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"As Palo Alto continues to lag in its effort to build affordable housing, Santa Clara County is advancing its own plan to create an apartment complex for teachers in neighborhood that is already undergoing a dramatic transformation.

The county's plan, which the City Council will get its first look at on Monday night, would bring 110 apartments to 231 Grant Ave., across from the Palo Alto Courthouse in the California Avenue business district. Developed by nonprofits Mercy Housing and Abode Communities, which specialize in affordable housing, the apartments would be open to teachers and school district employees from participating districts in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties.

Unlike other proposed developments in Palo Alto, the Grant Avenue development would be built on county land and, as such, does not require formal approval from the city. The county enjoys "sovereign immunity" when it comes to adding government functions and, as such, has the power to exceed the city's zoning rules.

To date, county staff had signaled their intent to adhere, to the extent feasible, to the development standards in the city's recently created "workforce housing" zone, according to a new report from the city's Department of Planning and Development Services. At the same time, the project exceeds several design standards. With a height of 55 feet, the apartment complex would exceed the city's 50-foot height limit. Its density of about 80 dwellings per acre is twice the number that the city typically allows in its multifamily zoning districts (RM-40). The recently created workforce zone, however, does not set limits on units per acre."

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