Santa Clara’s El Camino Real Specific Plan is headed to the City Council. During a special session on May 10, the City’s Planning Commission voted to recommend that the City Council approve the plan with some small amendments.
Commissioners asked the Council to include a special grandfather clause for a development already in the planning process at 3144-3155 El Camino Real. Commissioners also asked that the plan include the recommendation to take into account historic preservation, solar impact on homes on the north side of El Camino Real and a prohibition of data centers along the corridor.
The Planning Commission also voted to recommend that the City Council amend the text of the General Plan to create four land-use designations that would reflect the land-use designations in the El Camino Real Specific Plan. The Commission also recommended that the City Council adopt the El Camino Real zoning ordinance with specific request to consider height and prohibition of data centers along El Camino Real and the implementation of a free or low-cost senior shuttle.
The City Council will vote on the plan during its meeting at the end of May.
The El Camino Real Specific Plan will set the standards for future developments on the 3.2-mile stretch of road that extends from Lafayette St. and Santa Clara City Hall to the western boundary in Sunnyvale.
The plan calls for more mixed-use development along the El Camino Real with commercial on the ground floor and residential above. It also calls for more affordable housing for all levels of income, better walkability and dedicated bike lanes.
Proponents of the plan, including Mathew Reed, an affordable housing advocate, spoke at last night’s meeting.
“We really commend city at leaning in and addressing some of these challenges that were raised in the last discussion about state laws,” said Reed. “We think it’s a good plan and that it will provide for a range of housing opportunities for people of all incomes and abilities in the El Camino corridor.”
Other speakers expressed mixed feelings. Betsy Megas, a member of Santa Clara’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC), wanted further discussion about efforts to make El Camino Real more pedestrian and bicyclist friendly.
“I would caution against piecemeal implementation of the interim bike lane simply because to eliminate parking pushes people into the car lane,” said Megas. “I would also ask staff in particular to bring both the interim and the longer-term bike lane back to the BPAC for review by people who regularly ride bikes.”
While Adam Thompson of the Downtown Community Task Force (DCTF) expressed his concern about parking along El Camino.
“I think there needs to be a better strategy for doing community parking along El Camino that would allow a short-term solution and a long-term reconstruction or redevelopment over time and that is something that this plan does not currently address,” said Thompson.
Residents who live just behind El Camino Real, are worried about how the development will impact their homes.
“Living back here, it’s a nice quiet neighborhood. [I] moved here because I wanted to raise a family here. I’m a little bit concerned about the really tall buildings…Especially for these shallower lots…These lots are adjacent to the neighborhoods,” said Joey. “Calabazas in particular is a gateway to a nice little neighborhood with schools and parks. I don’t think it’s appropriate to have essentially skyscrapers butting up against these single-family homes.”
John Lesnick, who also lives near El Camino Real, is worried about a provision placed in the plan that would allow developers to skirt the build limits in exchange for a community improvement such as a public open space or community shuttle.
“You’re making a plan. You put a lot of effort into it. So, my feeling is you should stick to it and meet those guidelines,” said Lesnick. “Bigger concern also is that quid pro quo the last speaker spoke to about development options in order for special considerations. It’s getting taken out of the commission’s hands and that’s scary enough. They shouldn’t have the option to make deals.”
Master Sign Permit for 2350 Mission College Blvd.
Commissioners also approved a master sign permit for the building at 2350 Mission College Blvd. There was no debate or public comment against the permit.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to meet again on Wednesday, May 26 at 6 p.m.