Letter to the Los Gatos Planning Commission

  1. When Resumed, the Proposed Plan Should Be Modified to Reflect the Housing Element Update and Other Changes.  

Once the Housing Element update has been adopted by the Town Council and certified by the State, the Proposed Plan should be updated to reflect it.  Other recommended changes to the Proposed Plan are detailed below. 

  1. Restore Existing Low Density Residential Development Standards.

For lands designated Low Density Residential, the current General Plan allows for single-family development at densities of up to 5 units per acre.  The Proposed Plan would more than double the permitted densities, allowing for development of up to 12 units per acre.   No change in land use designation or densities should be made to the Low Density Residential land use category.

First, no such changes are needed to meet the Town’s RHNA figure.  Higher density development is already provided for in other areas, such as Community Place Districts.  Further, the densities proposed in Low Density Residential areas (up to 12 units per acre) would not count toward the Town’s fair share of affordable housing.  (Gov. Code § 65583.2(c)(3)(B) [requiring densities of at least 20 units per acre to be deemed appropriate to accommodate housing for lower income households].)

Second, state law has already added density to low density residential areas.  Senate Bill 9, which took effect on January 1, 2022, allows for up to four units per single family residential lot.  The Town has enacted an urgency ordinance to implement Senate Bill 9.  Adding further density to single-family neighborhoods would not be appropriate as such areas are generally not in close proximity to public transit, employment, or commercial services.  Local upzoning on top of state upzoning would also be contrary to policies in the Proposed Plan that emphasize maintaining and enhancing a sense of place in residential neighborhoods and requiring new construction to be compatible with existing neighborhoods.  (See, e.g., Proposed Plan, Goals LU-5 and LU-17 and Policies LU-2.1, LU-4.1, and LU-5.8.)

Third, given the relatively high land costs, much higher development densities are required to achieve the unit development economics to incentivize the production of duplexes and triplexes.  The desired development would not likely ever materialize given the high land cost.  The resulting housing would instead likely consist of denser, single-family detached housing that is market rate and not affordable.

  1. Add Low-Medium Density Residential in Appropriate Locations. 

               The Proposed Plan contains policies that encourage development of “missing middle” housing.  (Cf. Proposed Plan, Policies LU-1.2, LU-3.5, and LU-5.1; see also Proposed Plan, pp. 3-5 to 3-6.)  The Proposed Plan describes missing middle housing as “multiple units on a single parcel (whether attached or detached) that are compatible in scale and form with detached single-family homes.”  (Proposed Plan, p. 3-3.)  The plan goes on to state that common missing middle housing types include, among others, duplexes, triplexes, and townhomes.  (Id.)

To encourage the development of this type of housing, the Town should establish a new Low-Medium Density Residential land use category that allows for the development of duplexes and triplexes at a density range of between 6 and 13 dwelling units per acre.  The City of Campbell has a similar land use designation in its General Plan, which it describes as consisting generally of duplexes, small apartment buildings, and small lot, single-family detached homes.  This new land use designation would be between Low Density Residential, designed for single-family residential development, and Medium Density Residential, designed for multiple-family residential development.  Staff could identify appropriate sites in Community Place Districts for this new land use designation. 

  1. Amend Permitted Intensities Allowed in Central Business District. 

               As currently written, the Proposed Plan would change the permitted floor area ratio (“FAR”) in the Central Business District (“CBD”) from 0.6 to 2.0 and allow for residential densities of 20-30 units per acre.  This change would increase allowed intensities in Los Gatos’s unique and charming Downtown by over 200 percent.  Such a change would conflict with policies emphasizing the small-scale retail development envisioned in the CBD district that is consistent with the Town’s identity, character, and style.  (Cf. Proposed Plan, Policies LU-8.2, LU-8.3, LU-9.1, and LU-9.4.)  Such high density development could threaten the commercial viability of the Downtown area.

The City of Campbell limits FAR in its Central Commercial (“CC”) district to 1.25.  Similar to Los Gatos’s CBD district, Campbell’s CC district is intended to promote retail commercial uses on the ground floor with office or other uses on upper floors.  The Town should likewise limit FAR in the CBD to 1.25.

  1. Make Other Changes As Needed to Accommodate The Town’s Assigned RHNA. 

               In addition to the above changes, the Town should modify land use designations and densities so that build-out under the Proposed Plan would accommodate no more than approximately 2,300 units.  This figure reflects the Town’s RHNA of 1,993 units, plus a 15 percent buffer.  It also reflects the economic demand and the City Council’s preferred land use alternative.   By proceeding with this reasonable growth figure, the Town could ensure that development is phased and does not outpace necessary infrastructure and service improvements.

The current Proposed Plan allows for the development potential of nearly 75,000 housing units at maximum allowable densities.  There is no need to maximize densities in each and every residential and commercial land use category to achieve the Town’s RHNA and doing so would fundamentally change the nature and character of the entire Town.  This underscores why the Housing Element update and its critical housing sites inventory should precede any further work on the Proposed Plan. 


We respectfully ask the Town to focus first on the Housing Element update prior to considering the Proposed Plan or any other General Plan update.  The Housing Element update will provide critical information on what area(s), if any, need to be re-designated in the General Plan to accommodate the Town’s projected housing growth.  Once the Housing Element update has been finalized, the Proposed Plan should be revised to reflect it as well as the other recommended changes detailed above.

Thank you for your consideration of LGCA’s views on these important matters.  Please do not hesitate to contact the undersigned with any questions concerning this correspondence.

Very truly yours,



Matthew D. Francois

cc (via e-mail):

Honorable Rob Rennie, Mayor, and Members of the Town Council

Laurel Prevetti, Town Manager

Joel Paulson, Community Development Director

Robert Schultz, Town Attorney


[1]     The Land Use Alternatives report also identified the range of likely market demand for new housing between 2020 and 2040 to be approximately 1,500-2,000 dwelling units.

[2]     https://www.losgatosca.gov/2711/Housing-Element-Advisory-Board

  1. Melanie Allen

    As a long time resident of Los Gatos I am appalled at the plans for more over development of our area. Our quality of life would be negatively impacted by much worse air quality, over drained water usage which is being greatly impacted at our present rate of usage, our infrastructure which needs rebuilding with traffic impacting our roads & bridges. The emotional well being of our residents with greater traffic impact. All of us are already experiencing the impact of the new North 40 Development in traffic delays and over crowding of our streets around that development.
    Please slow this down so that the City can absorb the changes before adding others. Analysis of the situation needs to occur at least a year after this development is concluded to adequately plan for the future.

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