Residential building project design on First Street approved


Courtesy Los Altos City Council

The construction design project on 376 First Street in Downtown Los Altos and is set for installation.

The design plans for a multiple-family residential building in Downtown Los Altos have been approved by the Los Altos City Council. Set to be built on 376 First Street, the motion was passed during the last Council meeting on Tuesday, April 26.

Ismail Jan Unlu, owner of La Scala Italian Restaurant Bar and Grill and developer of this project, has been making plans to build a condominium project in this area for the past four years. Unlu, along with partner designer Brett Bailey, collaborated to create a plan.

The project sits on the southwest side of First Street between Lyell Street to the south and Whitney Street to the North. The 8,760 square-feet of new housing units will replace La Scala Italian Restaurant Bar & Grill.

The design plans for this project have resurfaced four times since 2019. To meet affordability standards, the Los Altos City Planning Commission laid out requirements to follow the Density Bonus Law (DBL) — an incentive for developers to create more affordable housing within building units. Per DBL, 25 percent of the building’s total units will need to be classified as median income housing. Bailey confirmed the conditions had been met; with two one-bedroom units and one two-bedroom unit within the affordable price range.

Housing is expected to include 15 condominium units, one level of underground parking with 23 parking spaces, 12 bicycle parking spaces and a common rooftop area. The rooftop deck includes a jacuzzi, a firepit, a barbecue island, seating and other amenities that raise the height of the building to over 55 feet.

During their past meeting, the City Planning Commission raised concern regarding the height of the building. Bailey shortened the height from 62 feet to 55.1 feet, which still exceeds the city law limit of 37 feet. Although this excession was permitted per DBL, some Council members objected to the building’s height.

“This building is too tall for this lot, for our city,” Los Altos Mayor Anita Enander said. “It is nothing like what we are looking for in our community. The real problem here is that this building is out of scale, and inappropriate for this street.”

Public opinion, however, was mostly in favor of the project.

“I don’t think there’s too much basis here to deny this project,” Los Altos resident Janine Valadez said. “I think we should just get this approved and move on.”

Others expressed frustration with the decision-making process.

“You guys just come in and ask for [so many] changes that the professionals who have worked on this are just completely disheartened [to] come in front of the council,” another Los Altos resident said.

In the flood of new housing projects approved on First Street and Downtown Los Altos, 376 is the latest.

The Council ended its vote with Mayor Enander and council member Lynette Lee Eng in opposition and council member Neysa Fligor, Vice Mayor Sally Meadows and council member John Weinberg in favor.