The Santa Clara Planning Commission spent the bulk of its May 23 meeting discussing and hearing presentations on the proposed mixed-use project at 575 Benton St. Known as the Mission Town Center, the transit-oriented project was originally proposed by the Irvine Company with Prometheus Real Estate Group later buying the property after arrangements fell through between Irvine and the former property owner.
Despite City Council’s decision to approve Irvine’s iteration of the project in 2016, Commissioners delayed voting on whether to recommend it to City Council until their upcoming meeting on June 13. The delay was in part due to the presence of relatively new Commissioners Anthony Becker and Lance Saleme, who sought more information about the proposal before casting votes. Jon Moss, Executive Vice President and Partner at Prometheus, spoke at the meeting and expressed a desire for an immediate vote one way or the other.
“If at all possible I would really appreciate if there’s a vote, and if that vote is unfortunately not favorable, I think that, at least, I, as the applicant, would strongly prefer to have that vote than to continue this item that’s been going on for a really extraordinary long period of time,” said Moss.
As Mission Town Center won’t be subject to the 15 percent affordable housing ordinance that will come into effect in Santa Clara in 2020, some Commissioners asked for an uptick in the affordable units for the project from the 10 percent currently in the plans. There was also concern stated that the 1.5 parking spaces per resident wouldn’t be enough to meet demand, and possibly lead to increased competition for curbside spaces.
“I’m opposed to continuing because this project is very similar to the Irvine project, which this Commission supported back then; albeit we have different Members now,” commented Yuki Ikezi, Planning Commission Chair. “I supported this project, I thought it was a good project and it’s too bad that it didn’t move forward.”
The proposal at 575 Benton St. requires a General Plan Amendment to Very High Density Residential and a rezoning of the 5.75 acre site from Light Industrial, Single Family, Duplex and Thoroughfare Commercial to Planned Community. If approved the project will deliver 318 housing units, 10,000 square feet of amenity and leasing space and 22,000 square feet of retail on a lot that presently has a storage facility. The property is located in close proximity to Santa Clara University and is 0.2 miles from Caltrain.
During the public hearing segment of the meeting, Leonne Broughman, Member of the Library Board of Trustees spoke briefly asking that the Planning Commission consider the value of viewing the City’s public libraries in the same category as parks and schools in terms of benefiting from impact fees paid by developers. Such a proposition would require City Council action.
Another agenda item dealt with determining whether the Fiscal Year 2018-2019 Capital Improvement Budget (CIP) conforms to the major strategies of the 2010-2035 General Plan. The Plan’s seven strategies seek to enhance the quality of life in Santa Clara, preserve and cultivate neighborhoods, promote sustainability, enhance the City’s identity, bolster community vitality and fiscal health, and prioritize health and safety. Speaking with concern for the City’s fiscal health, Commissioner Sudhanshu Jain made a motion to bring to City Council’s attention that according to a property condition assessment, $1.45 million will be spent on restoring and repairing the Morse Mansion at 981 Fremont St. The motion carried unanimously.
“I have yet to determine what the Morse Mansion is for,” Jain commented. “Why did we buy it, why are we restoring it to this condition and is that a good use of our money?”