Al Von der Werth, the longtime property owner of 500 Miller Ave. – the stretch between Reed Street and the long-vacant former KFC-Taco Bell building – is moving forward with plans for a 32,00-square-foot development project on the steep hillside. The project contains nine residential condominium units and a 4,948-square-foot commercial building that includes approximately 2,000 square feet of retail and 3,000 square feet of office space, with 23 parking spaces dedicated for these uses. The residential units are 2-3 bedroom units that range from 1,220 square feet to 1,530 square feet, each with two parking spaces (18 total for residential uses). The commercial building is located near the corner of Reed and Miller Avenue.
Von der Worth first proposed his project in June 2005, and it was the subject of more than a half-dozen study sessions and multiple hearings before the approval from both the Planning Commission and City Council. The project is complicated by the steep hillside it sits on, requiring the developer to excavate nearly 11,000 cubic feet of soil to build.
At the City Council's annual Community Meeting on May 30, Councilman John McCauley addressed the fact that the project contains no affordable units. McCauley and Planning Director Vin Smith explained that although the City has since mandated the inclusion of affordable units within multi-unit projects, state law allowed the project to be "grandfathered in" and move forward as approved. State law also kept the approval valid through extensions of subdivision maps until the Final Map (the step to create the parcels) was approved by City Council on March 6. In lieu of building any affordable units, Von der Werth elected to pay in-lieu fees totaling more than $75,000 to meet this requirement with all fees going to support Mill Valley parks and recreation.
At the time of its approval, the project sparked a lengthy debate about two large, multi-story, mixed-used buildings – the other is across the street at 505 Miller – being the gateway of Mill Valley.
Von der Werth expects the project to take 4-6 months to complete the infrastructure (site grading, retaining wall, drainage improvements and driveways), including some utility construction within the next month so that this work is completed in advance of the anticipated paving for this portion of Miller Avenue.