The Planning Commission on Wednesday recommended the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity be allowed to divide its land to build more homes.
The Los Banos City Council will make the final decision in upcoming weeks.
Habitat Westside has requested a zoning change and parcel split of land at 537, 543 and 547 M Street. If approved, the change would allow Habitat officials to build four homes on the property rather than three.
“When they first came to us, we kind of talked about different ideas of what we could do,” said Assistant Planner Stacy Elms. “This was our creative solution. The idea was to have more home ownership out of this whole process.”
Elms said city staff is in favor of the project because home ownership improves property values because people tend to take better care of things they own.
“It’s just a lot better for the community when we can create some home ownership,” she said.
Ned Ryan, a Habitat Westside member and former executive director, said the lot sizes will allow plenty of space for the four homes.
“There is one small lot that’s about 4,700 square feet, but the rest of them are over 5,000. At first and G we have three houses in a row we built in the early 2000s that are on 5,000 square-foot lots, those worked out nicely for that neighborhood,” Ryan said.
Habitat Westside has built or rehabilitated homes for more than 20 families since it was founded in 1997. Habitat Westside is finishing renovations at the 537 M St. address and will start building its next home in May.
Ryan said he believes it will take about a year to complete the four-home project, assuming the City Council approves the zoning change from low to medium residential.
Commission Chairman Tom Spada said the decision to recommend the project to the council was not difficult.
“To me this was a no-brainer. People getting their own homes is a major feat in today’s economic world and anything we can do would just be awesome,” Spada said.
Commissioners voted unanimously on the Habitat Westside project, but an unrelated request for a noise variance was not met with universal approval.
San Francisco-based Swinerton Builders is asking the city to let it start daily construction at 5:30 a.m. when it starts building the Merced County Superior Court, also known as the Robert M. Falasco Justice Center, at 1159 G St. this summer. The state is relocating the court from Fifth and I streets to add more courtrooms and meet other facility needs.
The city’s noise ordinance limits sounds made from construction activities to the hours between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday. The state wants to finish the project by next year and, according to city staff, limit the amount of time workers are exposed to the Central Valley’s summertime heat.
Planners voted 6-1 to recommend the variance. Commissioner Todd Baker voted no. The City Council will make the final decision.