1. How will the project affect traffic in Mill Valley?
We’ve worked closely with the City of Mill Valley and the local business community to ensure that 575 E Blithedale (Richardson Terrace) has no detectable impact on daily traffic volumes in the immediate area.
A 2010 traffic study conducted for the City of Mill Valley projected 191 new daily trips attributable to Richardson Terrace. Subsequent projections based on the revised plans for Richardson Terrace show significantly less impact: just 138 new daily car trips in an existing flow of nearly 11,000 cars per day. Fewer than 40 of these new trips are projected to occur during the morning and afternoon rush hours.
2. What about traffic safety at the intersection? Will this project increase traffic at the intersection of Blithedale and Camino Alto?
Our traffic study found that Richardson Terrace would increase delays by fewer than two seconds at area intersections with traffic lights and fewer than five seconds at area intersections with stop signs. These are negligible impacts, comparable to waiting for an additional car or two to clear the intersection.
More importantly, Richardson Terrace is expected to have no adverse impacts on community safety. The city’s traffic study found no demonstrated safety concerns or obvious collision patterns in the area, and the project’s design ensures safe site access and passage for pedestrians and cyclists in the area — whether they’re entering or exiting homes or businesses at Richardson Terrace or simply passing by on Blithedale.
Finally, we’re committed to enhancing road and pedestrian safety in the area around Richardson Terrace. We’re working with the city to improve road striping and marking at the intersection of Blithedale and Camino Alto; extend the existing parking prohibition farther west along the north side of Blithedale; and ensure that street trees near our driveway don’t affect sightlines for drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists in the area.
3. Why are there two different styles of architecture?
We believe in being good neighbors. This means respecting and complementing the architectural character of the surrounding neighborhood. During the design process, we strove to incorporate the existing architectural styles that make Mill Valley such an engaging place to live.
Specifically, we chose contemporary architecture to efficiently house the smaller units and commercial space located at street level. This creates visual continuity between 575 Blithedale and the existing commercial structures east of the project, built in contemporary California style. Likewise, we chose a traditional Mill Valley design with peaked roofs, signature windows, and redwood decking to complement the residences west of the project. We believe the end result will be a mixed-use community that looks like it’s always been there.
4. How will this project improve affordable housing in Mill Valley? How many of the units are “low-income” housing?
California’s affordable housing challenges show no signs of abating, and the housing crisis is particularly acute in the North Bay. We are fortunate to be in a position to create more housing for the entire Mill Valley community and embrace the unique opportunity afforded by 575 Blithedale.
The Richardson Terrace project will create six affordable housing units for Mill Valley families, or about 25% of the project’s total unit count. We plan to market three of these affordable units to households that meet local criteria for “moderate income” (up to 120% of the area median income) and three to households that meet local criteria for low income (up to 80% of the area median income). Additionally, we have committed to paying an impact fee to the city to satisfy our remaining “fractional unit” obligation for affordable housing on the site.
5. How much land does the site occupy?
The project will occupy one of the most visible remaining parcels of vacant land in Mill Valley — a 1.2-acre lot along a vibrant mixed-use corridor. When built, 575 Blithedale will have a density of 21 dwelling units per acre, on the lower end of the guidelines set forth in the city of Mill Valley’s General Plan: 19 to 29 dwelling units per acre.
6. Has the project addressed all of the planning commission requirements?
We have worked closely with the Mill Valley Planning Commission to satisfy all of the requirements set forth in the city’s municipal codes and to ensure that 575 Blithedale exceeds the expectations of city stakeholders and the broader community.
As part of our commitment, we have engaged professional architects and engineers with extensive experience working in Mill Valley and surrounding communities and a long record of successfully meeting local zoning and traffic impact requirements.
7. How many families could this development serve?
Richardson Terrace will have 25 units that can serve 25 families of various sizes, from one- and two-person households in the smaller units above the commercial space on the east side of the project to multigenerational households in the larger townhomes set back from Blithedale.
8. Why does the City of Mill Valley call this a “new” project?
The current Richardson Terrace proposal is the product of a years-long cooperative process between our team and the city of Mill Valley. It reflects extensive revisions of a previous proposal based upon feedback from the city and community stakeholders. We believe it is the best use of this one-of-a-kind parcel and look forward to sharing our vision with city residents and business owners.
9. Is this project in a high-fire danger zone?
It is. Unfortunately, so is most of Mill Valley. We have gone above and beyond to minimize the risk to residents of Richardson Terrace and surrounding properties by designing our structures with the most up-to-date non-combustible materials, outfitting the property with best-in-class fire sprinkler systems, and installing fire-resistant landscaping.
10. How did the project arrive at the number of units for this property?
The current Richardson Terrace proposal is the product of more than a decade of cooperation between the city of Mill Valley, area residents, and the local business community.
An update to Mill Valley zoning regulations allowed for up to 35 units to be constructed on the property based on the upper limit of 29 dwelling units per acre. Following extensive consultation with area residents and stakeholders, we concluded that the space called for a less intensive build, and we proceeded with our current 21-unit-per-acre plan. To accommodate the city’s desire for more small housing units, we replaced seven multi-bedroom units with twelve one-bedroom units.
11. What parking requirements will be in place?
We designed 575 Blithedale’s parking infrastructure in accordance with the California Density Bonus Law. The site can accommodate six additional spaces for users of the property’s commercial space and visitors of our residents.
12. How will more commercial space affect the Mill Valley Community?
Richardson Terrace will add 2,064 square feet of light office space to Mill Valley’s current total of about 200,000 square feet of commercial space. We expect to lease our office space to independent professionals or small-scale professional services firms, growing the city’s small business community and enabling additional middle-income professionals to live and work in the city they love.
13. What are the implications of dividing the site into 17 lots?
We’ve determined that the best course of action is not to subdivide the 1.2-acre lot into more than a dozen smaller lots, as had previously been proposed. We believe that an unsubdivided site will be more efficient for the project’s stakeholders and easier for residents — both owner-occupants and commercial and residential tenants — to manage.
14. Why is the project mixed-use?
The city of Mill Valley’s zoning regulations provide for mixed-use zoning at 575 Blithedale. Specifically, the property is zoned Commercial Neighborhood (CN), which — per the city of Mill Valley’s General Plan — “permits mixed use projects with a residential component, provided that residential densities are between 19 and 29 dwelling units per acre.” Only a small fraction of the property’s total square footage is set aside for commercial activity, and that component of the project will be limited to light office use.
15. What is the walkability score for this site?
We believe that 575 Blithedale’s location in a vibrant section of central Mill Valley will be its greatest amenity for residents and commercial users.
According to WalkScore.com, 575 Blithedale has a “walk score” of 73 out of 100, meaning that residents can begin or complete many weekly trips on foot.
The property is within a half-mile or less of Mill Valley Middle School, Mill Valley Community Center, Bayfront and Hauke Parks, Park School, Tam High, the post office, Whole Foods, two drug stores, local and regional transit stops, and multiple restaurants and shops.