Below is our response to Councilmember Moore’s statement that the Los Gatos Community Alliance was “untruthful” when computing the maximum number of living units the Town would allow. And there is a Summary for those who only want the short version, and the details with the facts are there for those who want to dig deeper.
July 10, 2023
- Councilmember Moore calls Los Gatos Community Alliance “misleading and untruthful”
- Moore did not participate in conversation about the upzoning when it was open-mike time. He could have argued his points but instead, we got…………..silence.
- The Council did a best guess of what percent of the 12,736 homes might be built in 8 years; but the question was; what is the total possible buildout of the 2040 General Plan? Once upzoned, they cannot downzone.
- The Town needs 87 acres (or 50 parcels) to meet the Housing Element requirements. Instead, they have upzoned over 800 acres.
- The Town needed to do two things:
- Determine how much land was needed
- Determine what the density should be on that land.
- Some readers may not know what we mean by “upzoning” so let me give you an example:
- Medium Density Residential land use designation – in the 2020 General Plan the density range was 5 to 12 Dwelling Units (DU) per acre – the new 2040 Housing Element is proposing to increase the density to 14 to 22 DU per acre
- There are a total of 4 parcels in the housing element site inventory that will be impacted by this change. This compares to over 515 acres that were to be upzoned in the 2040 Land Use Element that LGCA objected to.
Below are the numbers for those who wish to know the details behind the numbers:
In a recent Democracy Tent (DT) community meeting, Council Member Moore sent an email to all participants in the DT discussion group making the claim that 12,000+ housing units is “deliberately misleading and untruthful figure” while offering no explanation for this claim. He also made the same claim on a Next Door posting in his capacity as a Councilmember. When asked if he would be willing to meet with the Los Gatos Community Alliance (LGCA) to clear these issues, he responded by email stating “I’m always willing to meet.”
Councilmember Moore was on the DT zoom-call on when we presented the source document which showed the detail of the 12,736 units approved by the Town Council. Surprisingly, Councilmember Moore never asked a question nor sought any additional information regarding the basis for our calculation.
Given this, we think it is important to “clear the air” and outline how the 12,736 units were computed. Of the 12,736 units, 11,761 units was the development capacity based on the increased zoning densities for the various land use designations (e.g., medium density residential, high density residential, mixed-use, office professional, etc.) that were identified in the 2040 Land Use Element which up-zoned over 800 acres of land Town-wide.
That works out to an average density of approximately 15 dwelling units per acre (11,761 divided by 800 acres). That average is very reasonable given the typical densities for the various land uses range from a low of 4 dwelling units per acre for Low Density Residential to a high of 36 dwelling units per acre for Very High Residential. The remaining 975 units were ADU’s and projects underway forecasted by the Town.
Adding the 975 units to the 11,761 units brings the total to 12,736 units. This is the development capacity for the approximately 800 acres that have been up zoned in the 2040 Land Use Element, including the projected development of ADU’s and existing development projects in progress.
The math is straightforward, and the same math was used in computing the 1,997 units of development capacity for the 87 acres of land identified in the Housing Element’s site inventory (50 parcels of land in all). That works out to an average of 22 units per acre (1,997 divided by 87 acres). That is a higher average density because of the need to zone many parcels at 30 dwelling units per acre to fully accommodate the development of low and very low-income units. Very low- and low-income units total approximately 1,000 units of the 1,997 units or roughly 50%.
In addition to the 1,997 units in the Housing Element, the Town assumed 296 ADU/SB 9 units would be developed over the next 8 years with 201 units currently under development. This totals to the 2,494 units referenced by Council Member Moore as the total development in the Housing Element – which again is different from the Land Use Element. The 2,494 units more than meets the 6 th Cycle RHNA 1,993 units which the Town by law must plan for development through the enactment of proper zoning laws.
Council Member Moore had an opportunity to ask a question of us but did not. The only conceivable basis for his claim that the calculation of 12,736 units of development capacity based on the Land Use Element is “untruthful” is he must not agree with either the amount of land being up zoned (e.g., 800 acres) or the average density of 15 DU per acre. The math is the math, and the facts are the facts. The LGCA has been clear that the 12,736 units represented the development capacity based on the Town’s information as found in Table 3.1 of the Land Use Element.
Maximum development densities matter – just like maximum building heights matter. For example, if the Town were to double the maximum allowable building height for the CBD from the current 45 feet to 90 feet, one would expect the Town to evaluate the impact of this increase. Would 90 feet create unacceptable building shadows or obstruct the view of the hills? Would there be consequences if a 7.0 earthquake were to occur?
These are reasonable questions to ask to evaluate the impact of a material change in development policy. The actual height of a proposed building is a separate issue. You certainly would not evaluate the impact of only a 60-foot building claiming that this is the most probably height that would be developed even though 90 feet was permissible.
Doubling a zoning standard, whether it is development density or building heights, and not evaluate the maximum impact is irresponsible.
Hopefully, Council Member Moore agrees that that it is important to fully understand the amount of development that is being allowed when you double development densities on land town-wide. That is the question LGCA is answering. It might be an inconvenient fact but hardly untruthful. Where the disconnect appears to be is in the assumption as to what gets built in the next 8 years or 20 years. And unfortunately, that is an unknown and is highly speculative. There are an infinite number of outcomes. As an example, who would have guessed that a developer would propose a 5 story, 71-foot-high building on our small-town square? Who would have guessed that the latest North 40 Phase II proposal would include a 94-foot multifamily building and the loss of 400,000 sq. ft of retail space? No one knows the future.
The numbers in the Town’s analysis of assumed redevelopment percentages are not based on any study. Do not take our word for it, go ask the Staff to present the analysis which would validate these percentages. We did, but they had nothing to show us. And it certainly does not mean that the redevelopment percentages could not exceed the assumed percentages the Town has put forth. They easily could.
What is troubling is when people mis-represent their own guess as to what development could possibly occur as the maximum allowed based on the increased development densities put in place by the 2040 Land Use Element. And unfortunately, that is exactly what Councilmember Moore is doing. The maximum development allowed can be computed – a guess is only a guess.
Hopefully this finally “clears the air” and we can now move to the policy debate starting with the question – why is it a good Land Use policy to double the development densities on 800 acres of land Town wide if changing the development density on only 87 acres (e.g. 50 parcels) will allow the Town to develop 2,494 units and meet the 6 th cycle RHNA target of 1,993 units? That is the debate we should be having rather than calling an inconvenient fact “untruthful.”
Los Gatos Community Alliance