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City Desk: October 23, 2013

Re-Visioned Santa Clara Square Project Features Lower Height and Denisity

More than a year after collecting feedback from a series of community outreach meetings, Santa Clara Square developer Essex Property Trust returned to a City Council study session last month with a new design for the 12.6-acre site at 3700 El Camino Real, adjacent to Lawrence Expressway. The parcel is currently home to Kohl’s department store and several small retailers.

Essex’s new concept, Gateway Village, is 30 to 40 percent lower in density than the controversial high-density development first proposed in 2003 by Santa Clara Square LLC, which subsequently went bankrupt. The new design also features more residential units and lower building heights than the previous proposal, as well as more of “a sense of place,” said project architect Russ Naylor of NC2 Inc., a San Francisco-based design firm partnering with Essex.

The new concept features four-story, garden-style apartments (475 one and two bedroom units), and 85,000 sf of retail and business space. The pedestrian-oriented retail and commercial space is designed as a small village – something like Santana Row – rather than a strip mall, according to Naylor.

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The design provides plenty of pedestrian amenities and accessible open space, noted City Manager Julio Fuentes, at the Sept. 24 study session. “The plaza design… is the type of look we should strive for over all for the El Camino,” said Planning Director Kevin Riley.

Retail would be built facing the El Camino, while the rear of the site – where Kohl’s is currently located – would be residential, with a garage at the center that will be topped with a swimming pool and other amenities for residents.

Neighbors, including Santa Clara Planning Commissioner Keith Stattenfield, seem happier with the new design. “I am more supportive of this project than I was of the last one.”

From the revenue perspective, the development would be a win for the City. The property’s current assessed value is $19 million. When the project is complete, that’s estimated to jump to $214 million – bringing $200,000 more in property tax revenue for Santa Clara. Current estimates of retail sales tax coming to the city are about $150,000, which the developer expects will double with the new development.

Essex is looking at two designs for the site: one with a large anchor store and one without. However, the city is actively working to keep the very popular Kohl’s store in that location. “Kohl’s is an incredible tenant for the city,” said Fuentes. Should the retailer decide not to stay in the new development, “We’re working very hard to find them another location in the city. But we’d like to keep them here on the site.”

The developer is also actively looking for a grocery store in the development; specifically, a smaller, community-sized store like Trader Joe’s. So far, the city hasn’t been very successful in its efforts to bring more diverse supermarkets into the city. This is something that might change, noted Council Member Jerry Marsalli, with increased residential density.

The current plan leaves the existing gas station – which is not part of the parcel – on the corner of Halford Avenue and El Camino Real.

The draft environmental impact report (EIR) should be out by year-end, with the final EIR published in 2014.

SCPD Gets Lost Dog Home Safely

The serve-and-protect mission of the SCPD isn’t just to two-legged members of the community. It also extends to four-legged residents as well. Last month while patrolling Scott Blvd, Community Service Officer Kim Manthey noticed a dog alone on the busy thoroughfare.

Manthey gently persuaded the dog, Clara, into a safe place in Manthey’s police car. When Manthey was unable to find Clara’s owner, she brought her new friend to Silicon Valley Animal Control Authority (SVACA). Through SVACA, Clara was soon reunited with her family. To thank Manthey for her kindness, the Townsend family visited SCPD, where Clara was able to have another chance to play with her new friend.

SCPD Gets Social

The SCPD has taken another step into social media with its new Nixle page – in addition to the department’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/santaclarapd). Designed specifically for public-safety agencies, Nixle provides an online community for public safety news, as well sending subscribers secure and authenticated real-time alerts. You can sign up to receive SCPD emergency alerts at Nixle.com or by texting your zip code to 888777.

Love My Takeout Dept.

Next year the City Council is going to be talking about ways to reduce storm drain pollution, among them a new ordinance about Styrofoam food containers. On Nov. 4, a free Food Ware Open House at San Jose’s Roosevelt Community Center will show alternatives to the familiar foam clamshell. The open house is from 2:30 to 4:00 pm. Roosevelt Community Center is at 901 East Santa Clara Street, San Jose.

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