By Meghan Hall
Time is ticking for an affordable housing project in San Mateo as it makes final changes prior to beginning construction and development costs rise further. This past week, MidPen Housing went before the San Mateo City Council once again, seeking approval for design and site plan changes that it made to its 225-unit Kiko Crossing development. The Council, which recognized time was of the essence, unanimously approved the proposed changes to the project could move forward.
Located at 480 E. 4th Ave. The project includes the redevelopment of two City-owned sites into a multifamily residential building. Its 225 units will be broken down into 65 studios, 48 one-bedrooms, 53 two-bedrooms and 59 three-bedrooms. All units will be designated as affordable.
The primary changes to the project impact the building setbacks, floor area and plan program. Perhaps the biggest change is the reduction of the building’s total floor area from 234,350 square feet to 211,970 square feet. The reduction in square footage came via reduction in unit sizes and corridor widths, and removing a full second bath from the three-bedroom units, so that those units have 1.5 bathrooms instead of two.
“So, based on our experiences developing and managing more than 8,000 units, including so many in San Mateo County, we know that 1.5 bathrooms in 3 bed units with this level of occupancy delivers an appropriate level of service,” explained MidPen Housing’s Associate Director Molly Naber. “…Also importantly, it ensures the project is competitive for the state funding we are going after this month so it gets built.”
The fitness room was also eliminated on the seventh floor. MidPen stated this would be primarily due to acoustical reasons. Because of its location above other residential units, the fitness center would not be able to accommodate free weights and other workout equipment.
However, because of the changes, the number of two-bedroom units increased, and the number of studios and one-bedrooms decreased, in an effort to accommodate more families. The central courtyard also increased by 600 square feet.
Originally, the project was formally approved by the City Council in August of 2020 and because of the changes in hand it was brought back for Site Plan and Architectural Review Modification. While MidPen hopes to begin construction by the end of this year, the additional review of the project coincides with the development team’s submission for additional funding in the coming weeks. Both the Council and MidPen acknowledged that the modifications have meant dealing with rapidly rising construction costs. Naber confirmed that during the time the project has been under review, the project’s cost estimate for lumber increased by $2 million alone.
“We have been heavily affected by materials cost escalation,” Naber noted.
The City Council recognized that further delays to the project would be costly, and that in the future, minor project changes should not need to reappear before the Council.
“This is an example for us internally to do some streamlining in terms of our own due diligence and processes,” said Councilmember Amourence Lee. “For me, when this came to Council it struck me as a very minor change that wasn’t really necessary to come back at this level. I hope …we can put some eyes on this and maybe there’s a chance to streamline our own processes moving forward for issues such as these.”
Deputy Mayor Rick Bonilla noted that the meeting was an important step that helps to inform the wider community of the changes. In the end, however, Bonilla stated the project was still very solid.
“It’s still a great project, nothing is being lost,” added Bonilla. The remaining councilmembers concurred. Believing that the project changes were sufficient to support both City and developer goals, the Council voted unanimously to approve a Site Plan and Architectural Review Modification, allowing the project to move forward.