Zuma West project nears planning board approval
Published - 09/27/19 - 08:56 AM | 2813 views | 0 0 comments | 66 66 recommendations | email to a friend | print
27-unit “Zuma West” student housing development
27-unit “Zuma West” student housing development

At their Sept. 11 meeting, the College Area Community Planning Board (CACPB) peppered developer and former CACPB member Keith Henderson of Zuma West, LLC, with questions and concerns about his proposed five-story, 27-unit “Zuma West” student housing development which incorporates, in addition, two off-site, affordable homes. 

Zuma West is anticipated to replace two large duplexes currently located at 6139-6147 Montezuma Road, while the project’s affordable units will be new, single-family rental homes in the College Area neighborhood.

After discussion and several design concessions by the developer, the board — on a close vote of nine to seven — tabled consideration of the project until their October meeting. The delay will give the developer and the board’s project review committee an opportunity to put all agreed-upon changes in writing. After final consideration and recommendations by the CACPB, Henderson will be moving the entire project forward to the city for approval. Anticipated ground-breaking is 2020, with project completion in the fall of 2021.

Zuma West is designed by the prestigious San Diego architectural and design firm of Joseph Wong Designs. The apartment community includes a secured lobby, internal trash collection area, curb cuts to accommodate deliveries and pick-ups, and an amenity space/open terrace on the fifth floor with views to the north.

The units are a mixture of three bedrooms and four bedrooms, with the majority being four bedrooms. The project does not include parking or garage spaces, which is in compliance with current zoning regulations.

Height step-backs and landscaping on Mary Lane to the rear of the property and green-screening on the exterior stairwell have also been included at the request of the CACPB Project Review Committee. Items under discussion include, among others, open and personal space for tenants, street setbacks, the stairwell height, and a rooftop terrace curfew.

The two off-site, detached homes include garages and yards and will meet the building standards of the surrounding neighborhood. They will be offered for rent to qualifying very-low-income families and will be managed by the San Diego Housing Commission. The rent will be no more than 30% of 50% of the Area Median Income ($86,300) as adjusted for household size. A family of four, for example, could have a combined income of up to $53,500 a year. Covenants on the titles to these homes will require they remain affordable for a period of 55 years.

The project takes advantage of the city’s “affordable housing density bonus” which allows for extra density in a multi-family development in exchange for the addition of affordable housing units, either on site or off site. Zuma West is using the density bonus to move up from the allowable on-site unit number of 22 market rate apartments to 27.

The developer indicates the project’s two affordable homes will be built on Hobart Street, behind and inclusive of 6205 Pembroke Drive. The addresses are yet to be determined by the city.

The CACPB Project Review Committee will be meeting with Henderson on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 6:30 p.m., Faith Presbyterian Church, 5075 Campanile Drive. The project will then move on to the CACPB on Wednesday, Oct. 9, 7 p.m., also at Faith Presbyterian Church. The public is welcome to both meetings.

Although a recommendation by the respective neighborhood’s community planning board is not required before final submission, developers have an obligation to present projects to the community impacted before the city makes an environmental determination on a project. CACPB Project Review Committee Chairperson Jim Jennings hopes that both community and Henderson can “meet half way.”


Eva Yakutis is an El Cerrito resident, El Cerrito Community Council board member and a writer by trade.

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