Acclaim Wields Builder’s Remedy for Cupertino Apartments


Acclaim Companies will use the builder’s remedy to gain approval for 141 apartments in Cupertino.

The Menlo Park-based developer has used the state housing loophole to file plans for a five-story complex at 20015 Stevens Creek Boulevard, the San Jose Mercury News reported. It would raze three commercial buildings for the project.

The 30-year-old provision in state housing law allows a streamlined approval if a city or county hasn’t certified its required state housing plan. The builder’s remedy, untested in the courts, allows developers that include at least 20 percent affordable housing to skirt local zoning rules.

Plans by Acclaim call for 141 apartments, including the required 20 percent affordable units, and two levels of underground parking. The development is estimated to be 70 feet tall, which is 25 feet higher than what the lot is zoned for.

Some developers have used the builder’s remedy to push through projects that would otherwise not be approved — like a more than 300-foot tower proposed among single-family homes and smaller apartment buildings in Menlo Park.

But Cupertino Councilman J.R. Fruen said Acclaim’s project is “largely consonant” with what people already see on Stevens Creek Boulevard.

“The thing that I think is most interesting here and one might have expected given the previous hostility or perceived hostility of Cupertino to housing developers is we would be getting lots of builder’s remedy projects in the city,” Fruen told the Mercury News. “That isn’t happening.”

He said city staff knew the city’s buildable sites were insufficient, according to the California Department of Housing & Community Development. 

So the staff reached out to developers that might otherwise have been interested in making builder’s remedy applications and have instead folded those sites into the Housing Element plan.

It’s what Fruen calls a “win-win.” Cupertino identifies another location to build housing so that it will be in compliance with state law, and the developer gets its project built.

Mayor Hung Wei told The Mercury News that five stories on one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares isn’t unusual. And while there may not be any other buildings of that height nearby at the moment, she said there will be more in the next eight years.

Wei said that while the community may be upset about the builder’s remedy, city officials have been working with the developer to ensure the sections closest to single-family homes won’t be as tall.

“I’m for local control but local control means that we want to be a community that is welcoming, that doesn’t exclude people,” Wei told the Mercury News. “Anybody who comes with a builder’s remedy project, the staff needs to work really close with them and to make sure the design is reasonable, rational and takes care of the neighbors.”

Cupertino is one of many Bay Area cities yet to have its Housing Element approved after missing the Jan. 31 deadline. The state requires a plan to build 4,588 homes by 2031, including nearly 1,900 units for low- and very low-income households.

— Dana Bartholomew

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