Northern News

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A publication of the American Planning Association, California Chapter, Northern Section

Making great communities happen

Millbrae blocks housing deal that would create hundreds of apartments near SFO

By J.K. Dineen, San Francisco Chronicle, April 14, 2021

“A developer is suing Millbrae over the city’s refusal to process an application for a 384-unit apartment complex near San Francisco International Airport on El Camino Real Boulevard, the latest example of residential builders using the state’s tough pro-housing laws to force cities to approve projects.

“Anton Development is proposing to redevelop the 6.7-acre property currently occupied by El Rancho Inn, a sprawling Mission Revival style hotel that over the last 70 years has been among Millbrae’s most recognized landmarks […]

“The crux of the disagreement is whether the city was legally allowed to rezone the property in 2020 from a mixed-use designation to a “planned development” — a change that would cost Anton $18 million in fees.

“YIMBY Law’s Ben Libbey, who is managing the case for Anton, said that when the project was submitted it was consistent with the city’s general plan. It required no zoning variances. And it added housing to a city that over the last eight years has only produced 8% of what is required under the state’s housing goals. Despite that the city has deemed the proposal “incomplete” six times and refused to give the project the go ahead.

“In a letter to Millbrae Mayor Reuben Holober, the California Department of Housing and Community Development warned that Millbrae’s zoning change violated state law. The agency warned that it would refer the case to the Attorney General if the city is found to be in violation of state housing law.

“ ‘El Rancho Inn has been a wonderful part of Millbrae, but her time has come,’ [said “John Wilms, whose family owned the hotel for 70 years”] at a recent Millbrae City Council meeting. ‘Please let her go with dignity and not be a blight on our community.’ ”

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