Article Source: San Mateo Daily Journal

A developer hired by Bay Area Rapid Transit interested in erecting a keystone project near the Millbrae rail station sweetened its proposal by announcing an intention to build affordable housing, a majority of which will be reserved for military veterans.

Officials from Republic Urban Properties unveiled plans to construct 65 units of below-market rate housing on property owned by BART. The announcement comes roughly a week before the Millbrae City Council is set to consider granting formal policy approval to regulate development in the area around the city’s Caltrain and BART station, near the intersection of Millbrae Avenue and El Camino Real.

Michael Van Every, CEO and president of Republic Urban Properties, said the escalating cost of living locally drove the initiative to build affordable housing for veterans.

“The times we live in require us to target this population,” he said. “It’s time this population is recognized, as these men and women enter civilian life.”

Republic Urban’s vision includes constructing a 47,136-square-foot building comprised entirely of 55 units of affordable housing, which Millbrae natives who are military veterans will be given the highest priority to occupy.

Spread over the four stories of the proposed project on 1 acre of land owned by the transit agency, the developer wants to build 25 studios, 29 one-bedroom apartments and a single two-bedroom apartment for the building manager.

The developer has also proposed building a separate 321-unit project nearby, and 10 of those apartments will be available at an affordable rate.

The price of the rooms will be set between 50 percent and 60 percent of the area median income.

Representatives from Republic Urban will hold a press conference illustrating plans for the veterans affordable housing project at the Millbrae BART station, 200 Rollins Road, 11 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16.

Millbrae Mayor Anne Oliva said she appreciates the willingness of Republic Urban to tack on an affordable housing component to its proposal.

But she was reluctant to comment in detail before the council had an opportunity to publicly discuss the policy regulations which will set the development guidelines.

“It is kind of putting the cart before the horse,” she said.

She did, however, express support for an initiative to build housing for those who have served their country.

“I love housing. I’m an advocate for housing. And I’m an American. So why wouldn’t I like housing for veterans? I’m grateful for veterans,” she said.

The Millbrae City Council is set to meet Tuesday, Dec. 22, to discuss the Millbrae Station Area Specific Plan and environmental impact report which will lay the groundwork for development in the 116-acre site near the city’s train station.

Republic Urban has proposed building 164,000 square feet of office space, nearly 47,000 square feet for retail, more than 300 residential units and a hotel on a plot of land owned by BART east of the transit station.

The company has not submitted a formal application for the project, and must first wait for the council to approve the policy regulations for development in the area.

Developer Vincent Muzzi has also expressed interest in redeveloping his 150 Serra Ave. property into a mixed-use residential project which will contain 267,000 square feet of office space, 32,000 feet of retail space and 500 high- to medium-density residential units.

The two projects are the initial steps toward a vision of city officials to rejuvenate the gateway to the city, by building a mix of new homes, businesses and amenities near the thoroughfare connecting Millbrae to Highway 101.

The Millbrae Planning Commission voted unanimously last month to recommend the council approve the station area plan and environmental impact report for development.

Kelly Erardi, of Republic Urban Properties, said the affordable housing project for veterans is an extension of the company’s effort to serve those who are former members of the nation’s military.

“This is about giving them a starting place for coming back into their community,” he said. “We are very excited about it.”

Millbrae natives who are also veterans will be given the highest priority of applicants interested in living at the development, followed by veterans from other communities and then those without a record of military service but who are eligible to live in low-income housing.

Those who live in the development will also be given Clipper cards, to encourage use of public transportation.

Republic Urban Properties recently completed building 60 units of affordable housing on the Veterans Affairs campus on Willow Road in Menlo Park.

Van Every said his company is committed to building many similar developments for veterans across the area.

“We believe we can replicate these projects throughout the county because of the need for this kind of housing,” he said.