Juno Realty to replace R&D buildings with apartments in Palo Alto

Juno Realty Partners wants to raze research labs in Palo Alto and use the state builder’s remedy to fast-track up to 350 apartments.

The Solvang-based developer has filed preliminary plans to build an apartment complex containing between 292 and 350 units at 3963, 3977 and 3997 Fabian Way, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported. Two aging R&D buildings would be demolished.

Juno would employ the builder’s remedy loophole for its larger apartment option for 350 units at Fabian Way and East Charleston Road. 

The remedy is an untested provision in state housing law that allows developers to bypass local zoning rules if projects contain at least 20 percent affordable units in cities such as Palo Alto that haven’t certified their state housing plans.

The 6-acre property, owned by Chico-based Far Western Land & Investment, contains two research buildings built in 1959 and 1960 with a combined 35,000 square feet. It’s not known if either building is occupied, but online listings show that they have been available for lease since 2020.

Plans call for either a 78-foot-tall building with 292 apartments, or an 88-foot-tall building with 350 apartments, with parking garages on the two lowest floors.

Under the 292-unit scenario, the building would be seven stories tall and provide parking for 337 cars, while employing a density bonus to increase its size. 

Under the 350-unit scenario, the building would be eight stories tall and provide parking for 349 cars, while employing the builder’s remedy for more height than local zoning rules allow. Juno would set aside 70 apartments as affordable for lower income households.

The proposal represents the second attempt by Far Western to redevelop the site.

Three years ago, it submitted a similar plan for a six-story complex with 290 apartments and a 375-space parking garage. The proposal met pushback from the Palo Alto City Council, which targeted it for downsizing, according to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Palo Alto must plan for 6,086 new homes by 2031, but is nearly 10 months late in certifying its state-mandated “Housing Element” plan. 

Without state approval, Palo Alto, San Jose, Menlo Park and other tardy cities across the Bay Area that haven’t gotten state approval of their housing plans are subject to the builder’s remedy.

Juno and Far Western’s Farian Way proposal comes as the Palo Alto’s City Council is preparing to approve a series of zoning changes that would relax some of the city’s stringent density and building height limits in order to retain more local control, according to Palo Alto Weekly. 

— Dana Bartholomew

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