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Climate Action Plan Update Approved, General Plan Amended

Santa Clara’s Planning Commission has pushed the Climate Action Plan update to the City Council.

The current Climate Action Plan was put into place in 2013. Since then, state laws have changed. These amendments will help Santa Clara comply with new requirements.

The City talked to stakeholders, focus groups, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara Unified School District and others to create the plan.

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The goal is a 40% reduction of greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2030 and an 80% reduction of GHG by 2035. Ultimately, the City wants to reach carbon neutrality by 2045.

Santa Clara plans to achieve these goals through all-electric reach codes for new construction, electrification incentives, renewable energy generation and energy storage on private property, among other things.

The Commission unanimously recommended the approval of the addendum to the 2010 – 2035 General Plan Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for the updated Climate Action Plan 2022 and the added amendment to the General Plan Appendix 8.13 regarding the Climate Action Plan 2022.

The City Council will address the changes during its June 7 meeting.

Several people came out in support of the Climate Action Plan.

“Given that 70% of Santa Clara’s emissions come from buildings, we’re really excited to see that the City is planning on leading the way on this,” said Dashiell Leeds, a Conservation Organizer for the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter. “Especially when it comes to decarbonizing its own buildings.”

Members of the Silicon Valley Youth Climate Action from Santa Clara and Wilcox high schools also spoke up including Alexis Tan, Rosie Chen, Sindhu Saggeri and Jessie Good.

Commissioner Lance Saleme asked the City staff to put bulleted items of the updates on the Planning website. City staff said the full plan is online but they will look into creating an executive summary.

Freedom Circle Future Focus Area

The Planning Commission made several recommendations to the City Council regarding the Freedom Circle Focus Area.

Commissioners voted unanimously to recommend that the City Council do the following:

  • Approve and certify the Final EIR for the Freedom Circle Future Focus Area Plan and the Greystar Project General Plan Amendment;
  • Approve a General Plan text amendment to add language allowing for the creation of additional Future Focus Areas, the redesignation of land outside of Focus Areas, the creation of a new, Very High Intensity Office/R&D designation and the adoption of a General Plan Amendment to create the Freedom Circle Future Focus Area and change class 2 bicycle lanes on the proposed map to class 4 bicycle lanes;
  • Approve the Greystar General Plan Amendment from High Intensity Office to Very High Density Residential;
  • And approve the Planned Development Rezoning for the Greystar site bounded by Freedom Circle to the west, Mission College Boulevard to the north, San Tomas Aquino Creek to the east and Highway 101 to the south.

The Freedom Circle Future Focus Area is expected to be an “intensely urban” environment. It is a section of the City that consists of approximately 108 acres north of 101, east of Great America Parkway, south of Great America and near Mission College. The Graystar development will be a very small portion of the future focus area.

Union members attended the meeting to speak in support of the Graystar project.

A representative from Silicon Valley Residents for Responsible Development asked the commission to reject the plan because it did not believe the EIR was complete and that the City could not amend the General Plan and approve the Graystar development at the same time.

Commissioners expressed frustration that the opponent presented the Planning Commission with a 127-page document just three hours before the meeting.

Property Expansion on Harding Avenue

Neighbors are not pleased about a plan to expand the property at 3066 Harding Avenue. The applicants want to expand the first floor and add a second floor with a front-facing second-floor balcony to their existing one-story home with an attached garage.

On Jan. 12, 2022, the plan received architectural approval. Five neighbors appealed the approval. They say a second-floor balcony in their patio-style neighborhood would invade their privacy.

During architectural review, applicants agreed to place screens on the side of the balcony and to raise the windows on the second floor to help maintain neighbor privacy.

One appellant says the process has led to stress, anxiety, headaches and depression.

“Every morning when I get up to prepare breakfast for my whole family, I pass by the glass walls and see their garage roof where the bigger balcony will be,” said Sally. “All I can think about is my loss of privacy when I look out my window and see the garage roof where the balcony will be and feel afraid of knowing there will be somebody on it and it bothers me.”

The applicants say they have lived in the neighborhood for 15 years and are just to make room for the three generations that will live in the home.

“We are just building a house with our hard-earned money, not to spy on neighbors,” said the applicant. “We are living here for 15 years…What we are looking for is to have a quality of life with our family and to live in harmony within the neighborhood.”

The Planning Commission voted to overrule the appeal and uphold the development review hearing.

ADU Addition in Old Quad Neighborhood

After short discussion, the Planning Commission approved a variance to allow a more than 22-foot-tall accessory dwelling unit (ADU) at a home on Market Street in the City’s Old Quad Neighborhood.

The applicants say they picked the Old Quad neighborhood specifically because of the characteristics of the homes. They would like to add an above garage ADU to the detached garage to keep with the neighborhood characteristics.

One neighbor protested the plan, concerned about privacy since the ADU is a second-story unit and will stretch the entire length of his backyard fence.

The applicants say they have offered to include frosted glass on the windows to help ensure the neighbor’s privacy.

Consent Calendar

Planning Commission Chair Nancy Biagini pulled both items from the consent calendar.

For the meeting minutes, she asked staff to include comments made by Commissioner Priya Cherukuru during announcements last meeting.

City staff said they did not believe it was policy to include comments made during announcements but they would seek clarification from the City Clerk.

Biagini also asked staff for clarification on why a use permit for live entertainment at the new Bowlero bowling center at Valley Fair was part of the consent calendar instead of an item up for discussion.

City staff clarified that the item was not controversial and therefore easy to approve, but that the item could be pulled for discussion if necessary.

The commission voted unanimously to delay the approval of the meeting minutes until the next meeting when Cherukuru would be present and to approve the live entertainment use permit for Bowlero.

Other Planning Commission Business

Cherukuru was absent but excused.

Several commissioners expressed concern about the timeliness of the delivery of the agenda packet.

Chair Biagini says she was “distressed” that it was not received until the Friday prior to the meeting given the significant number of items that needed to be covered.

Saleme said receiving a 127-page packet of information three hours before the meeting was not acceptable.

City staff says it does have timelines in place and that they comply with legal requirements. They say they are “doing their best” to get information out as soon as they can.

The Planning Commission approved funding for Biagini and Saleme to virtually attend the APA National Planning Conference. Commissioner Qian Huang is considering attending in person.

Herro wanted clarification on why the City Council has applications open for a new Planning Commissioner.

City staff explained that Commissioner Ikezi is termed out in June and she will need to be replaced.

The next Planning Commission meeting is a special meeting on May 11 at 6 p.m. when the commission will look at the City’s SB 9 Ordinance.

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