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[whitespace] Town approves project that includes homes for teachers

Developer will offer units in deal with school district

Los Gatos--In apparent response to the shortage of affordable housing in Los Gatos, a developer recently received approval from the planning commission for a project that includes three apartments reserved for local teachers.

Developer Bill Errico plans to convert the lots at 17435 and 17443 Farley Road into a mixed-use development--consisting of one 46,000-square-foot storage building and six one-bedroom apartments, as well as an existing single-family home. Of the six apartments, one will be rented at below-market price, and three will be reserved for Los Gatos-Saratoga Joint Union High School District teachers.

Errico will enter into an agreement with the district that will give teachers the option of moving into the apartments. If there are no teachers to fill the units, project designer Rodger Griffin said, the units will be rented at below-market price, in accordance with a town program that creates affordable housing by tying rent to household income. The next time an apartment is vacant, teachers will once again be the first-choice tenants.

Although exact rent costs for the proposed units are unknown, teachers won't necessarily get the below-market-price rent. It could be higher. Griffin said that, when the time comes, management will follow examples of other properties specifically rented to teachers. Griffin cited recent similar agreements--two teachers who share a house, each paying $650 a month, and one-bedroom apartments that cost teachers $800 a month.

Planning commissioners applauded Errico's attempts to compromise with neighbors. Errico's original proposal was for a two-story research and development building, instead of a storage facility, and only two of the apartments were reserved for teachers. Because of several concerns expressed by town staff and neighbors, Errico made changes in the project.

In addition to design changes, Errico is planning to help repave and landscape the area around the high school district office at 17421 Farley Road, and to contribute $25,000 for traffic mitigation measures at Winchester Boulevard. and Daves Avenue.

At the April 25 planning commission meeting, Commissioner Suzanne Muller said that she was "thrilled" at the evolution of the project. Muller told Errico that he had listened well to the planning commission and neighbors. "This actually almost makes it worth it to be a planning commissioner," Muller said with a laugh.

Commissioner Peggy Marcucci added that the project had gone from "highly controversial" to "excellent." At the first public hearing on August 9, 2000, Marcucci said, many neighbors came to voice their opposition to the project. At the April 25 meeting, there were none.

"It's a particularly difficult site," Commissioner Lee Quintana said, adding that, while there was no perfect use for the lots, Errico's proposal was the best that she could see.

Commissioners raised concerns about the nature of the storage building, questioning its usage and security. Errico, however, emphasized that no hazardous materials would be allowed in the lockers, with each locker equipped with its own security alarm, and video cameras would be installed inside the building. Similar to the Stor-It facility on University Avenue that he owns, Errico expects that the building will be used primarily for the excess inventory of local businesses, and for residents who are moving in and out.

Because Errico's proposal included a request for a zone change, Los Gatos Town Council will have to hear the application and give final approval. The hearing is scheduled for June 4.
Gloria I. Wang

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