Letter To the Town Council for June 2nd Meeting– N40 and LG-MS PD

posted in: North 40, Our Town, Traffic | 0

May 31, 2015

To:  The Honorable Councilmembers:  Mayor Marcia Jensen, Vice-Mayor Barbara Spector, Steve Leonardis, Marico Sayoc and Rob Rennie

Re: June 2nd Town Council Meeting

Regarding Height at the North 40:  You are well aware of the Community Alliance’s stance against the additional height allowed at the Netflix site.  And you may be somewhat perplexed that we are advocating higher buildings to be allowed at the North 40.  The difference is that with the North 40, we advocate the higher buildings, but we stipulate sticking with a 435,000 square foot cap in the newly constructed retail square footage.  Additional height, we believe, will be relatively inconsequential to views for those driving northbound on Hwy 17  and only consequential to those driving southbound that are not keeping their eyes on the road.

The best, most inviting and safest introduction to Los Gatos is looking straight ahead on Hwy 17 at the trees lining both sides of the freeway, and the looming Santa Cruz mountains just ahead.  If you’re looking to the left, your eyes are not on the road.  (see diagrams of heights to 45′ at the town link:

( http://www.losgatosca.gov/DocumentCenter/View/8899 )

We were against the height at Netflix due to the increased number of employees that additional height would bring into town.  At the North 40, with higher buildings and a fixed number of square feet, there will be more room for green open space if designated in the specific plan.  It might be a win-win if development costs are reduced for the developer, and there are increased environmental benefits due to the buildings height.  There would be more benefits to the public who use the additional green space.

We also realize the General Plan calls for 35′ maximum height, but two exceptions are already being made with the hotel and the affordable housing.  Likewise, exceptions were made to the Netflix site using only a PD.  In this case,  while in agreement with the 435,000 new square feet, we do believe that one or two buildings going to 45′ – 50′ would give the development  additional green space.  Going to 50′ might give the developer the ability to put in elevators which would then make a residential building senior-friendly.  As it stands now, the only senior-friendly building would be the low income senior units which may in part, defeat a vision of more senior housing in the town.

Regarding Development to Protect the downtown by prescribing size allocations:  As you know, we are against protection of the landlords at the expense of fair competition, the business owners, and the residents of the town.  Protecting them will discriminate as much against actual business owners as it discriminates against the town residents.  If the north 40 becomes a power center (mid and large box), it draws more traffic and artificially protects downtown from competition.  The internet has the retail businesses making new adjustments every year, and I am sure that whomever the developer is, they too will have to make adjustments as things change rapidly.  We believe that by imposing prescribed limits, such as 2.5% of the space goes to businesses under 1500 sq. ft.,  or any % for that matter,  is unfair, irrational and an example of government overstepping the principle that free competition stimulates creativity and innovation.

Incubators:  Absolutely love the idea of this.  Where better to have a creative environment than Los Gatos?  The big plus would be the reduced traffic and the spreading of the commute hours.   A well-designed space with the right housing and a retail/commercial environment would attract the millennial’s and make Los Gatos even more attractive to the seniors; former entrepreneurs’ that would conceivably like to be oriented near the “action”.

Police:  There seems to be a lot of reticence to look at a cost comparison of our municipal police department to the costs of the sheriff.  Steve Conway gave us a comparison of how LG looked when compared to other municipal departments, but not how our department looks when compared to the Sheriff.  We cannot find the video nor minutes of this meeting on line.

If we have a significant budget deficit and we can’t improve our sickly roads (see Almond Grove, or the typical cheap fix on Euclid Avenue), and a looming pension issue, shouldn’t we at least be able to look at the costs associated with our budget?  The fastest way to balance a budget is cutting costs, not increasing revenues, as any CFO will tell you.  (well, almost any)

I am not advocating getting rid of our police force, but Mr. Shepardson has pointed out repeatedly that the costs comparison needs to be done for the residents of Los Gatos.  The differences may be substantial, which may be fine, but right now, there is doubt when the subject continually comes up but no one does anything about it.  Bringing this to light would be an example of fiscal responsibility to the residents as well as government openness and transparency.

I have heard that comparing apples to apples is hard to do.  That’s an excuse as it is often in the business world.  I would suggest that you may be able to make a down and dirty decision just by comparing  the average hourly wage of like-positions; multiplying by 2080 hours per year; and adding the costs of each entity for overtime, and benefits.  There may need to be some adjustments as I believe that towns policed by sheriffs use substantially fewer officers per capita – something that needs to be understood and footnoted in the study.

The “extras”  of Los Gatos are often at the wish of the council and I presume, there is an implied acknowledgement,  by the residents.  There will be some cost savings also in real estate and equipment for the sheriff, but for starters, just look at the annual wage differences, if any.  If it’s more than a prescribed percentage (example might be a 25% disparity), then perhaps that’s when a more detailed review kicks in.  If the disparities total up to the millions, the council should know, and so should  the residents.  I don’t think the council should think it is so complicated that it cannot be done.

Jak Van Nada

Los Gatos Community Alliance.

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