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Morgan Hill
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January 14, 2022

Commission OKs housing project for veterans, homeless

The Magnolias, a five-story affordable housing development, approved on north Morgan Hill property

A new high-density affordable housing development coming to Morgan Hill will dedicate dozens of units to armed services veterans and homeless people in need of low-cost homes and ongoing social services, according to the developer and city officials.

The 66-unit Magnolias project, proposed by First Community Housing (FCH), will be located at 17965 Monterey Road in north Morgan Hill. The project is across the street from the Community Adult School.

According to FCH President Geoffrey Morgan, 25% of the project will be devoted to “rapid rehousing” for homeless residents (10 units) and “permanent supportive housing” (seven units). Another 25% of units are reserved for “extremely low income” families earning up to 30% of the area median income; and the remaining 50% (31 units) will be for families earning up to half the area median income.

All seven supportive housing and 10 of the extremely low income units will serve “formerly unhoused veterans,” Morgan explained at a recent planning commission meeting.

Along with shelter, the Magnolias project will aim to easily connect residents to nearby health, transportation and social services they might need.

“The whole point of supportive housing is, you can’t just house somebody who is formerly unhoused—you have to bring them services to ensure their success,” Morgan told the Morgan Hill Planning Commission at the Nov. 23 meeting. “They’re able to live independently, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need some help.”

All residents of the Magnolias will receive free VTA passes to accommodate those who are unable to drive or afford vehicles, and to cut down on parking needs and emissions, said Morgan, who is a military veteran. There will also be opportunities for residents to work on site at the Magnolias when it is completed, Morgan added.

In previous FCH projects, the percentage of residents who own or drive vehicles is typically lower than it is in communities that are not income restricted.

“Residents often give up cars when they move to our buildings because of the alternative transit options we provide,” Morgan wrote in a recent letter to city staff. “At this development, we have dedicated as much of the property as possible to parking to mitigate the effects of additional cars to the surrounding community.”

The planning commission voted 6-1 at the Nov. 23 meeting to approve a design permit as well as a conditional use permit for a “green parking” exception for the Magnolias. The parking exception allows the applicant a reduced landscaping requirement where solar panels are installed in the parking lot.

The five-story, 68-feet-tall multi-family project will be built on a 1.5-acre lot. Plans include a rooftop terrace with gardens and permanent seating, with related safety measures.

Because the project is 100% affordable, FCH was able to gain waivers and concessions from City of Morgan Hill development guidelines under two state laws—the density bonus law and SB330. These laws override local ordinances and are designed to promote affordable housing throughout California.

One of the design waivers granted to the Magnolias is for the 68-foot height of the building. Under the city’s code, the maximum building height on the property would be 45 feet.

Other waivers include leniency on tree replacement onsite, an increase in the project’s floor area ratio and a reduced setback from Monterey Road, to 10 feet from 15 feet, according to city staff.

In April, the City Council approved four concessions that FCH requested to Morgan Hill’s design standards: exterior treatment and materials; building colors; window design and multi-family roof form.

By state law, city officials cannot deny a certain number of waivers and concessions requested by affordable housing project applicants.

Planning commissioners Nov. 23 repeatedly noted that while they support more housing in Morgan Hill like that proposed by the Magnolias, they want the public to know that “compromises are made” in order for that to happen.

Commissioner Wayne Tanda cast the lone vote against the Magnolias permits on Nov. 23. Throughout the commission discussion, Tanda expressed concerns about the height of the building—which will easily be one of the tallest structures in Morgan Hill.

He also wanted the adopted resolution to state that the commission didn’t have any discretion to deny the Magnolias’ deviations from local standards.

Morgan did not specify FCH’s construction schedule for the Magnolias project.

Of the 66 proposed units, 16 will be studios, 16 will be one-bedroom, 17 two-bedroom and 17 three-bedroom. 

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