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Planning Commission Moves Related Development Forward

During the Planning Commission meeting on Oct. 26, the Commission approved the tentative subdivision map for the Development Area Plan (DAP) for the Related development in Santa Clara at 5155 Stars and Stripes Drive.

According to the City’s outside counsel for the Related development project, Anna Shimko, the approval of the tentative subdivision map means Related could start paying rent to the City in early 2023.

“Our expectation is that we are getting things in order such that within a matter of months, that being potentially two months, we would be in a position, if the stars align, to be able to get these ground leases out to Related and for the City thus to start obtaining rent from those parcels and for development to start,” said Shimko.

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The tentative subdivision map for the Related development will divide the DAP into seven parcels. Three of the parcels will consist of office, hotel and serviced apartments, as well as a vertical subdivision. Three other parcels are on Centennial Blvd. There is one other remainder parcel.

The idea is that the parcel with the garage and the office parcel above it will be ground-leased as one entity. Though the garage will span multiple parcels, it cannot be split between the ground leases.

There are two other parcels (Parcel B and Parcel C) that will be made into separate ground leases with the City.

Approval of the tentative subdivision map is one of the preconditions of the ground lease for the Related development project.

Public Presentations

Resident Timmy Oka spoke at the Planning Commission meeting and asked commissioners to revisit Santa Clara regulations on short-term rentals.

Oka is concerned about a particular property on Hilmar Street that seems to have more tenants than rooms available. He asked the City to consider limiting the number of calendar days a property can be rented and require that the permanent host be an owner of the property. He also wanted the City to outline what is rentable space and ensure the space does not include common spaces like a living room.

City staff says the issue will appear before the Planning Commission in early 2023.

Planning Commission Consent Calendar

The Planning Commission approved the Sept. 21 meeting minutes and approved a use permit to allow the on-site sale and consumption of beer and wine for the restaurant Swaraj, India at 1855 El Camino Real unanimously.

Chair Priya Cherukuru pulled item 1B from the consent calendar for further information. 1B was a use permit to allow an outdoor play area for an expanding preschool facility at 1041 and 1075 El Camino Real.

Cherukuru was concerned about future construction in the area harming the kids as they played outside. Commissioners Mario Bouza and Lance Saleme were concerned about the parking in the area and the safety of kids during drop-off and pick-up.

“One of the things, too, that is important. That’s a major bus line in there. The buses come through that right lane. They don’t sit in the center or the left lane, they fly through there,” said Bouza. “Sometimes when I’ve gone to the bakery, you’ve got to be really careful. That’s really insanity, especially the hours that she mentioned, 8:30 in the morning. That’s busy. And the afternoon, that’s busy traffic too.”

The applicant says she has operated in the area for ten years and has not had an issue before. City staff said parking for the preschool meets Santa Clara codes.

Ultimately, the Planning Commission voted to approve the outdoor play area with a mitigation of health and safety effort put in, to prevent exposure to construction noise, dust and any possibly harmful chemicals flowing over from the construction site nearby.

Other Business

Commissioners Nancy Biagini and Ricci Herro missed the meeting. They were excused.

Commissioners say while there were some small highlights, overall, they were disappointed by the content provided at a recent APA state planning conference.

Nov. 9 Planning Commission Meeting

In a rare occurrence, the full Santa Clara Planning Commission went against City staff’s recommendation and approved an exemption and a variance for a rear accessory building setback.

The issue involved a 68 sq. ft. accessory building behind a single-family home at 2121 Sheraton Drive. Under normal circumstances, the City would not get involved because the size of the building is below the City’s 120 sq. ft. threshold for requiring a permit. However, a neighbor complained about the building, forcing the Planning Department to investigate.

The Planning Department says the building does not meet code and is too close to the fence. That’s the same complaint raised by the neighbor.

“It’s a privacy issue honestly because my husband is in the backyard quite a bit,” said the neighbor.

She says the petitioner has a large backyard and plenty of options for places to place a shed.

During his presentation, the petitioner told the commission he purchased the property in 1992. At the time, there was a dilapidated shed where his building is now. He also showed an overhead view where dozens of other homes in the area have similar rear units that violate City code, but those buildings were never contested.

He says he did not know about the setbacks when he started construction and he simply looked online and determined his small building was too small for a permit so he “went for it.”

The applicant plans to use the area as a hobby space.

Commissioners determined that the only difference, in this case, is someone complained.

“I’m getting the strong impression that a disgruntled neighbor has weaponized the City into a vendetta against someone’s shack,” said Commissioner Saleme. “I’m very disappointed that that’s their approach that was taken rather than working with the owner to meet a compromise.”

Commissioner Herro did not believe the shed was encroaching. He said it is “not excessive” and he “sympathizes” with the applicant.

Commissioner Biagini echoed the sentiment saying she could not think of how the homeowner could have done things differently.

Ultimately, commissioners decided to allow the variance subject to the findings previously discussed with the Assistant City Attorney and to be enshrined during the Dec. 7 meeting.

Following the Dec. 7 meeting, the neighbor will have seven days to appeal the decision.

ADU and Garage at 1184 Washington Street

Commissioners unanimously approved plans for an ADU and garage at 1184 Washington Street and thanked the petitioner for creating a plan that would maintain the “historical integrity” of the property.

The plans were approved by the Historical Landmarks Commission before appearing before the Planning Commission and call for a variance to allow a 22-feet, 6-inch building height for the detached ADU.

Commissioners passed three different motions in the approval. One for architectural approval, one for the SPA permit and one for the variance request.

Planning Commission Consent Calendar and Other Business

The commissioners approved the meeting minutes from the Oct. 26 meeting.

Commissioner Herro attended the Nov. 9 meeting, but technical issues forced him to call in and he was not able to appear on camera.

The Commission also discussed land use topics to be brought up during the City Council’s study and planning session in early 2023.

Four commissioners, Bouza, Biagini, Saleme and Cherukuru, plan to attend the CEQA conference in San Francisco in December. They have asked the City Manager to exempt them from a City rule requiring that travel be at least 50 miles for an overnight stay to be approved.

They would like to stay overnight Wednesday and Thursday for the two-day conference and say given the start time and traffic into and out of San Francisco, attending the conference without an approved overnight stay would be difficult.

City staff has also asked for a refund for the recent APA conference that disappointed commissioners.

The next meeting of the Santa Clara Planning Commission is Dec. 7, 2022 at 6 p.m.

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