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Concern Conveyed About Lack of Public Amenities for New Neighborhood

Santa Clara Planning Commissioners attended a study session on Wednesday, Oct. 28 regarding the status of the Patrick Henry Drive Specific Plan. The planning process had commenced in 2017 and covers development of a 74-acre area in Northern Santa Clara that’s just north of Highway 101 and shares a border with Sunnyvale. Between 2018 and the present, a consultant was selected for the planning process and one community engagement workshop was held.

The plan seeks to create a framework for redevelopment of the area from low intensity and industrial park land uses to a high-density mixed use neighborhood. The density is so high that one scenario indicates the building of 12,000 residential units to house approximately 27,000 people within notably taller buildings than is common for Santa Clara. In addition to a lack of any transit routes going through the plan area, Commissioners also expressed dismay over the lack of park space outlined for the area. City staff explained that the plan is in the early stages and that much work needs to be done to address these issues including ongoing discussions with VTA.

“Where are all these people going to recreate?” asked Commissioner Suds Jain.

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For individual projects within the plan area that don’t have adequate open space, those developers will be required to pay in lieu fees that would go toward the creation of parks for the city as a whole. While the monies can’t be used for any particular neighborhood, they could help bolster sections of Santa Clara that have a dearth of recreational spaces.

City staff said that the plan aims to build an integrated neighborhood with parks and amenities based on anticipated growth instead of developing parcel by parcel, which is often done in other places.

The Commissioners were generally positive about the creation of more housing, however the refrain was that the housing needs to be accompanied by a school, parks and transit in order to work.

“I’m concerned about this many people being squeezed into so small a space,” said Commission Chair Lance Saleme.

So far, 12 stakeholders have proposed development within the plan area: Drawbridge Realty, Walnut Hill, Bigler/Local Capital Group, Raintree, Z&L Properties, 02 Micro, Pactron/SummerHill, Sares Regis, Pearlman/Himy, Dollinger Properties, Kidder Matthews and Marriot Center Owners.

A second community workshop will be held in January of next year with a draft environmental review document and draft plan ready for public review in March. City Council is expected to review the final plan and EIR in August.

 

AB 992

Another study session was held on new state legislation, Assembly Bill 992, signed by Governor Newsom in September that regulates the use of social media platforms for officials serving on legislative bodies. The legislation is an amendment to the Brown Act, which mandates the public must have the opportunity to participate in all meetings by legislators, including planning commissioners.

It prohibits officials from discussing public matters behind closed doors, and now the law has been updated to address the current realities of social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit, among many others. AB 992 expressly bars officials from discussing City business on social media. So, although officials are allowed to post things in an informational manner on social media platforms for the public view, they cannot respond to each other’s posts regarding public affairs in any way — not even with an emoji or “like” button.

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 18.

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