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Government Overreach Debate Hits Planning Commission

The Santa Clara Planning Commission approved a tentative vesting map for a development on Lafayette Street and remodel plans for the Lincoln dealership.

A request for approval of a tentative vesting map for the site at 5185 Lafayette Street led to a larger debate over government overreach and other issues at the Dec. 6 Planning Commission meeting. The 198-unit housing development was initially on the consent calendar but was pulled by members of the community.

A local business owner expressed his concern about some of the language within the document. He felt the wording would not preserve existing businesses’ rights to use the public easements during and after development.

Ron Patrick said he wanted wording “So, that we are allowed to use those [streets] as we are now.”

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Patrick went on to say that “ambiguities” are “how lawsuits start.”

During its presentation, the developer said easement access will be maintained.

City staff also reiterated that the public easements would be protected.

The tentative vesting map was approved unanimously.

It was an amendment to the document that encouraged the developer to use local labor, accredited apprenticeship programs and pay a living wage, leading to a debate among the commissioners.

Commissioner Nancy Biagini wanted to add the wording at the behest of a local union worker.

However, Commissioner Mario Bouza said he felt “uncomfortable” placing restrictions on a private entity not receiving government funds.

“I don’t feel that it should be the government to tell a private industry how to conduct themselves when they’re doing something for profit for themselves, not for the City,” said Bouza. “It’s not a City project. They shouldn’t have to have anything to do with that.”

Biagini argued that it’s difficult to say you support affordable housing without also supporting the idea of paying a living wage.

Ultimately, the amendment passed 4-2.

Commissioner Eric Crutchlow was the other “no” vote. He said he voted “no” because he felt this was a policy that the City Council should create, not the Planning Commission.

Planning Commission Chair Priya Cherukuru took issue with the fact the Planning Commission was asked to vote on a tentative subdivision map but had no say in the approval of the project. City staff said the CEQA was adopted at an October development review hearing.

Cherukuru called it “the tail wagging the dog.”

Planning Commission Approves Lincoln Dealership Remodel

Commissioners also approved plans to remodel the Lincoln dealership on Stevens Creek Boulevard, just west of Westfield Valley Fair.

One member of the public asked that commissioners be cognizant of the lighting, landscape maintenance and sound that sometimes affects the homes behind the dealership located at 3155 Stevens Creek Boulevard. He pointed out that sometimes the dealership’s employees park on Cecil Avenue, the neighborhood street located behind the lot.

“All we ask is that you keep the status quo if not improve it,” he said.

The petitioner said there will be no rear deliveries and ownership will make sure staff knows not to park in the back.

The Lincoln dealership remodel plan was approved unanimously.

Consent Calendar and Other Business

The Planning Commission voted to excuse Commissioner Qian Huang. Cherukuru arrived late to the meeting but monitored online until she could arrive at Council Chambers.

Item 2 on the agenda, action on a conditional use permit to install four additional emergency generators at the McLaren Data Center located at 737 Mathew, was moved to the Jan. 10, 2024 meeting agenda.

The Planning Commission approved a plan to expend funds so all commissioners can attend Joint Venture Silicon Valley’s 2024 State of the Valley conference.

The next meeting of the Santa Clara Planning Commission is Jan. 10, 2024 at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers.

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