APPEALING THE ALBRIGHT EIR – Aug 9th 2013

The town council and the developer have arbitrarily decided it’s ok to override the General Plan and Zoning Ordinance that do not allow building higher than 35 feet. We have formed a group to argue against this capricious action by hiring a land use attorney. We need your help.

As many of you may be aware, a group led by Lee Quintana continued the battle with the council’s decision to let Albright move blindly forward by filing the suit to require the town to do an Environmental Impact Report. Don’t forget that the council was about to forge through with an 85’ tall development that could have been 550,000 square feet of office PLUS ~ 168 residential units PLUS parking garages…………until Lee showed up.

Lee forced the town to file an EIR which they claimed was unnecessary because they (the council and the developer) had mitigated all of the problems. For those of you experiencing issues before the council in prior developments, everything seems to always be “mitigated”; meaning that the town and the developer feel they have resolved all of the problems to meet the town’s Zoning and General Plan requirements. More on that in a moment.

The group easily won the suit and the town/developer had to perform an EIR. Lee and her group are getting almost all (84%) of the attorney fees refunded to them today as the losing party had to pay attorney fees. One benefit of the suit was that the size was reduced by the 168 residential units, but the council only reduced the commercial size to 485,000 square feet, leaving two buildings at 65’, or 30’ over the limit. They totally ignored their own General Plan requirement where it states unequivocally that buildings could not go beyond 35’ in height, nor over 50% of land coverage.

To follow up on the “mitigation” of the Albright issues: a larger group of us formed to object to the acceptance of the EIR because the town violated its own General Plan and Zoning ordinances which which must be consistent.

These limits were put in place to limit a developer from taking development controls away from council members, some of whom are easily persuaded to build out the town larger and much more crowded than was intended. Just as there are lobbyists running the legislature in Sacramento, there are developers continually working city governments to expand their perceived right to develop towns willy-nilly. It’s all about money. They develop, take the money and leave us with the problems of overdevelopment.

In one California city and county study, approximately 75% of the proposed planning and zoning amendments are privately initiated, and 66 to 75 percent were ultimately approved.

We’re not attorneys, and to argue with the town and/or the developers, you have to have legal experience in this area, so we hired a good land use attorney.

We need your financial help to make a good case.

We have not hired an attorney at an hourly rate, but rather at a fixed fee to keep the costs controllable. She will make more money than we pay her if she wins, but that does not cost us more money.

Our new group is being lead by two attorneys that are astutely advising us and recommending courses of action. Nothing is guaranteed, but because the General Plan and the Zoning Ordinances both state that 35’ is the maximum height and there is absolutely nothing that states a Planned Development is a new zone with which you can build little islands of mega developments, we feel that we have at least a good shot at making the council follow the General Plan.

Though we won the EIR suit and got back most of our money, there is no guarantee that we’ll win this appeal…………but we think because of the specifics in the General Plan, that we have a good shot. If we should win, the town will either have to amend the General Plan for Albright, or take the message they’re receiving from the people who voted them into office and listen to our plea to maintain the General Plan maximum height of 35′. This is a small town, not a large suburb. We want it to stay that way and the General Plan was worded to keep us small.

If we should lose, the town and the developers looming in the future will have received a loud and clear message regarding Los Gatos. We’re still learning about town politics and how to work within this system, but we continue to get smarter and we continue to get stronger.

However, if we lose, we lose the money we have invested in this project.

Please send a check made out to our attorney, Rose Zoia, Attorney at Law, in care of Greg Snow, CPA, 250 N. Santa Cruz Avenue, Los Gatos, CA 95030. Sending the check sooner than later would really help us.

From the Los Gatos General Plan 2020

Within Article E of the General Plan – the “General Land Use Plans” – in sub item 2F, you will find that the town has “rigid development standards” that call for 35’ height limits. How do you get more clear than that? Where policies are fundamental, specific (such as ours) and mandatory, courts have been strict in requiring the implementation of the policies. I will send you whatever I can to give you the background information that you need to make the decision to support us. We have looked at both the local laws and the state laws, but we need to have a specialist represent us against this developer.

The 35’ height limit is repeated numerous times through-out the General Plan and reiterated in numerous times in the zoning ordinances. THE TWO MUST BE CONSISTENT; AND THE PD MUST BE CONSISTENT WITH BOTH.

The council seems to be banking on their contention that a Planned Development is a zone unto itself and falls outside the meaning and intention of the General Plan and the Zoning ordinances. If that were true, why would you spend the time and money to develop a General Plan in the first place? Sometimes common sense has to be used when governing and not the opinion of the developers.

 

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