It’s said the more things change the more they stay the same. A trip back in time via the March 22, 1990 edition of the Santa Clara Valley Weekly reminded me how enduringly true that is. Especially when it comes to development and its enemies.
The 1990 story, “Planning Commissioner Matos Resigns,” by Suzanne DeLong, is about the resignation of Antonio Matos from the Santa Clara Planning Commission.
Matos did not go quietly into that good night. He accompanied his resignation with a sharp letter, saying that, “’no growth’ advocates who assail both the commissions and the council had created an atmosphere under which he could no longer work,” DeLong wrote.
The ‘no growth’ group Matos referred to was the Association of Good Government. Matos “angered association members” at a Planning Commission meeting when he challenged a “statement that high density developments are the cause of Santa Clara’s traffic woes.”
Matos said the source of the problem wasn’t high density development, but, in fact, that mid-20th century ideal: “the urban sprawl of detached single-family homes.” One of the Association’s members said this was a “sign of Matos not keeping residents’ best interests in mind.”
In his resignation letter, Matos “stood by his statement concerning single family homes …noting that high density housing may temporarily aggravate traffic problems but in the long run will lead to the rebirth of mass transit.” Matos also said that he was “tired of waiting for believers of sensible and moderate growth” and intended to start a “counter attack with a movement for the support of growth.”
Matos concluded his letter by saying, “Let’s keep growing in a sensible and moderate way, for ‘Not to Grow is to Die.'”
Three decades later it’s clear Matos lost his battle and the anti-development crusaders won theirs.
Santa Clara continued building islands of single-family houses and strip malls that require cars to get to. There’s still no critical mass to drive usable mass transit. Rents continue to climb and the traffic continues to worsen. Development plans–take, for example, the El Camino Area Plan–are drafted and remain far from realization.
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