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Public and Council Alike Support Senior SummerHill Project

The word of the evening was “vibrant” when the Santa Clara City Council discussed a revised version of a mixed-use development set to be located along El Camino Real.

Many members of the public—nearly filling the Council Chambers to capacity Tuesday night—and Council Members threw the word out as a descriptor of the SummerHill Homes development that will play host to 151 senior apartments.

The Council rejected the Campbell-based developer’s request to amend the general plan back in March to change the zoning designation from commercial to planned development on the 2.79-acre property located from 2232 to 2240 El Camino Real.

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However, since then SummerHill has overhauled its proposal, upping the retail space from 10,000 square feet to 17,909, including a potential “community hub.” The new proposal, which seeks the same general plan amendment, also added a 3,500 square foot public plaza, reduced the building height from five stories to four stories and added roughly three times its originally proposed 6,400 square feet of “community activity space.”

Elaine Breeze, with SummerHill Homes, said her company held eight public meetings as well as met with 35 people on a one-on-one basis to revise the plan for the development, which has received increased public support.

“This is like making a full-price offer on a house,” said Council mainstay Deborah Bress.

Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, said the project’s density is within the general plan guidelines. He said it is “completely consistent with what the City says it wants.”

In addition to the amenities—including an on-site pool, public transit passes, public plaza and community hub—Breeze said a study of traffic mitigation shows that the development would reduce traffic in the area by as much as 60 percent, depending on the time of day.

Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta called the discussion a “watershed moment,” adding that SummerHill “checked every single box” in regards to what the Council wanted to see in a revised development.

Council Member Debi Davis said it will fill a “much-needed niche.”

Although public and Council support for the project was high, some had concerns.

Fellow Council mainstays Kirk Vartan, a San Jose resident and Santa Clara business owner, and Scott Lane, also a San Jose resident, said the project should have increased density.

Raj Chahal, Vice Chair of the Planning Commission, said he supported the development but that he did not think the location was ideal. Hosam Haggag, another Council mainstay, agreed, calling it “haphazard placemaking.”

Michal Healy, with the Santa Clara Unified School District, said adding senior housing puts strain on the district as seniors vacate single-family homes, which are likely to become occupied by parents whose children attend SCUSD. The $300,000 added to the general fund per year does not help the district add more classrooms.

Breeze offered to double SummerHill’s $110,000 in developer fees.

Council Member Kathy Watanabe ended up withdrawing an amendment to the motion for approval when she suggested that SummerHill convert five moderate-income apartments into “affordable housing,” something that SummerHill lawyer Jeffery Oderman said would half the cost of the apartments. The motion received no “second,” and the Council voted unanimously to approve the general plan amendment, although Mayor Lisa Gillmor said she would have “seconded” the motion if she were able.

“Affordable Housing”

Also up for discussion was public outreach meetings to gauge public opinion on a series of proposed “affordable housing” projects.

Crabtree said all three sites—located at 3575 De La Cruz Blvd., 2330 Monroe St. and 1021/1031 El Camino Real—have some element of “affordable housing” attached to them.

Crabtree said City employees would be looking to host meetings between Nov. 6 and Dec. 15 before seeking requests for development proposals in February.

Bress said she would like it to be made clear to the public “what strings are attached” to the project. She specified that there are different levels of “affordable housing” and the specifics, especially which specifics are required, are important.

“I think too many times that we have been making assumptions that people know what [these different designations] mean,” Bress said.

Lane said homelessness is an issue in the City, and the City needs to look for areas where it can “push the envelope” when it comes to housing, adding that it is “about serendipity.”

Budget Surplus

Angie Kraetsch, Director of Finance, told the Council that the City will have a $20 million surplus of one-time money.

Upon the recommendation of Kraetsch, the Council unanimously approved allocating $7 million each to unfunded pension liability and to the capital projects reserve. The Council approved allocating the remaining $6 million to the working capital reserve.

City Manager Deanna Santa said she wanted to give the Council “as much flexibility as possible” in the capital project reserve.

The next City Council meeting will be held 7 p.m. Nov. 7 in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.

We’d like to hear from you. To share your thoughts about City Council topics, please email your letter to scweekly@ix.netcom.com for publication. Please include your name and phone number with your submission—phone numbers will not be published. Letters to the Editor should be limited to 150 words.

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