Back in 2017, the Palo Alto City Council initiated the preparation of a Coordinated Area Plan for the North Ventura area (NVCAP), an approximately 60-acre site. The NVCAP site is roughly bounded by Page Mill Road, El Camino Real, Lambert Avenue and the Caltrain tracks and represented a rare opportunity within the City to plan proactively for a transit‐oriented, mixed‐use neighborhood. The project area includes one of the City’s largest identified housing opportunity sites, which was, until the end of 2019, occupied by Fry’s Electronics, as well as a mix of small and large businesses and single-family residences.

The North Ventura area was intended to be a walkable, mixed-use neighborhood with multifamily housing, commercial services, and well-defined connections to transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities.  The plan was envisioned to include urban design strategies and guidelines to strengthen and support the neighborhood fabric and connections to transit, pedestrian and bicycle facilities, while providing for a mix of land uses that takes advantage of the proximity of the area to the California Avenue Caltrain station, the California Avenue Business District, and El Camino Real.

In September 2021, however, following a multi-year process that involved significant community engagement and expert analyses, the Palo Alto City Council overwhelmingly rejected a housing-rich vision for the North Ventura neighborhood, instead moving forward with the lowest density options, which were deemed infeasible by economic consultants. This is a disappointing result and a major missed opportunity for the city to have prioritized transit-oriented development and the creation of key community benefits, including more deed-restricted affordable housing and open space.

Despite a clear community desire for more deed-restricted affordable housing and open space in North Ventura, the major development restrictions advanced by the Council are most likely to result in either stalled or low-density development proposals, which will mean little to no new land or money available for affordable housing or new parks. The decision will also make it more difficult for the city to create its new Housing Element, since a housing-rich vision for North Ventura

would have been a significant factor in helping Palo Alto meet its housing and affordable housing goals.

SV@Home has been a long-time supporter of a housing-rich, community benefit-rich plan for North Ventura. We hope there will be opportunities in the future to reassess this important opportunity area to enable more deed-restricted affordable housing development in Palo Alto.

 

Learn more here.