Vallco Town Center rendering
July 17, 2018

Silicon Valley Business Journal: Vallco developer hires affordable housing veteran ahead of construction on controversial megaproject


SV@Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia reacts to the addition of former Palo Alto Housing President and CEO Candice Gonzalez to Sand Hill Property’s project to redevelop Vallco.

See the original story at the Silicon Valley Business Journal.

Vallco developer hires affordable housing veteran ahead of construction on controversial megaproject

By Janice Bitters

Sand Hill Property Co. has hired a new affordable housing guru as the Silicon Valley developer prepares to dig in on a massive new mixed-use, housing-heavy project that will replace Cupertino’s Vallco Shopping Center.

Candice Gonzalez will become Sand Hill’s chief housing officer and managing director when she leaves her longtime position as president and CEO at affordable housing developer Palo Alto Housing in early September. Sand Hill is slated to start work on the controversial redevelopment of the dying Cupertino mall the same month.

“I am passionate about housing for all income levels and my new position at Sand Hill Property Co. will allow me to continue to make a positive impact in the housing world,” Gonzalez said in a statement Monday. “I am confident that Palo Alto Housing will continue to be a strong force in the affordable housing industry.”

Last month, Sand Hill received key city approval for the development that will replace Vallco mall. The project is the first in Silicon Valley to invoke SB 35, a brand-new state housing law that streamlines city approvals for qualifying developments that include residential units.

One of the key state requirements of the law calls for half of the proposed 2,402 homes in the development, known as Vallco Town Center, to be considered affordable to people making less than the median income in the area. The 58-acre project will also include 400,000 square feet of retail and 1.81 million square feet of office space.

Sand Hill today owns and operates 1,800 rent controlled homes in East Palo Alto via its affiliate, Woodland Park Communities, the real estate developer and investor noted in a release Monday morning. The Palo Alto-based company also built and owns 120 market rate-units in its Main Street Cupertino development across the street from Vallco.

But building more than 1,200 affordable residential units from scratch in a single development will be no small feat for the company.

“Candice [Gonzalez] brings unparalleled expertise in the local housing market,” Peter Pau, principal and founder of Sand Hill, said in a statement on Monday. “We look forward to Candice’s expertise as we look to grow our housing portfolio through our company’s commitment to increasing housing supply and creating more affordable housing opportunities.”

Gonzalez, a graduate of UC Berkeley and UCLA School of Law, was a real estate attorney before joining Palo Alto Housing in 2008. The nonprofit currently has about 600 residential units in its development pipeline and owns more than 700 residential units on the Peninsula.

“This is bittersweet as it has been my great privilege to work with such a dedicated and passionate board of directors and staff,” Gonzalez said. “I am so proud of what we have accomplished together at Palo Alto Housing.”

Palo Alto Housing Board Chair Sheryl Klein will oversee the search for a new president and CEO at the housing organization. In the meantime, Klein will also lead the board in managing the company until Gonzalez’s replacement is named, according to a Monday morning statement by Palo Alto Housing.

“We are grateful for Candice’s leadership over the last decade and the strong team that she has assembled, which will make this transition seamless,” Klein said. “Candice is leaving Palo Alto Housing in a very strong position with a healthy pipeline of projects.”

For now, Sand Hill appears to be hyper-focused on getting its redevelopment of the old Vallco shopping center underway by the fall, when the company is expected to receive its entitlements for the project. But Pau noted that Gonzalez will also be working on other “mixed-use, standalone housing and even some 100 percent affordable housing developments” in her position, which Silicon Valley housing advocates said will be a step in the right direction to address “the Bay Area’s staggering housing issues.”

“We simply don’t have enough housing in the South Bay,” Leslye Corsiglia, executive director of affordable housing advocacy nonprofit, SV@Home, said in a statement Monday. “We’re excited to see Candice join Sand Hill and believe that Candice’s deep roots in affordable housing and Sand Hill’s commitment to building housing will effectively take on this challenge.”