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St. Helena’s next affordable housing project heads to Planning Commission

St. Helena’s next affordable housing project heads to Planning Commission


The St. Helena Planning Commission will be asked to sign off on a new affordable housing project during a special meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19, via Zoom.

The nonprofit developer Our Town St. Helena wants to build four affordable rental units at 963 Pope St., which already has one unit, creating a total of five.

One unit would be reserved for a very low income household, three for low income, and one for moderate income. All four new units would be 2-bedroom, 1 bathroom. They would be split between two 1,848-square-foot buildings.

Recent changes in state law limit local governments’ ability to restrict affordable housing projects. Under those laws, Our Town’s project is eligible for up to four density-bonus concessions. Our Town is requesting a reduction in the rear yard setback from 30 feet to 7 1/2 feet, a reduction in the side yard setback from 15 feet to 5 feet, and an increase in the maximum floor-area ratio to allow for an additional 1,072 square feet.

Our Town is also asking for a waiver of on-site parking standards to allow for seven uncovered parking spaces. City code would ordinarily require 10 parking spaces, five of which must be covered.

The city gave Our Town a $450,000 loan to acquire the property at a discount in 2019. Last week the City Council agreed to either pay for or waive $109,002 in project fees.

Our Town is already building the Brenkle Court project on McCorkle Avenue through a self-help or “sweat equity” model, with the future homeowners performing most of the construction labor themselves.

Unlike that project, the Pope Street housing would be built more traditionally and rented out.

City staff is recommending approval of the project.

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