Developer City Ventures has proposed a 49-unit residential, mixed-use project on a vacant site along the Monterey Road Corridor in north Morgan Hill.
The project—proposed on a 3.82-acre property on the southwest corner of Monterey and Cochrane roads—would also feature four commercial units up to 1,440 square feet each if approved by city officials. The property is located just south of the Starbucks shop at 18585 Monterey Road, and is bordered to the southwest by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
The developer, City Ventures, has requested a General Plan and Zoning amendment from the city in order to allow the proposed type of development. The amendments would change the land use designation on the site from Commercial to Mixed Use Flex. City Ventures has also requested the site be removed from a Planned Development involving a total of four lots that was created in 2002.
The oddly shaped, flood-prone property has never been built on, and City of Morgan Hill Planning Commissioners broadly voiced their support for the project at the Jan. 11 commission meeting.
However, the officials raised some concerns about the proposal, known as “The Gates.” Chief among the commissioners’ worries was the potential traffic challenges of the project’s proposed vehicle entrance and exit onto a stretch of Monterey Road (directly across from Jarvis Drive) that is already busy.
“This is one site where a General Plan and Zoning change would be one that I could support,” Commissioner Laura Gonzalez Escoto said. “Traffic ingress and egress off Monterey Road would probably not fly, but it does meet the intent of the multi-unit flex zoning.”
The city’s Mixed Use Flex zoning allows 7-24 residential units per acre, as well as certain commercial uses including retail, dining and office.
The planning commission’s Jan. 11 discussion was part of a preliminary review for the proposed General Plan and Zoning amendments for The Gates. Approval of the amendments, along with another public hearing, will be presented at a future planning commission meeting.
The proposed 49 residential units would range in size from 1,403 to 2,310 square feet, according to a city staff report. The townhome-style condominiums would have three to four bedrooms, as well as outdoor decks and attached garages.
City Venture’s plans also include solar power, common open space, a children’s play area, bocce ball courts, a seating plaza and barbecue areas, according to the developer.
At least 15% of the units will be affordable to “moderate income housing,” city staff added.
Samantha Hauser of City Ventures told the commission that any common spaces and amenities on the site will focus on “things that would hit all different age groups, different family types, active and passive (and) flexible turf areas for picnics, sporting lawns, fire tables, bocce ball, picnic areas, places to sit (and) passive reading benches.”
A city staff report says over the years, numerous developers have inquired with City Hall about building the site but nothing materialized due to the shape and layout of the site, and the fact that a portion of the property is in a FEMA flood zone.
City officials noted that under a state law known as the Housing Crisis Act of 2019, the developer could build a project that is 100% residential on the site. Hauser said City Ventures would be willing to “guarantee there would be a commercial component” to The Gates project.
Planning Commissioner Liam Downey said the four flexible commercial units currently proposed on the site are a “token” addition to the project. He noted that the site is currently zoned for strictly commercial uses.
“(We) should recognize that, and say that something that was supposed to be 100% commercial is now 90-95% residential,” if The Gates proposal is approved, Downey said. “I think this is not an appropriate place for that. It’s a very problematic spot, and I’m not convinced the way to solve this is to put a whole bunch of houses in there.”
Commissioner Joe Mueller added that the grade separations between the development site and Monterey Road will make traffic issues an even bigger challenge.
“It’s very complicated and it needs a lot of engineering work, and I’m not sure how you can safely resolve it,” Mueller said.