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Long Debate Over Future of Santa Clara Leads to No Action on Proposed Data Center

Santa Clara’s Planning Commission took no action on April 14 on a proposed plan for a data center at 2905 Stender Way near Central Expressway. The commission was asked to approve a Mitigated Negative Declaration (MND) for the project and rezone the area back to its previous light industrial status. Both requests failed to pass.

Instead, the discussion focused on the larger issue of what Santa Clara should look like in the near future.

“Currently, we have around 54 [data centers in the City]. Forty-five to 50 are already built from the 1990s,” said Commissioner Priya Cherukuru. “The volume from an urban planner, every cell of mine says this is a data center graveyard. These are dead places from an urban planning perspective. For the city, as a long-term resident and for its future generations, this is apocalyptic. When a power outage happens…can you imagine all of those diesel generators turning themselves on? Do you understand the water consumption of all of these 54 sites that it is impacting the City’s water table?”

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“[The data centers] are literally taking away acres and acres of land from prime, much needed housing, density, liveliness of the city,” continued Cherukuru. “When it was considered light industrial, the olden days, they had people there. That means there was surrounding retail, mom and pop stores that supported those workers. This will create literally desolate areas. Desolation unimaginable.”

Commissioners Nancy Biagini and Yuki Ikezi echoed the sentiment. Commission Chair Lance Saleme warned against punishing this project over a larger issue, but did echo Cherukuru’s concerns.

“I am concerned that we’re turning our city into a data center. That it’s becoming nothing but data centers for a big chunk of our industrial space…it’s less about the pollution and more about the way the city is evolving that concerns me,” said Saleme. “We’re not inspiring business. We’re not inspiring employment and growth in a large chunk of our community. We’re not inspiring things that make a healthy community. We’re becoming a big battery and that’s something that I worry about going forward.”

Commissioner Qian Huang was concerned about possible noise generation from another data center and the pollution the generators could cause. He wanted to explore other electrical avenues.

Commissioner Ricci Herro recused himself from the discussion because of recent work done with a company that could receive financial benefit if the project were approved.

The SV9 project is a proposed 4-story, 250,000 sq. ft. data center development. It would be run by CoreSite, which already runs several other data centers in the same area.

City staff say the building is planned for 75-feet away from San Tomas Aquino Creek. The closest residential development is about 2,100 feet away at Santa Clara Square. The data center is expected to bring in approximately $50,000 per month at Silicon Valley Power. It would also generate more than $200,000 per year in property tax.

 

Mitigated Negative Declaration

Following discussion, the Planning Commission voted against the MND (3-2), with Biagini and Cherukuru voting no. The item needed four yes votes to be sent to the City Council with a recommendation for approval.

Instead, commissioners voted to refer the application to the City Council with the following concerns: the city’s long-term policy driving data centers; addressing noise concerns and generators’ diesel emissions. The vote passed 4-1 with Huang voting no.

On the second resolution over whether to approve the rezoning request, commissioners also voted to refer the application to the City Council with the similar concerns. That vote also passed 4-1 with Huang voting no.

The next Planning Commission meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 28 at 6 p.m. The commission is expected to vote on whether to recommend the full El Camino Real Plan to the City Council for approval.

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