Letter To TC Regarding N40 Spec Plan from Jeff Loughridge

posted in: North 40, Our Town | 0

Submitted to the Town Council

To:  Councilmembers:  Mayor Marcia Jensen; Vice-Mayor Barbara Spector; Steve Leonardis; Marico Sayoc; Rob Rennie

The specific Plan for the North 40 represents the parameters of what can be ultimately built there. It is important to understand not only the Town vision of the North 40 but also of the vision of what the North 40 could be, within these parameters.

Commercial Building Plan

I think that the concept of “protecting” the Downtown businesses from competition is flawed. The Los Gatos downtown has always had the ability to improve itself. No protection was ever offered from other nearby communities. If our downtown needs protection from competition from the North 40 then they have already lost to communities like Campbell. The North 40 is actually in direct geographical competition with Campbell and every effort should be made to help it win that fight, not hobble it. But please let the fight for business be between the North 40 and Campbell and not with our own downtown.

There has been a square footage matrix that has showed up at the last few meetings that suggests a very low percentage of small pad size retail that might be allowed as part of the North 40 Commercial Building Plan. The suggestion has been to limit small pad retail of under 3000sq ft to 5% of the North 40 development. As an example, our down town has approximately 60% of these same size retail. This square footage matrix should be eliminated. I think that the Los Gatos business landlords have exerted enough ‘special interest’ pressure on our town.

I am a neighbor to the North 40 property, and I look forward to the improved quality of life that the development can provide. I want to be able to walk or ride my bike to retail shopping and services. I’d like to have dining options on the North side of Los Gatos similar to what downtown residents have enjoyed for years. I want a variety of small specialty and minimal mid-size shopping and services. I do not want a Target, Walmart or anything similar or larger. These do not align with the Town’s vision.

“It (the North 40) celebrates our history, agricultural heritage, hillside views and small town character.  The North 40 is seamlessly woven into the fabric of our community, complimenting other Los Gatos residential and business neighborhood.”  A power shopping center does not meet this vision statement and wouldn’t effectively serve the needs of the Los Gatos community.

I respectfully request that you reread and reflect on a few key statements from the “Vision of Los Gatos” and the “General Plan”. It is the Town’s desire and your elected responsibility to act upon these items outlined below.

  • “Support of new development from surrounding residents and property owners will be a major consideration during any development review process.”
  • “Residents expect all new development to fit into the fabric of the community and demand that new businesses enhance their high quality of life.”
  • “Support an active business community that provides a wide variety of goods and services and a broad range of employment opportunities, minimizing the need to travel to other communities;”

 

Height

I fought against building heights above 35 feet on the Albright project initially due to the project being virtually in the back yard of Charter Oaks. Then, I was one of the few who did not insist on 35 feet because I thought that it would be better to be able to build higher and make better use of the land. I thought that the best way to get this extra height was to amend the General Plan. Council chose to allow a PD to grant that height exception. I disagreed with this strategy since I believe that Los Gatos should follow the procedures that have been set out. Using exceptions like a PD in this instance was like using a loophole to accomplish something that was better served by an amendment.

I supported the proposed building heights in the North 40 development application. It would have been a better and more efficient use of this valuable piece of property. It would allow a development which at the same time meeting some of our town’s unmet needs – and does so in an elegant and future-thinking way. A building cap of 35 feet here will result in minimizing unmet needs at the expense of 10 or 15 feet of height on a few of the buildings. The resulting lack of building height “texture” will create a “Costco-like” appearance. Completely unnecessary in my view and a step in the wrong direction.

I feel that this issue should be reopened and re-evaluated.

 

Residential

In the last couple of weeks before the Specific Plan meetings, the State density bonus was mentioned. Even though the State density bonus can potentially apply to all developments, opponents to the North 40 development used it as a means to point out that the 364 units proposed could be increased to 491. Almost all who are concerned with the traffic created by the North 40 seemed to want to reduce the number of housing units. The problem with that thinking is that residential housing creates LESS traffic than retail or commercial. The residential unit number of 364 should have been left alone.

 

Jeff Loughridge

 

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