Letter to The Town Council on the Specific Plan

posted in: North 40 | 0

This letter is in regard to the North 40 Specific Plan.
I continue to read in personal comments online, within town documents, and from the mouths of our elected and appointed officials that we want to maintain the small town look and feel of Los Gatos. With the size granted to Netflix (aka Carlyle) and the potential size of the North 40, we won’t be meeting our goal of remaining a small town.

Should the current Specific Plan be developed to its maximum as stated,

  • 364 homes (net 332);
  • 580K sq ft of “non‐residential” (net increase of 514,000);
  • 250,000 of hotel/office;
  • 400K of commercial; and a conference center that will handle 200‐300 participants.(source EMC Planning Group Inc. Section 3.0 Environmental Effects)

it will not fit into the fabric of Los Gatos as much as it will be San Jose’s fabric will be bleeding profusely into Los Gatos.

If the school issues are now mitigated, then we have one major issue to resolve, and two big unknowns. The immediate issue is traffic, and the unknowns would be water and green house gases generated by these mega developments. It doesn’t take much looking to find articles in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or on CBS news that we’re long on greenhouse gases and short on water in California.

If you take a look at the town from 10,000 feet, you’ll see the heavy development and traffic in the north, and trees and single family residents south of Blossom Hill Rd. Take a look at the freeways and the arterials and you’ll soon see gridlock. Both developments are or will be game changers with the larger Netflix making everyone feel that the North 40 is acceptable with the mega Netflix project approved.

By the way, did you know that Reed Hastings has donated over $2,000,000 to Rocket Ship schools and not a dime to Los Gatos schools? Other than doing things for themselves, what has this company done for Los Gatos since it moved here? How about a bus like Google supplied Mt. View? Will Netflix adhere to one employee per 300 square feet or will they do like Google and Facebook and double the employee density to 1 for every 150 square feet, thus doubling the traffic?

We have the hindsight advantage of an observer to see what has happened to traffic at Santana Row and Westfield Mall. They don’t have that solved, and yet they’re putting in a new 232,000 sq ft. building at Santa Row and 500,000 square feet at Westfield Mall They will be using the same entrances and exits they have used since Santana Row was built. Granted, an improved exit is coming online, but that’s 12 years after Santana was built. From this observer’s point of view, this is what happens with the developments. They multiply, divide and expand.

If the North 40 is fully developed, it will not fit into a Los Gatos neighborhood, nor into the fabric of the community. The North 40 will be much more like San Jose than it will be like Los Gatos. Why are we even considering that?

Though I have read or heard that traffic will be mitigated, I find that very difficult to believe given the sheer magnitude of the project and the current traffic problems we have. Adding turn lanes will just jam the adjacent street more. If Lark is striped too widely now, that still does not change the fact that the bridges can’t handle two additional lanes to say nothing of additional multimodal lanes we need for bikes and pedestrians. Aren’t we are supposed to become more bike and pedestrian friendly, not less?

Let’s say it is mitigated. Do we want another 30,000 plus cars in north Los Gatos, with over 21,000 of them coming from the No. 40?
If I come home on highway 17 around 4 in the afternoon, currently about 15% of the time the traffic does NOT speed up past the southbound merge of the three lanes to two. I can check my phone and tell when to get off at Lark and weave the neighborhoods on my way towards College Avenue.

What will happen once PAMF, Netflix (X2) and Stanford come online? What happens once Campbell comes on line? And what happens when the North 40 comes online? Will all of us who live in town have to exit at Camden to weave our way back home? And once the Campbell project comes on line, will we have to exit at Hamilton to get home? I am projecting I will have to exit the freeway to get home 50% of the time during commute hour due to backups. This will double my time to get home.

You all live in or close to the CBD. There will be no more weaving to get home. Make no mistake that our life in our former small town will be total commuter misery ‐ and I say that without hyperbole nor exaggeration. Is further development progress? Isn’t the unstoppable, unmitigatable climate change enough of a problem until we get them under control?

Los Gatos has an opportunity, to start showing this state some leadership. Small though that it might be, we could put some brakes on over‐development. We can do our little part in slowing down traffic gridlock and minuscully mitigate some climate change with less development at the North 40. We missed the opportunity on Netflix, but we don’t have to miss twice.

Councilmember Spector always asks for solutions rather than doing just the easily accomplished complaining.

Based on what i know, I have a lot of respect for Grosvenor and Summerhill as developers, and were a large development feasible for our future, I would likely pick them. But they’ll be gone and many of us will still be here. Our kids, our grandkids and their grandkids will have to live with our decisions today. We need to pay it forward by minimizing the impacts that developments have and will continue to cause until we fix the unfixed problems we have now. More is not always more and it can be considerably less. It’s the grandchildren of tomorrow that need us to put their future first.

1. Currently we have a jobs to housing imbalance with Netflix growth, too many employees and not enough housing. Let’s add more, smaller, affordable houses (or housing units) and eliminate large retail, the hotel and office from the North 40 .

2. Traffic: these three above are huge traffic generators, AS WOULD BE A SCHOOL. Let’s maximize the housing to ~250 units on the north end and ~250 on the south end (which would include the density bonus). Let’s add more senior housing ‐ affordable or not ‐ as they generate fewer auto trips and travel at non‐commute hours. Let’s build out the center of the North 40 with a Markethall that serves primarily the neighborhoods on the north side of town. The right kinds of stores will draw locals and leave the people who don’t live in close proximity to shop in their own neighborhoods. In short, the development has to be cut down in size to get some kind of control over the huge traffic problems that are coming irrespective of the North 40.

3. Lets not design the north 40 with the intention of protecting the downtown. That’s a local form of protectionism that creates an oligarchy of landlords. It creates artificially high rents if you remove the competition. The Wooden Horse did not prevent Automobuild from starting. In fact, they have expanded. Viva did not devastate Cafe Marchella (now Cin Cin). They all have to be sharp business operators with rents as high as they are, but if you protect the landlords, it only gets harder for the small business owners who often work at very low margins just to survive. We are successful because of competition, not in spite of it.
The merchants want and need an alternative or an additional place to locate and expand. The landlords have had plenty of time to adjust My perception is that the downtown landlords have very few customers north of Los Gatos‐Almaden Road due to the lack of parking and the traffic to get downtown. The north 40 will be able to serve most of north Los Gatos and will also pick up traffic from Campbell and West San Jose. The downtown and the north 40 will be able to complement each other and both will be able to grow healthily rather than by protection from our local government. No matter what you do to the No. 40, it cannot replicate the ambiance of the location nor the old neighborhoods of our downtown. The landlords need to quit wringing their hands and get on with competing for the best customers.

4. The 250 units on the north end should go into the Cambell‐Cambrian school district. Ms Abbati does not like to spit up neighborhoods but isn’t that the norm rather than the exception (eg, Dave, Van Meter, Blossom Hill, Union, all border each other and yet neighbors go to different schools? If the schools already have over‐crowding issues, shouldn’t we just support those in our school district?

5. The water issue: We need to keep any use of housing and landscaping down to a minimum to keep the use of water to a minimum. (think about that water needed for the high school lawn). We need dryscaping at the north 40 until we are sure that this worst drought ever is over. Every unit built should have a hot water recirculator so that people do not have to run water until the hot comes through.

6. A local bus system needs to be established that simply circles town on a regular 15″ wait basis.
If you don’t protect our town, who will?

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