Milpitas City Council voted 4-1 Jan. 15, with Councilwoman Carmen Montano dissenting, to approve 80 new single-family homes at 31 S. Milpitas Blvd., adjacent to Union Pacific Railroad lines and immediately west of Union and Wells Fargo banks.
The council's approval paves the way for developer Braddock & Logan of Danville to demolish vacant commercial buildings at the site and construct two-story homes on 11.3 acres with associated streets, sidewalks and trail improvement, and 360 parking spaces.
The project will also feature a 15,000-square-foot park with a tot lot and a bocce ball court. The property, off Topaz Street, is located within the city's Town Center District. Project homes will range from 2,300 to 2,700 square feet and be built in Mediterranean architectural styles with two-car garages, reports state.
Overall, a varied 6-foot to 8-foot masonry wall will surround the property line and act as a sound wall to reduce noise created by passing freight trains and the future Bay Area Rapid Transit line on the western edge of the property. In addition, a lit pedestrian trail, to be constructed on the Wrigley Creek levee, will be located beyond the wall and property line near the eastern side of the tracks. The trail is proposed to lead toward Beresford Square Shopping Center to the north of the housing project and cross under the Calaveras Overpass, reports state.
The new housing project will be included as part of a 50-acre swath of land south of Calaveras Boulevard to Los Coches Street that was rezoned to allow for future mixed-use redevelopment.
In 2010, the council voted unanimously to adopt a new land use designation and rezoning of properties from highway services, industrial park, manufacturing, warehousing and heavy industrial to mixed uses under the city's Town Center District.
Known as the Los Coches rezone project, the council's action allows for the flexibility in redeveloping about 26 property sites in the area to attract new tenants.
The site is located south of Calaveras Boulevard to Los Coches Street and bounded by Interstate 680 on the east and the railroad right-of-way to the west.
Last week, some like Councilwoman Debbie Giordano favored the latest project in the new mixed-use district.
"To me it just makes good planning sense," Giordano said.
But others like Montano said the new housing project's surrounding sound wall gave a negative impression and that future job opportunities for the parcel in question would leave the city.
"I just think it's too much like a fortress and I hope we preserve our light industrial sites," Montano said.
The developer disagreed.
"The goal is not to try to build a walled community," Andy Byde, a Braddock & Logan representative, said.
Byde added the project "mimics" housing built to the north of Beresford Square Shopping Center, which is also close to the railroad.
But residents such as Robert Marini believed the housing project would strain the Milpitas Unified School District, increase traffic and impact city services such as utilities. He further asserted police and fire personnel would also be hard pressed to help those who lived at this development.
"Because there's limited access to the property," Marini said.
Resident Rob Means said he worried about potential flooding issues due to future sea level rises affecting this low-lying property. He also noted the site would be too far about two miles away from the future Milpitas BART Station near Great Mall and could not be easily walked to by residents.
But the rest of the council like Mayor Jose Esteves said the project conformed to the new area and that it was upscale.
"It looks like something that will be needed in Milpitas," Esteves said, adding the 80 homes would not add significantly to the number of new students in the school district. "It's not a big scale kind of an effort. It's more of a plus than a minus as far as I'm concerned."
Prior to the vote to approve the project, Esteves asked the developer whether his company had made monetary contributions to council members in the past.
Byde replied his company had not contributed monies to the council.
Later, Esteves said he planned to bring forward a policy item for council review to require developers with new projects before the city to disclose whether they contributed to council members' election campaigns.