Why I Support the No 40 Specific Plan

7-24-17

 

 I support the North 40 Specific Plan for the following reasons:

 

  1. Simply put, the town told the developer what they (they = most of us and the Council) wanted; and the developer did exactly as told.  Now the town (town =  some of you and some of the Council) want to renege.  That doesn’t work in my book.  Think of the Peanuts cartoon when Lucy pulls the football away just as Charlie Brown is about to kick it !
  2. 20 years from now…………….no, just 10 years from now…………. we’ll be looking back at this point in time. Did we make the right decision?  Is traffic better?  Are the schools better off than they were before the development happened?  I have no idea – but this plan  was the best hundreds of people could come up with after 6 years of hard work.  Why would we think another 6 years will give us a better decision?
  3. We started out with the intention to solve unmet needs in this town. Some of those needs included jobs, housing, unmet retail needs and improved traffic conditions.  We had ancillary requirements of character, walkability, bike paths, and a state government requiring high density housing.  All  of this was achieved in this plan.
  4. This is about change – change that will always happen. (see pictures at the end). One of the Council’s jobs is to make sure the change works to the advantage of the community; not only today, but 20 years from now. And not just for us, but for the entire Bay Area with whom we are co-dependent.
  5. The Council may have gone beyond a reasonable amount of time making this decision. So much time has passed that the world seems 180 degrees from where it was not  only 20 years ago, but just 6 years ago.  Today, we risk paralysis by over-analysis.
  6. Eight years ago, the average median home price in the 95032 area code was about $903,000. Today it’s $1,593,000.  How much less affordable will it be in 2023 if we keep kicking this can down the road?
  7. We’re trying to design this project with multiple resident committees, many whom have not been listening to professionals that make a career out of planning spaces to fit into the community where they’re building. Market forces will require them to make this work for the citizens who will not use this development if it’s too crowded, or should the retail does not answer their needs.  The developer is best suited to figure this out.
  8. The town citizenry spent years, thousands of hours and dollars discussing and debating the perfect plan. There is no “perfect” plan.  There again will be no perfect plan.  The compromise was reached when the Specific Plan was finally approved – after many iterations and deliberations between hundreds of citizens over more than a decade………….a decision was made.
  9. Every citizen of Los Gatos had the same level playing field during the multi-year planning stages of the Specific Plan. It was a compromise of many values.  It remains a compromise of many values.
  10. The Los Gatos Community Alliance does understand and often agrees with the angst over traffic, schools, over-crowding, etc. We started out very much against this project until we understood more. The town historically attempts to mitigate those issues. They do well on some, and not so well in others.  During the process of arguing against this project, we learned about state laws that influence the town’s ultimate decisions.  We also learned about property rights in the United States and housing laws.  We believe this project will happen regardless of the lawsuits filed and/or fought, costing the town money the town does not have.
  11. The town may well be risking over $6,000,000 to the schools and up to $12,000,000 for Capital Improvement projects for traffic mitigation to say nothing of an unprecedented 40% of open space that has never been required of any other development – EVER – in the town of Los Gatos.
  12. Currently, many of the citizens have no knowledge of the laws, property rights or the economics of any development. Most have not worked on the mechanics nor the design of this development, but feel that to just say “NO” is the right thing to do.
  13. People are fighting change, not dealing with shaping a development that could either happen well, or be a complete disaster for this town. The shaping was  done by their fellow citizens years ago and those who did not participate should not feel entitled to start all over now.
  14. People have complained of the unsafe conditions of putting us old people (I’m 73) on the second floor of the affordable housing in case of an emergency. Keep in mind that the Terraces of Los Gatos is 3 stories with many people older than I am.
  15. The Advisory Committee worked hard to shape this development, and then a few groups worked with the developers who listened and made changes to accommodate the town and interested citizens. Better Biking and connectivity to the trail, schools, and downtown was high on our agenda and the developer  came  up with a plan that, though not perfect, was an acceptable compromise for us.
  16. Compromise happens when two or more parties have differing views, and then work  together to iron out their differences.  No one necessarily wins, but the project becomes acceptable given all of the various wants and needs of the community.
  17. Continually fighting or filing lawsuits will increase the legal bills already exceeding $700,000 at a faster rate than this last law suit. More lawsuits will bring in much larger legal costs than $700,000 with higher costing attorneys for all sides.  The risks increase exponentially if we lose.  The gain, if there is  a gain, will be to redesign the No 40.  How much different do you think that redesign will be than what we’ve designed now?  Would a majority of residents agree to anything?  The $6,000,000 and the $12,000,000 may be forfeited, and I doubt any developer will agree again to 40% of open space.
  18. The Council has to be extremely aware of why this suit was lost; the future cost of further delays; and the town’s dire financial situation with escalating pension costs. We don’t have the money to risk a loss of this magnitude given our financial situation.  The solution will likely have to include taxing each of the citizens.  Think about that.
  19. Violating housing laws will only cost us more money with one potential of having the state take over the planning of the development. If you read the Mercury News on 7/16/17, you saw that the Silicon Valley, between 2010 and 2015 added 367,000 jobs, but only added 57,000 homes. Adding jobs without homes increases the commute of  the workers, and adds to  the pollution and traffic which we’ve all come  to hate.  You  may think that doesn’t really affect us – but where  do  you think  that beach traffic is coming from every weekend?  What about the air quality in Los Gatos from all  of the commuters and the beach traffic?
  20. We (the town citizens) have known or should have guessed that something was going to happen at the north 40 for decades.  Had we the  desire, we could have taxed ourselves and purchased this property when it first came up for discussion 20 years ago.  But we didn’t.  It went to the highest bidder and now we need to make  it work for us.  Just saying “NO!” may make some people feel better, but it won’t work here just like it didn’t in Nancy Reagan’s failed anti-drug campaign started back  in 1986.
  21. The town is under the laws established by the county and the state to supply our fair share of housing for the entire bay area. This is about the bay area, not about the town. The North 40 was a step in this direction with high density housing put inside the bounds of two freeways and two major  arterial roads.  We don’t have any place as well suited to  high density housing.  If we don’t use this opportunity to fulfill a good part of our Housing Element, just think about the impacts of high-density housing (20 units/per acre) at other locations like Blossom Hill Road, or the Los Gatos Lodge on 9, along Los Gatos Blvd.)
  22. We are not a “small town island” in a sea of big cities. We are a part of the most successful metropolitan area in the United States and have to think regionally instead of just about ourselves.  Please see the July 17, 2017  New York Times article that addresses the North 40 as symptomatic of this state’s housing problems.
  23. LGUSD and the developer made a deal that the school district found acceptable for potential increases in enrollment. No other developer has come close to such a large cash or property offer.  The developer yielded to the demands of the school board and eventually compromised.  After everyone shared congratulations, the parents are now saying $6.2M is nothing.  Are you now ready to cancel that deal?
  24. There are almost no views from inside the current orchard. Trees block the views of the hills. Landscaping and even small one story buildings will block the view of anyone within that space.  My views are blocked by my neighbors trees and parts of their houses.  That sort  of thing happens to all of us, all of the time. Views of our hills are integral to our Town identity and can be seen in many places in town, but let’s understand that trees and walkable streets with nearby buildings are also desirable.  Trees can create a new ambiance while at the same time may block views.   We don’t cut them down to improve our views.
  25. The relatively new medical buildings along Los Gatos Boulevard, bounding the eastern edge of the North 40, are taller than anything new that can be newly built along the periphery. Plus, there will be a buffer of orchard trees in front of all buildings.
  26. The height restrictions on the N40 are as strong or stronger than anywhere else in town and nowhere as high as the town Council allowed Netflix, ½ mile away.
  27. The town has NEVER had so much open space required (30%) for one project, and then exceeded that requirement by a developer. The Phase 1 application is at or near 40%. No other developer provided more than 10% open space that I can recall.
  28. The town has a pension debt exceeding $53,000,000 and will, in the next two years, exceed an estimated $72,000,000. Do we have the money or resources to pour into another law suit?
  29. Building the North 40 will help to pay down this debt. Over $ 3 million will come  from this deal.   The alternative may be to tax the citizens of Los Gatos to whom this debt of $70,000,000+ belongs.  If we paid $12,000,000 in interest  alone last  year, how much worse  will  the interest changes become?  Indecisions cost more money.
  30. The Council should be planning for what is best for the community 20 years from now and not being run by the influence of voters who may not be here a few years from now. The Council’s job should not be influenced by voter approval, but rather by what is right for long term benefits to generations that will follow.
  31. We worked together making compromises to develop the Specific Plan as it stands. For some it works, for others, not. But this developer and this Specific Plan are a much better alternative than the state taking over, or a much worse developer who will make Los  Gatos a much worse place to live.  If you want real affordable housing there instead of  that which is planned,  do your homework  Much more traffic and much  more intensity with no road improvements and no school nor road dollars from the developers.  Do your homework before you pursue affordable  homes.
  32. This developer has worked with the town and the schools. Others may not.  This developer did exactly what the Council told them to do.
  33. I support Ms. Jensen’s and Mr. Rennie’s positions who both approved this project initially.
  34. The populace is exhausted by the dragging out of this project. We have little to no chance of slowing it down, and no chance of stopping something like it, or worse, in the future.
  35. It’s time to move forward by voting for this plan and get onto other important business.

Change Happens – the most important job we have is to make sure the changes a
re in the best interest of the communities.  All change has some impact and will take us out of our comfort zone until we grow into it.  

 Los Gatos Hotel (then)

 

 Los Gatos Hotel (now)

 

Do you remember Sir Toby’s tiny restaurant that used to  be on this spot of land in Los Gatos?

 

Jak VanNada

Los Gatos resident for 45 years

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