First off, let me be clear. I am all for creating affordable housing in Los Gatos. It is one of the more important “unmet needs” that I feel needs attention and is the main reason that I am on the Housing Element Advisory Board. We need to be able to provide, at a minimum, housing for the people who work in the town and would like to live here, but would not be able to at market rate.
I don’t think that Los Gatos has come anywhere NEAR its moral or ethical obligations to provide more affordable housing, not to mention even meeting the State’s requirements. My main goal is to get people in town aware of the housing situation facing us. I want to point out that there are more factors to be considered than just the one project that might be up for discussion. I’m just trying to figure out the best way to approach our (Los Gatos) housing requirements. Every town and city in California has an affordable housing quota that MUST be met.
The increase in traffic and the school impacts should be a problem that town residents would want to weigh in on. I am just trying to get that conversation started.
How to best integrate the affordable housing into Los Gatos is one of my goals.
This is a bi-partisan issue that needs to be dealt with. And the town cannot afford much in the way of traffic mitigation. For the last decade Los Gatos has had one of the absolute lowest traffic mitigation fee in the bay area that developers have to pay when they develop land in Los Gatos. Our Town Council and staff was reluctant to increase this traffic mitigation fee until just recently when a group of concerned citizens got involved. So developments for the last few years have not generated enough money to pay to mitigate the traffic they create. And Los Gatos has a backlog of traffic mitigation projects that total around 42 million dollars. 42 million dollars more than they can afford.
Here is the way I look at a site like the Los Gatos Lodge site, which has the Affordable Housing Overlay Zone applied AND how I look at the North 40. For me it really is like making a list of the pros and cons for each since we are at a point where we may not HAVE to do both. This makes it much less of an emotional decision.
Los Gatos Lodge, if developed under the AHOZ (Affordable Housing Overlay Zone), would be zoned at twenty units per acre as a base, plus the state density bonus of 35% which would result in a potential jump from 170, to a total of 230 units. Because it would be protected by the overlay zone, there would be reduced open space, setbacks, height restrictions, and parking regulations, less restrictive than other non-AHOZ developments. A developer would look at the site and see how many market rate (full market price units) they could cram on the site and how few affordable housing (very low income, low income, and moderate income) units they could get away with.
Let’s be clear about the pricing for these lower income homes. Although I have not seen this pricing, it will be much lower than what you might be used to seeing in the town, since what we are used to seeing as “affordable” in our BMP program (Below Market Program) is aimed at “moderate income level” families. The BMP program is at the discretion of the town and not regulated by the state and results in housing not exactly what you could call affordable. AND the units would be designed to attract families. Families with children. Seeing as how most of the schools in town are near, or at their limit in terms of enrollment, the best thing would be to have students generated by these new developments go to Lexington School. Unfortunately, that would mean that although the neighbors across the road would have their children in Van Meter, Fisher and Blossom Hill, these new residents would have to take their kids to Lexington. Having lived in Los Gatos for over 35 years myself, I don’t think this is going to go over too well.
But what would make an AHOZ site much different than other developments would be the LACK of constraints which is one of the state-imposed condition. The development would still have to pay the normal fee /tax for the schools but would generate less in Traffic Mitigation fees for the town. That means that traffic mitigation like new turn lanes at an already busy intersection like what was done recently at University and Hiway 9, would more than likely have to be subsidized by the town. And they don’t have the money.
The traffic created at the Lodge site would exit out onto Hiway 9. Think of the times that you’ve been stuck in traffic on Hiway 9 trying to go either direction on Los Gatos Boulevard, but especially towards the directions of the elementary schools. This new traffic will have to feed into that already stopped traffic and will create an even bigger backup into the downtown area. And there won’t be enough money available to do the proper traffic mitigation necessary.
Oh, and here’s the kicker. One of the main constraints that the State is requiring us to remove for these AHOZ sites, is most of our town processes. The state would require that these developments be fast tracked and avoid the typical public review at public meetings so that these developments go through our town processes in one year.
Now, let’s look at the North 40. The proposed development right now has 364 housing units, 60 of which are for very low income seniors. Since all the housing at this point could be zoned (no overlay zone needed) at 20 units per acre, ALL 364 units could be counted towards our state required RHNA numbers. No density bonus. No additional units. Just what is in the proposed plan.
There will be market rate housing along with the affordable units. But these market rate housing units are designed differently and are aimed directly at what could be considered an unmet need. The senior housing is designed to attract seniors, the millennial housing is designed to attract singles and couples, not families and the Move-down units, although more spacious, are designed for empty nesters. Los Gatos is still a school attractor community and so we will see some families, just not at the same rates as housing designed specifically to ATTRACT families. And since this housing would already be pretty far from all the schools, a Lexington school restriction would be much easier to swallow.
The development will not just have housing, though. It will have retail, restaurants, an open air market and many other amenities that will benefit all the neighbors in the North end of town. It will generate Traffic mitigation fees in excess of 12 million dollars. Money which will be used to improve the traffic on Los Gatos Boulevard, Lark and the freeway access.
And, the development will go through the excruciatingly transparent process that other developments in town are subject to. Public input and scrutiny, which I find both painful and NECESSARY. And since it is not fast-tracked, public input is encouraged and welcomed throughout this development process.
So, you be the judge of what you see to be the best for the town. I have already decided which way I am leaning, each and every one of us needs to review this information, ask questions and understand what is in the Town of Los Gatos’ future.