The Agrihood, a below-market-rate senior housing development with an onsite farm will finally come to fruition after the Santa Clara City Council gave the project the go-ahead.
Plans to develop the former Bay Area Research Extension Center (BAREC) site — an agriculture research lab — at 90 N. Winchester Blvd. have been in the works for nearly 14 years. The Council has rezoned the parcel and authorized the City Manager to enter into agreements with the developer, San Jose-based The Core Companies. On Tuesday night, the City Council took the first concrete steps in ensuring the nearly 6-acre site will finally get developed.
The housing development will contain 361 apartments, 165 of them for seniors earning as low as 30 percent area median income. An additional 35 market rate townhomes will help fund the complex, which will also include a 1.5-acre farm and 20,000 square feet of open space to be used for such events as a farmer’s market, book readings or live music.
A few — including nearly the entire Council and Kirk Vartan, an advocate for, and collaborator on, the Agrihood since day one — took issue with the less than 1,500 feet of retail space in the project. Others from Vartan’s group Catalyze SV, a San Jose-based grassroots group that advocates for high-density, mixed-use developments, joined him in decrying the meager retail.
Because of the below-market rate element and the costs associated with the farm, the $80 million development required roughly $60 million in subsidies. Adjusting the site plan to accommodate significantly more retail would become a zero-sum game, said Vince Cantore, senior development manager at Core. For every square foot of retail added, that square foot has to come out of space devoted to other elements deemed essential.
“We are trying to fit 12 pounds of potatoes into a 10-pound bag,” said Chris Neale, vice president with Core.
The City bought the land from the state with the provision it would be used for an affordable housing development. The state already awarded an extension after Core failed to break ground as originally planned in spring 2017, a delay the company claims came from extensive public outreach.
City Attorney Brian Doyle reminded the Council that there are “heavy, heavy timelines” surrounding the use of the land, and retail is not a provision for developing the parcel. Should adding more retail cause the timeline to get pushed back, the state might not award another extension and reclaim the land.
Nearly every member of the public who spoke about the project supported it, including representatives speaking on behalf of the Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce, The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Santa Clara County Citizens for Responsible Development, the League of Women Voters, the United Veteran Council, Silicon Valley at Home and others.
Although several of the recommendations passed unanimously as proposed, Vice Mayor Patricia Mahan embedded a few provisions into one. Mahan specified that the open space, billed by Core as “programmable,” be booked at least 52 times a year and that the Council be kept apprised of what sort of activities are to take place there. Further, she specified that the retail space total 5,000 square feet.
Neale said Core would likely be able to “play Tetris, move things around” to make room for an addition 2,000 square feet of retail, bringing to total to 4,400 square feet and that they were amenable to looking at other options to add even more.
“We are asking a lot,” said Council Member Teresa O’Neill. “But I think we should ask a lot of ourselves. The community deserves it.”
Mahan’s amended motion passed unanimously. Depending on whether Core and the City are able to make state deadlines, the Agrihood will see completion between April and October 2022.
Scooter Moratorium Fills Gap
The Council also voted to extend the moratorium on electric scooters and bike share programs until the resolution it passed earlier this month goes into effect.
Manuel Pineda, assistant city manager, said the goal of continuing the moratorium as opposed to launching a year-long pilot program was to “balance public interest while promoting innovation and mobility.”
Further, he said he felt as if seeing how other cities have handled issues surrounding electric scooters has “acted as a pilot.”
“These things are all over the borders; they are creating havoc for our residents,” said Council Member Debi Davis.
Suds Jain, a member of the Planning Commission and Council mainstay, said he opposed the moratorium. He said the City should look to gather data from the companies who operate the scooters and use that data to establish a policy.
The moratorium will likely last six-to-eight months.
Mahan said she sees no reason to wait that long.
“I hate to see Santa Clara be so far behind other cities,” she said, adding that she would like the City to be “innovative” and “progressive.”
Miscellaneous City Business
The Council also adopted a weed abatement resolution to help reduce the risk of fires. The new resolution would charge residents whose weeds are determined to be a nuisance for their removal.
A miscalculation on the part of the City’s garbage hauler forced the City to amend its agreement. Dave Staub, deputy director of public works, said a shift in commodity prices caused Recology to up its prices.
Although Recology originally came in 75 percent lower on its bid than the next lowest bidder in 2008, residents will likely see a six to eight percent increase in their garbage rates beginning in June. The Council approved the amended contract and transferring $251,000 to cover the difference in cost between February and June when rate increase.
At the behest of City Manager Deanna Santana, discussions about the El Camino Real Specific Plan were deferred to the Council’s next meeting on Feb. 5.
Three big-dollar contracts saw approval on the Consent Calendar as well.
- New Image Landscape Company: a 3-year, $850,000 contract for “landscape maintenance and bus stop trash collection.”
- Pump Repair Service Company: a 5-year, $750,000 contract for “storm pump preventative maintenance and repair.”
- Redwood Construction and Equipment Company Inc.: $1.16 million for “Bowers and Machado Parks playground rehabilitation.”
- The bills and claims show the City paid another $44,813 for a lawyer in its voting rights lawsuit, bringing the total cost of that litigation to $887,981 to date.
The Council meets again 7 p.m. on Feb. 5 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.