Yet another general plan amendment will transform an old gas station and couch dumping ground near Santa Clara University into a housing development.
At its meeting Tuesday night, the Santa Clara City Council approved a 39-apartment mixed-use development. The development, located 2655 The Alameda, will also feature 1,500 square feet of commercial development, envisioned as a restaurant or cafe.
Located near Santa Clara University at the intersection of Park Avenue and The Alameda, the four-story complex will feature an outdoor plaza, complete with BBQ pits and a ping pong table.
The just-under-a-half-acre lot used to house a Unocal gas station but has been vacant since the 1980s.
“At a high level, this project provides much-needed housing at a time when the City needs housing stock,” said Anjali Nanda Habbas, with project developer, Los Gatos-based Kapital Partners. “However, equally significant, or perhaps even more significant, this project will finally transform a blighted corner and an eyesore of 30-plus years into a beautiful mixed-use building for the community.”
Although its proximity to public transit prohibits the City from requiring onsite parking, the developer still included 46 parking spaces, including eight motorcycle parking spots, in an underground garage.
The general plan amendment altered the parcel’s designation to very high density.
Public support for the project was mixed, with civic group Catalyze SV supporting it while a few others opposed it.
Mark Kelsey lives in the neighborhood. He said the number of general plan amendments the Council is approving concerns him, something other speakers echoed and has come up previously.
Further, he said, he isn’t confident the development adds much community benefit or provides enough below-market-rate housing.
Adam Thompson, a frequent Council commenter and president of the Old Quad Association, said he would like developers to avail themselves of state density bonuses to help the City achieve its Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA) numbers.
“If we give all of our value away and not get the housing — and more importantly our affordable and lower affordability housing — with that value, we are never going to achieve what the state is asking us to achieve,” said Thompson.
Vice Mayor Kevin Park was the lone dissenter in approving the project. He said he worries that the project is a dorm “masquerading” as housing.
Park also shared the concerns of those who don’t see the broader community benefit.
“If we ask for a general plan amendment, it better be something better than the general plan offers. It shouldn’t just be to support this project. I understand that it is housing, but there are other ways to put housing here,” he said. “Respect the underlying intent of the zoning. Every single time we change this project, like every time I see ‘planned development,’ every time we do that, I think ‘oh my goodness, here is another piece we are chipping away.’”
Still, although some said they would have liked to have seen tweaks, the rest of the Council lauded the project.
Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she was “quite pleased” with the proposal, adding that she is “so embarrassed” by the parcel because the whole area “just looks bad.”
The Council approved the project in a 6-1 vote.
Waste Water Plant Gets Funding
The Council also approved $38 million in financing for its share of the Santa Clara Regional Waste Water Facility. Along with San Jose, the City owns 19.5% of the water treatment plant, which provides 3 million gallons of recycled water a day to Santa Clara.
The City’s share of the $600 million over the next five years is $98 million.
Gary Welling, director of water and sewer utilities, told the Council the borrowing is necessary to keep rates for customers reasonable and to “share the burden” with future customers. The bond is similar to a municipal bond but is paid with revenue from the plant, not from the general fund, over the next 25 years.
Becker to Serve on Stevens Creek Steering Committee
Council Member Anthony Becker will be the City’s lone member on the Stevens Creek Corridor Steering Committee. A change in its structure now calls for a single member to serve on the committee. Previously, both Becker and Gillmor served on the committee.
Becker will serve as the sole member with Gillmor acting as the alternate, provided City Attorney Glen Googins does not advise Becker of a conflict of interest due to his living close to Stevens Creek.
Should the conflict bar Becker from the committee, Gillmor would represent the City. The committee advises area governments on development along the regional thoroughfare.
Council Member Kathy Watanabe moved that the Council appoint Gillmor, a motion that failed due to the lack of a second. After Council Member Suds Jain moved that Becker serve, Watanabe made a “substitute” motion, more or less simply iterating her previous motion, only this time with more strident criticism of Becker, calling him an “embarrassment.”
Gillmor told Watanabe that she appreciated the “support,” but quashed the motion by not seconding it.
Jain said he does not believe Becker has a conflict due to a California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) ruling. A similar concern came up regarding Gillmor and Council Member Raj Chahal serving on the steering committee for the El Camino Real Specific Plan, but the FPPC said the duo were excepted under the “public generally” rule.
The Council voted 5-2 to appoint Becker, with Gillmor and Watanabe voting “no.”
Consent Calendar Spending
- A $340,000 amendment to a contract with Advanced Chemical Transport, Inc. for “services” related to Silicon Valley Power. Total contract amount is now $2.14 million.
- A $347,000 transfer from the unrestricted fund balance to unfreeze positions in the City Manager’s office and convention center.
The next regularly scheduled meeting of the Santa Clara City Council is Tuesday, Sept. 12 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.
Members of the public can participate in the City Council meetings on Zoom at https://santaclaraca.zoom.us/j/99706759306; Meeting ID: 997-0675-9306 or call 1(669) 900-6833, via the City’s eComment (available during the meeting) or by email to PublicComment@santaclaraca.gov.