 parking spaces for tenants (plus 7 for guests, 5 ‘reserve’)
- Garden area (6870 sq. ft) in the central walkway on the ground floor, including a covered terrace (475 sq. ft.)
- Roof terrace (940 sq. ft).
- Group fitness room (250 sq. ft. studio) and exercise room (250 sq. ft.) with 4 stationary bikes.
- Community room (1025 sq.ft.) with kitchen and computer room (170 sq. ft.)
It all sounds reasonable until you compare it to what could be provided under the current RM-15 zoning regulations:
- Up to 38 2-bedroom (850-900 sq,ft,) apartments. (NOTE: This does not include the current 4 houses on the R-2 zone)
- A minimum of 7600 sq. ft. of common open space.
- 50-100 sq. ft. PRIVATE open space (deck or patio) per apartment.
- 81 parking spaces (76 for tenants, 5 for guests) including 1 covered space per apartment.
Living area is not the only consideration. The Maybell Orchard Senior Apartments was a 4-story U-shaped building. The distance from the farthest apartment to the SINGLE elevator was 200 feet down a 5-foot wide windowless hallway. The view from the windows of half of the apartments were of the adjacent 8-story Tan Towers and the 3-story Arastradero Park Apartments.
The proposed density was equivalent to RM-60 (which doesn’t exist in Palo Alto zoning code). In the case of lower RM-30 and RM-40 zoning with more than 40 units, the regulations REQUIRE that “For any project containing forty (40) or greater units and located more than 500 feet from neighborhood commercial services, a minimum of 1500 sq. ft of neighborhood serving retail, personal service and/or eating or drinking uses shall be provided.” No such services were provided in the Maybell Orchard Senior Apartments. The PC zoning exempted them from this and other requirements.
“Seniors Do Drive”
In hearings before the Planning and Transportation Commission and the City Council, PAHC justified the low number of parking spaces with the statement that “seniors don’t drive”.
In fact according to statistics from the California DMV and the US census:
83% of the seniors over the age of 65 in Santa Clara County have driver’s licenses. That means that AT LEAST 49 tenants (out of 59 apartments) will be competing for the 35 allocated parking spaces.
Where would the unlucky ones park? Most likely on Clemo Avenue, occupying the available spaces for parents of children using Juana Briones Park, or on adjacent streets across Maybell Avenue in the Barron Park neighborhood. And since the ordinance stated that parking will be restricted on Maybell Avenue, they would have been competing with the overflow parking from PAHC’s Arastradero Park Apartments next door.
“Location, location, location”
Also unlike Stevenson House which is located across the street from the Charleston Shopping Center, one of the major deficiencies of this site for senior housing was the lack of nearby facilities. In their submission to the California Tax Credit Allocation Committee, PAHC listed a number of “amenities” which were supposed to be “convenient” for the residents of the senior housing. Points in this competition are awarded based on proximity of the amenity. The facilities listed by PAHC included:
- Pharmacy – Walgreen’s Drug Store at El Camino Real and Maybell Avenue – 1/4 mile distance. At present there is no sidewalk on the south side of Maybell Avenue extending from the senior housing project to El Camino Real. The PC zoning ordinance states that a sidewalk will be installed, even though this will require taking land from nine private homes and possibly removing two very large redwood trees.
- Transportation – VTA Line #22 bus stop, El Camino Real at Maybell Avenue – 1/3 mile distance. PAHC claims the distance is 1/4 mile because it provided a higher point score on the CTCAC application.
- Supermarket – Whole Foods Market, El Camino Real, Los Altos – 1.25 miles distance. Remember, these are low income seniors.
- Medical Clinic – Planned Parenthood Clinic, San Antonio Road, Mountain View – claimed distance: 0.9 miles. The CTCAC process allows the distance to be measured in a straight line, but in reality, since seniors don’t ‘fly like crows’, the travel distance is 1.5 miles. This clinic provides a variety of general health SCREENING TESTS, but, as their website states – “We may refer you to a primary care physician if your test results are not in a healthy (normal) range.”