Monday, March 21, 2005

Vineyard Place wins OK from AmCan council

Article Published: Saturday, March 19, 2005

Vineyard Place wins OK from AmCan council
By DAN JUDGE, Times-Herald staff writer

AMERICAN CANYON - It took hours of head-butting, heated tempers and tied votes, but the City Council finally gave its approval to a unique affordable housing project Thursday.
The council gave its blessing to Vineyard Place, a development of 45 tightly packed single-family homes, and the Vineyard Crossing apartment complex. Both are designed to give low-income buyers a foothold in American Canyon's booming housing market.

Several local residents offered glowing praise for the development plans.

"I think it's time for us to have some affordable housing and I don't think you could find a better-looking project than this," longtime resident Fran Lemos said. "It's just beautiful."
The 11-acre project site was dedicated to the city by Standard Pacific Homes, builders of the Vintage Ranch housing subdivision, in lieu of developer fees.

The affordable housing project will be built by M.C. Homes Inc., part of the Mid-Peninsula Coalition non-profit group picked by the city to develop the site.

Sitting on the edge of Vintage Ranch, Vineyard Place will include 45 homes with an average lot size of 3,393 square feet, some larger and some significantly smaller. Thirty-six of the units will be earmarked for low- and middle-income buyers, while the remaining nine will be sold at market rate to help subsidize the other homes.

The Vintage Crossing apartment complex will include 145 units, all to be rented at affordable levels. Five percent will be reserved for very low-income renters.

The Mid-Peninsula Coalition has gained a strong reputation for not only the design of its projects, but also its continued participation after they are completed. Built on a "village" concept, the project will include a daycare center, community center, computer room and recreational facilities for the residents. It will also be managed by the group. "One of the things we're known for is not just building a project but really building a community that not only serves the project, but also is a good neighbor and enhances the entire community," said Fran Wagstaff, president of Mid-Peninsula.

Strong demand is expected for the product, Planning Director Ed Haworth said, and a lottery will probably be held with first preference given to those who already live or work in American Canyon.

The general consensus of the council seemed to be that the project is superior and the developer outstanding. The devil, however, was in the details. Both Mayor Cecil Shaver and Councilmember Cindy Coffey complained that city staff had given the council inadequate maps and information to review.

At one point, the mayor leveled a sharp outburst at the planning director for allegedly accusing him of lying about a discussion the two had on the project. Shaver and Coffey tried to postpone the discussion of the project until next Thursday, but Councilmember Ben Anderson's absence at the meeting left the council with a 2-2 vote on the continuance. Another attempt at resolving the issue ended in another tie vote.

Councilmember Leon Garcia pressured the council to push forward with the decision. He noted that the city had the "premier" developer of affordable housing projects and the deadline to meet state funding deadlines were too close for comfort. "I think it behooves us to remind ourselves what's at stake," he said. "There is a deadline here and if we don't meet it, things start to come unraveled."

The mayor finally offered his tie-breaking approval after several alterations to the project. Those conditions included the addition of more length to the driveways, which would result in back yards measuring just over 8 feet being further reduced to just over 7 feet. Despite offering her support for the single-family portion of the project in general, Coffey cast the lone opposing vote.

"I don't like being put in a position of approving something I'm not comfortable with," she said.
The council unanimously approved the apartment complex.
- E-mail Dan Judge at or call 553-6831.

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