Publication: San Francisco Business Times
Author: Bridget Riley
Date: March 25, 2011

The Cañada Vista apartment complex provides sweeping views from a hilltop space that was once a Cañada College parking lot. Residents at the bottom of the hill, however, feared the development would be a blight.

The San Mateo County Community College District embarked on the project to solve faculty turnover. Employee surveys showed the high cost of housing was to blame. SMCCCD set out to build affordable options, with College Vista in 2005, then with Cañada Vista, finished in August.

Spencer Brown / SFBT File 2010

Dorfman says that SMCCCD donating the
land kept costs down on the project.
Spencer Brown / SFBT File 2010

Now annexed by Redwood City, Cañada Vista originally straddled a border with Woodside, which does not allow multi-family residential. Annexation hit a snag when neighbors in Woodside winced at the idea of an affordable housing project in their backyard. SMCCCD fielded complaints at 20 community meetings. When the design calling for tiled roofs and plaster came under fire, Architect Stan Braden of KTGY Group, Inc. ditched the tiles and incorporated wood siding.

This gesture calmed neighbors, and the $14.6 million project moved forward. Now faculty and staff from SMCCCD campuses fill the one- to three-bedroom apartments designed to LEED Silver standards, but priced below-market. The hope is that money saved while at Cañada Vista will go toward saving for a permanent home, keeping educators local.

Developer Bruce Dorfman of Thompson Dorfman said in 2010 that the project could have easily cost $50,000 to $100,000 more per unit had there been land and additional soft costs.

Sister project College Vista has already recovered a quarter of its costs in six years’ rent payments. Once the projects hit even, money earned will flow back into the college system.

“It’s had an amazing impact on our college community,” said Barbara Christensen, project manager. She has seen faculty and staff that once commuted now spending more time participating on campus.

Location: One, Two and Three Olive Court, Redwood City.
Size: 2.75 acres, 60 units, 58,900 square feet.
Cost: $14.6 million.
Developer: Education Housing Partners LLC, an affiliate of Thompson Dorfman Partners LLC.
Contractor: Segue Construction Inc.
Architect: KTGY Group Inc.
Engineer: BKF Engineers.
Law firm: Miller, Morton, Caillet & Nevis.
Owner: San Mateo County Community College District.
Tenants: Faculty and staff of the San Mateo County Community College District.
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