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Commissioners Debate City’s Parking Challenges

During a Planning Commission meeting on June 13, intense discussion regarding the City’s inadequate parking supply was sparked by deliberations about a proposed housing project at 1900 Warburton Ave. The location is currently a florist shop that may be transformed into 12 townhouses if approved by City Council.

A motion to recommend the project to Council passed at the meeting but comments from the public included concern about it not being close enough to transit as well as creating too much construction noise and dust.

Commissioner Anthony Becker expressed that the project’s two-car garage per residence would not be enough, given a trend of multiple tenants per unit, and stated more generally that the parking situation in Santa Clara is “outrageous.”

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Commissioner Sudhanshu Jain commented that both traffic congestion and lack of housing affordability are linked to car ownership, explaining that the cost of creating a surface parking spot is $30,000 and the cost of adding a parking spot within a structure is $60,000 thereby driving up the cost of housing units.

“The world is changing, autonomous cars, Uber, Lyft, are basically getting people away from car ownership,” said Jain, “I know that right now there’s a crisis on the street. I understand that if you drive less than 4,200 miles per year it’s actually cheaper to take Uber and Lyft for every one of your trips. We have a desperate need for housing in the City. Our jobs to housing ratio is 2.9, which is way out of balance. People are commuting from long distances, they’re clogging our highways and our roads. The only solution is to have people own fewer cars.”

Several other projects passed Planning Commission hurdles at the meeting. A use permit was approved for the operation of a school at 2499 Homestead Rd., which is a church site. Although a use permit of indefinite length was sought, the motion passed by the Commission requires a review after three years or if a school other than Live Oak Academy seeks to operate on the site.

A motion to rezone 554 Saragota Ave. from Professional Office to Single Family Residential passed. Continued from the May 23 meeting, Commissioners voted to recommend the 575 Benton St. Mixed-Use project to City Council along with a necessary amendment to the General Plan. Some modifications were made to the plans and the current proposal calls for 355 housing units, 19,985 square feet of retail, 2,364 square feet of live-work space, and up to 7,000 square feet of amenity spaces.

An appeal had been filed against the approval of a data center project at 2305 Mission College Blvd., citing issues with the environmental review. The Commission voted to deny the appeal and recommends approval of the two-story, 495,610-square-foot data center. An office currently exists on the 15.7 acre site.

The meeting began with a presentation by Ron Golem and Jill Gibson from the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority. They disseminated information about the VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Phase II Extension Project and Transit-Oriented Development Access Strategy. Emphasis was placed on the importance of collaboration between the VTA and City of Santa Clara to make sure that there’s a high level of integration between the new transit service and local development.

Phase I of the BART extension is currently under construction adding 10 miles and two stations for a cost of $2.4 billion. Phase II will be a six-mile extension including 5 miles of tunnel, four stations and a maintenance facility costing $4.8 billion. Construction on Phase II should start in mid-2020 and service is expected to begin by late 2026. Prospective riders can anticipate trains to run about every 15 minutes.

The BART extension is geared to provide connections to many other modes of transportation such as VTA, Caltrain, ACE, Capitol Corridor, Amtrak and High Speed Rail as well as working in tandem with taxis, Uber and Lyft, pedestrian access ways and bike routes. By 2035, it’s anticipated that there will be 52,000 weekday riders of the BART extension, reducing annual vehicle miles traveled by 27 million.

Golem and Gibson envision a boost to local economic capacity as a result of the transit project. Total new transit-oriented development associated with the project is estimated at 1.675 million square feet of office space, 160,000 square feet of retail and 500 housing units. New development in the City will amount to 500,000 square feet of office, 30,000 square feet of retail and 220 housing units.

Early in the meeting Commissioner Michael O’Halloran announced that he’s resigning from the Planning Commission due to moving out of town. His term expires in June 2019.

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