Sunnyvale leaders are considering opening the door for a developer to build eight, two-story homes where one currently stands.
Forrest Mozart, a Palo Alto developer, wants to demolish a single-story home built in 1965 at 781 S. Wolfe Road. In its place, he plans to put up eight homes between 2,000 to 2,400 square feet each on a lot about two-thirds of an acre in size.
To approve the project, the Sunnyvale City Council would eventually need to authorize an amendment to the city’s General Plan, which would increase the density of homes allowed on the site.
The first step in that direction could happen today, as councilmembers consider a preliminary request from Mozart to start the general plan amendment process. If the council approves it, Mozart can file a formal request and a more thorough study of the proposal can begin. The project would still require future public hearings and approvals.
District 4 Councilmember Russ Melton, who represents the area where the development is proposed, said nothing is ever a “slam dunk” with these requests. He noted the Sunnyvale Planning Commission unanimously approved the request last month, and city officials are recommending the council approve it, as well.
“I feel the Sunnyvale community in general understands the need for more housing and greater density and in true Sunnyvale fashion, we’re going to see if we want to take a look at further studying the merits of potentially upzoning this property,” Melton told San José Spotlight.
Melton said he was in the minority of the council when he voted against a similar preliminary request for another nearby property at 1313 S. Wolfe Road. A developer wants to demolish a Wendy’s currently occupying the area and build nearly 30 townhomes on the site that extends to a neighboring vacant lot.
Melton said he has already heard from neighbors of the 781 S. Wolfe Road site, including the Braly Corners Neighborhood Association, which raised concerns about neighborhood compatibility, traffic safety and circulation and parking.
Some neighbors wrote to the city concerned about their privacy next to multi-story homes and the potential loss of large pine trees on the property.
Mozart said no one likes change, but he will try to address the concerns of the neighbors, including planting some large trees.
Mozart said he thinks eight homes is a good fit for the lot, and he chose not to use the “builder’s remedy,” — a provision of a state housing law that allows developers bypass local planning processes under certain conditions — to jam in a lot more homes.
“It’s on Wolfe Road, a major thoroughfare,” Mozart told San José Spotlight. “I don’t think it’s fair to do any more than eight in a single family neighborhood. I don’t think we’re asking for too much, we’re not asking for a townhome project or a condominium project here, we would never do that.”
He has submitted the project under a company called California Communities, LLC, his company, under the umbrella of his father’s company, The Mozart Development Company.
Mozart intends for the project to match the lot immediately north of the property, called Firethorn Terrace, where a similar redevelopment with eight homes was completed in 2006.
“I think it’s good for the city, I think it’s good for everybody,” Mozart said.
Melton said with major undertakings like its Moffett Park Specific Plan—which lays the groundwork for up to 20,000 homes and 10 million square feet of office space—as well as other large-scale planning efforts, Sunnyvale is setting the stage for growth.
Sunnyvale has about 153,000 residents and 55,000 homes, but in another 20 years, it could be up to 99,000 homes, including the 20,000 at Moffett Park, city officials have previously said. The city is home to major outposts of some of the world’s biggest technology companies, including Google and Apple, as well as defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
“What we’re talking about here at 781 S. Wolfe is a microcosm of the larger growth trajectory that Sunnyvale has in place,” Melton said. “The growth is coming and now the question is going to be about city services for more residents like public safety, road maintenance and libraries.”
If Mozart’s initial request is approved, it’s unclear how soon the city could begin working on the general plan amendment study to move the project forward. City reports said Sunnyvale is “experiencing a very high level of development activity, including a large quantity of residential and office/R&D projects.”
Reports said a formal general plan amendment application for the 781 S. Wolfe Road development shouldn’t be accepted until several other projects—including the 1313 S. Wolfe Road proposal—are moved off the city’s plate so enough employees are available to handle it.