A new affordable housing development for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities has been initially approved by the Palo Alto City Council, with the aim of starting next spring.
The 50-unit mixed-use development called Mitchell Park Place is set to be among the Bay Area’s first housing projects for people with developmental disabilities and will include office space for public social services as well as high-quality affordable housing for people earning about 80% of the area median income.
The median family income in Palo Alto is over $167,000 according to data from Santa Clara County — among the highest in the Bay Area — and the city’s rental market remains competitive and expensive to enter, especially for people with disabilities.
Santa Clara County Supervisor Simitian — who’s long championed an affordable housing project of this kind and introduced the idea of building 50 such units to the county in 2020 — called the Palo Alto council’s decision, “a major milestone for Mitchell Park.”
“It puts us one step closer to offering affordable housing to some of our most vulnerable community members,” Simitian said. “I’ve spoken with so many parents in the community who worry about what will happen to their children when they’re no longer around. We’re getting closer and closer to developing homes where folks can live safely and independently in their own community — with all the services they need to thrive.”
With a population of nearly 2 million people, Santa Clara County has about 154,212 people living with disabilities, according to a 2019 report by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research.
Simitian said the number of adult in Santa Clara County with developmental disabilities has grown by over 47% in the past decade and is projected to continue growing. The need for affordable housing for people with developmental disabilities is set to inevitably increase in the coming years, Simitian said.
The project will be located on county land, which makes building easier and cheaper overall for Eden Housing, an affordable housing nonprofit organization and developer selected by the county. The organization has partnered with another non-profit, AbilityPath, to provide a “lifespan of support services to individuals with special needs and developmental disabilities” on site. But the project must first get final approval from the city of Palo Alto, which wants the project to conform to certain design standards before construction can begin.
The building is set to replace an existing structure currently occupied by AbilityPath. The single four-story building will include 2,750 square feet of office space on the ground floor, which will be leased to AbilityPath. The project will feature 50 apartments with a mix of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom configurations, and half of those will be dedicated for individuals with developmental disabilities.
Space has also been set aside to host a live-in property manager and an office for resident services coordinators who will be tasked with giving residents counseling on wellness, career, education and financial literacy. The new building will also include a computer learning center and community room as well as outdoor green spaces, a central courtyard, and dedicated bike parking.
As part of Palo Alto’s own mission to provide affordable and supportive housing for its disabled population, Palo Alto Mayor Pat Burt said he’s excited about the project moving forward.
“Palo Alto is enthused to have supported the streamlined approval of this high-quality affordable housing project, along with its on-site services to meet the needs of disabled adult residents,” Burt said. “We are pleased this project has been designed to reflect both our community goals and needs, along with embracing the Eichler design characteristics of the neighborhood.”
In response to comments from the Palo Alto community, the development — close neighborhoods of Eichler homes — the project will incorporate a sloped roof and large windows and set-back fourth story along Charleston Road to keep with the neighborhood aesthetic.
“Our goal is to create a building that will consider the needs of the city, Mitchell Park Place future tenants, and nearby residents, and complement existing development,” President of Eden Housing Linda Mandolini said. “We are thrilled to be given the green light and will continue to gather input and keep the public informed at every step in the process.”