The Los Gatos Community Alliance (www.lg-ca.com) has put together this synopsis based upon the best information we have found currently available to the public. We will correct any errors that are brought to our attention. We have done this to better understand this project ourselves, and for any others who are new to the North 40 Development.
Is it financially feasible for this property to become a large park or a sports complex? Likewise, is it feasible to create a moratorium on building in town to solve all of the problems caused by the current developments? Pleasanton tried it recently tried that and lost. They ended up paying the legal fees that cost more than $4,000,000 (estimated $2MM fees paid for the plaintiff fees and another $2MM for the town to cover its own legal costs).
We believe lack of coordinated thinking and planning has created the problems we have now and may continue for the next 10 years or more if not corrected. We have too much traffic and too many students in a town with an infrastructure that can’t support the traffic nor the students. The solution to poor planning is not “NO planning”. We need “BETTER planning”.
Who is the Applicant for the North 40 Specific Plan that is currently before the Council?
- The Town of Los Gatos is both the Applicant for the North 40 Specific Plan and the official Author of the Specific Plan.
- The General Plan requires the North 40 properties be developed under a Specific Plan.
- The Town established the North 40 Advisory Board and an outside consultant to aid staff in the preparation of the North 40 Specific Plan.
- The Advisory Board was composed of two Town Council members, three Planning Commissioners, members of the General Plan Committee and a several Town residents.
- The Draft Plan currently before the Council represents over four years of collaborative work by staff, elected and appointed officials, and involved residents and business owners.
Who owns the area covered by the North 40 Specific Plan?
- There are approximately 15 property owners in the North 40.
- The Yuki family owns the majority of the area (30 + acres), most of which is presently a walnut orchard.
- Approximately 14 other others own the remainder of the North 40. The majority of the area along Los Gatos Blvd. between Lark Ave and Samaritan Drive has been developed as commercial or office uses.
- Single family homes are located mostly to the interior of the site along Burton Road and Bennett Way.
Who paid for the preparation of the North 40 Specific Plan?
- The 2020 General Plan requires the preparation of a Specific Plan before any future development can occur within the North 40.
- The responsibility to finance the North 40 Specific Plan, the EIR etc. fell to the first developer wishing to submit a development application within the North 40, since the Town does not have the resources for their preparation.
- Therefore, although the Town of Los Gatos is the Applicant for the North 40 Specific Plan, Grosvenor, a prospective developer currently under contract with the Yuki family, has paid for the preparation of the Plan, the EIR, town staff time, and the Consultants.
Is it legal or typical for a developer to pay for the preparation of a Specific Plan?
- Unlike the Town’s Advisory Board for the North 40 Specific Plan it is also typical for the “stakeholders” (property owners, nearby neighborhoods and developer) to be represented on an advisory board or commission.
What was Grosvenor’s (the Developer under contract with the Yuki family currently) role developing or drafting the Specific Plan?
- No more than any other person wishing to contribute.
- Grosvenor was not represented on the Advisory Committee.
- Grosvenor had the same opportunity to express their perspective to the Board by submitting letters and/or addressing the Board during the communication part of the Boards meetings. Like everybody else they were limited to no more than three minutes.
Has an application been submitted for development within the North 40?
- Yes, an application has been submitted to the Town for the Lark District and approximately 1/2 of the Transition District. (approximately 20 acres), however it cannot be processed until a Specific Plan is approved.
- The remainder of the Yuki land is not currently available for development and the remainder of the acreage in the Northern District is not owned by Yukis. It is controlled by numerous others.
- There is a rumor that most of the developable land in the Northern Section has been bought up by a developer(s) or is under-contract by a developer(s) other than Grosvenor.
- The Grosvenor application cannot be processed until a Specific Plan is approved.
Does the Draft North 40 Specific Plan set standards for open space?
- The Draft 40 Specific Plan requires a minimum of 30% open space (or a minimum of 13 acres of open space)
- The open space is required to be distributed throughout the Plan area
- The open space requirement in the Specific Plan is greater than current town requirements for open space.
Does the Draft North 40 Specific Plan allow building higher than 35′ across the entire site?
- The current General Plan Designation for the North 40 would allow buildings up to 35′ across the entire site. However, the Town currently allows heights greater than 35′ across an entire site with a PD Zoning.
- The Draft North 40 Plan limits the areas where building may be taller than 35′ and required any new structure along Lark and Los Gatos Blvd to be limited to 25 feet or less.
WHAT MIGHT HAPPEN IF THE NORTH 40 SPECIFIC PLAN IS NOT ADOPTED?
What will be the General Plan Land Use Designations and Zoning Districts for the North 40 area if the North 40 Specific Plan is not adopted?
- General Plan Land Use Designations: Mixed Use Commercial and North 40 Specific Plan Overlay
- Zoning Designations: R-1:8 (Low Density Residential), CH (Highway Commercial) and RC (Resource Conservation)
Could there be any consequences if the General Plan Land Use Map and text were not amended to remove the North 40 Specific Plan Overlay and associated text and/or the Zoning Districts were not amended?
- The Town may be open to lawsuits by the property owners for “a taking” as all development would be at a standstill until General Plan conflict resolved.
- The Town may be open to lawsuits by outside agencies over the Town’s Housing Element as required market-rate and affordable housing could not be built.
- Since the Town is the Applicant for the North 40 Specific Plan, the Town would be responsible for the legal expenses for the Town’s defense.
Conversely, could there be consequences if the North 40 Specific Plan Overlay and development restrictions are removed from the General Plan?
- The current Mixed Use General Plan Land Use Designation allows a wide range of uses/densities and intensities exceeding those in the Draft North 40 Specific Plan.
- Property owners or developers could apply for zoning changes consistent with the current General Plan Land Use Designation.
- The transportation improvements and infrastructure improvements required by the Specific Plan and included in the pending application would likely not be implemented.
- There would be no general overall plan and development could continue to proceed piecemeal.
How does the number and type of new jobs created by new development affect the number of new residences the state will require the Town to plan for?
- The number of jobs created and the types of jobs created are taken into account by the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) when determining the housing numbers assigned to the Town (RHNA numbers) RHNA= Regional Housing Needs Assessment
- Job intensive land uses, such as Type A Office (Albright/Netflix) and Medical Offices are more job intensive than retail or other types of commercial and result in the requirement for more housing.
- A ratio of 1.5 jobs/household is considered to represent a good Jobs/Housing Ratio. Any ratio higher indicates a need for more housing in a municipality. Los Gatos has a Jobs/Housing ratio of 2.5, of late due to the addition of the Netflix project.
- The Jobs/Housing ratio is used as an indicator for reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) and Vehicle Hours Traveled (VHT) and therefore as a general indicator of transportation congestion.
WHAT ABOUT THE DEVELOPER – GROSVENOR AMERICAS?
What have they done thus far?
- At this point, as far as we know, Grosvenor has a contract with the Yuki family who owns the majority of the North 40. They are the only developer that we know of that has put effort into the property, so what we say, comes mostly from talks with them.
- We know nothing about the terms. We have attended town sponsored meetings to give our input to the development, should it happen. We have assisted setting up neighborhood meetings for the developers to answer questions by Los Gatos residents.
Affordable Housing at the North 40 (for the technical information on Affordable Housing, see below headed up as RHNA (Regional Housing Needs Assessment)
- In the various meetings we have had with the developer, we have the following understanding of what they are going to do. This can change depending on further negotiations with the town or the property owners. This is no more than a snapshot of what’s current with the affordable housing that Grosvenor has proposed within the project:
- No cash or financing has occurred yet. Grosvenor is not assured they can get the rezoning done.
- Grosvenor added 6 units more than required for Below Market Pricing requirements.
- Grosvenor will front all entitlement and design costs for the affordable housing portion of the project that is to be built by Eden Corporation. Their portion is integrated into Grosvenor’s with shared parking, etc. They (Eden) will eventually pay Grosvenor back for this.
- Grosvenor will buy the land for the affordable housing and will not charge Eden for the property. Note, they are going above a shared parking structure so Grosvenor will get some benefit from the land but Eden is not charged. This subsidy is in the millions of dollars.
- Eden, through various sources including low income tax credit sales, pays for its construction of its building and the proportionate share of shared things like utility work and shared parking.
- Right now, there is about a $1.5M gap which Grosvenor is covering. Depending on interest rates and available other programs at the time they go to construction, Grosvenor hopes to narrow that gap. If they don’t, then Grosvenor will fund it.
- Eden provides Los Gatos affordable units to cover the Grosvenor BMP requirement. However, there is nothing in the Specific Plan that calls for the level of affordability that they are providing or the fact that these are age restricted, both of which are beneficial to the town.
- The nuance is that they (Eden) are tied into the whole program. It is not like they are a stand-alone project that Grosvenor is just donating land and money too.
OUR OPINION BASED ON THESE FACTS
- The North 40 is a very large project. Most of the people living north of Los Gatos-Almaden Road shop in Campbell and San Jose. There are very few restaurants on the north end, nor small shops like our downtown. Sales tax from our residents go to Campbell and San Jose for that reason.
- Traffic on Lark and Los Gatos Blvd is bad and guaranteed to get worse with the Netflix project, Palo Alto Medical, Swanson Ford, CVS, the Stanford Cancer Center, the addition at Samaritan and the huge development proposed in Campbell at Dell Avenue. All of this will add new traffic to your life.
- The town’s traffic consultants state that most of the traffic will be mitigated to an “acceptable” D level (you don’t want to know).
- Our assessment is that property owners have a right to develop the property. The Yuki family has been a wonderful family for the town of Los Gatos. They donated property long ago for the Berry School which the School District eventually sold (and is now the Jewish Community Center). Property rights carry a lot of weight in the USA.
- We feel the EIR will eventually be approved and then it’s a matter of whether the Specific Plan is passed, or not. If not, we feel that the development will be a messy hodge-podge of uncoordinated buildings with a weak and insufficient infrastructure. Therefore we feel that the Specific Plan will control the development best. With the right developer and the right Specific Plan, the North 40 will be a place that serves its new and old residents It will be an “uptown” for those living north of Los Gatos-Almaden.
- If the land is developed without a Specific Plan, our concern is that the town will have a difficult time meeting present or future housing numbers imposed by the state. The Netflix project already has us in the hole for housing. Whether the developer is Grosvenor or not, we feel that we need a big developer with deep pockets that can absorb the cost of the affordable housing and a coordinated infrastructure. Piecemeal development by many small developers will unlikely be able to finance the infrastructure and affordable housing that this development needs to be a cohesive development.
- We do feel that there is much more effort needed by the town to make the traffic somewhat tolerable. We propose a mass transit system that runs both directions around Lark, Winchester, Santa Cruz Ave., Main Street to Los Gatos Blvd. It needs to be a system that services the schools, the residents and visitors to the town.
- We also need to become more bike-centric with safe streets where our kids can ride to school without having their parents shuttle them to and from in cars. The kids will be healthier and the roads less traveled by cars.
- We do not want a Santana Row development that doesn’t fit laid back Los Gatos. We don’t want a development like Santana Row that gets developed 11 years before they start building the roads and bridges to handle the traffic. We want someone that plans ahead and creates solutions at the same time they are creating the problem. That’s why we pay for our planning department and expect a resourceful Town Manager. That’s why we elected the best Council we’ve had for a long time.
- We think the Specific Plan has some significant holes that need to be plugged. If or when the EIR is passed, we need some serious work on the Specific Plan. But we can achieve a Specific Plan that fits Los Gatos and allows a beneficial development at the North 40, the last large open space in Los Gatos that can either be broken into small unremarkable little pieces, or developed into something special that reflects both the Los Gatos past as well as its future.