Developer files “builder’s remedy” project in Los Altos Hills

Non-compliance on housing plan means “town is barred from denying” project

Sasha Zbrozek and 11511 Summit Wood in Los Altos Hills (Getty, OpenScope Studio)
Sasha Zbrozek and 11511 Summit Wood in Los Altos Hills (Getty, OpenScope Studio)

A developer with plans to build 20 homes in Los Altos Hills may be the first in the Bay Area to win automatic approval because of a state builder’s remedy legal clause.

Sasha Zbrozek may entitle 15 apartments and five townhomes at 11511 Summit Wood Road because of a state law allowing a builder to bypass local zoning rules in cities with non-compliant housing plans, SFYimby reported.

The deadline has now passed for Bay Area cities to have their housing elements certified by the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. The affluent Silicon Valley town of 8,500 people failed to certify its housing element to accommodate 489 homes, of which nearly 200 were to be affordable to very low- and low-income residents, in the next eight years.

In theory, this now subjects Los Altos Hills to the state builder’s remedy, with few options for denying a housing development where at least 20 percent of the units are affordable to low-income households.

Zbrozek, owner of nearly 2 acres, filed preliminary plans to build what appears to be the largest residential complex in the unincorporated town of mostly single-family homes west of Mountain View.

Plans call for a three-story, 15-unit apartment building and five townhouse-style units, totalling 32,700 square feet, according to SF YIMBY. Three accompanying homes will include two three-story duplexes and one three-story single-family home.

Renderings show a white, three-story apartment building with a shed-like design, plus charcoal townhomes with metal siding.

The project, designed by OpenScope Studio of San Francisco, would include a stucco apartment building and townhouses sheathed in corrugated metal. Protected parking would serve 28 cars, far below the city’s required zoning for 80 parking spots.

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Architect Mark Hogan had described a then-unknown project applicant in Los Altos Hills as “someone with a large lot which feels like we should be building a lot more housing and wanted to take advantage” of the builder’s remedy provision, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

In his application to the city’s planning department, Zbrozek said that “while the town has adopted its sixth-cycle housing element, I do not believe it is substantially compliant with state law.

“Due to the failure to adopt a substantially compliant element by the statutory deadline,” he added, “the town is barred from denying housing development projects such as this on the basis of non-compliance with zoning or the general plan.”

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Along with the 20-unit plan, Zbrozek, an electrical engineer for a company that makes self-driving boats, has submitted a five-unit version with the two duplex buildings and single-family residences.

The untried builder’s remedy is expected to generate legal challenges in cities across the state.

The once-obscure provision based on a 1990 housing law was first triggered in Southern California, where plans for thousands of homes under the remedy were filed in Santa Monica, Redondo Beach, Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Pasadena, La Cañada Flintridge, Hawaiian Gardens and Lawndale.

— Dana Bartholomew