Real estate developer Equity Residential submitted an application to the City of Santa Clara earlier this year with the aim of significantly increasing the size of the Laguna Clara Apartments at 3131 Homestead Rd. The housing development is on a 12.43-acre lot about midway between the San Tomas and Lawrence Expressways.
The application is subject to the City’s “Gatekeeper” policy because it would require a General Plan amendment to allow a medium density residential development to become a high density one. Under the policy, projects that require General Plan amendments are given an initial review by City Council before a more substantial review by Planning Department staff or considered by the Planning Commission.
Because the policy is relatively new, some members of the Planning Commission reportedly first learned about the proposal from an article in the Mercury News, which discussed some negative sentiments held by neighbors regarding the proposal. Residents who attended a community meeting about the project reportedly said that a four-story complex would be too high for the area and that the increase in number of units would exacerbate existing traffic congestion.
According to City staff, the next step for the proposal is a City Council meeting on Aug. 28. At that meeting, Council can either direct the project to advance along with the planning process including environmental review, or deny the development application request.
“It’s very early in the process,” said John Hyjer, first vice president of investments, Equity Residential. “We have another year and half ahead of community meetings, City Council sessions and Planning Commission meetings. We’ve had one community meeting so far and some neighbors expressed concerns they had about parking and traffic.”
Hyjer explained that due to feedback from the community, some additional parking has been incorporated into the plans and, in a few places, the number of stories reduced from four to three stories. Regarding traffic concerns, he said that issue would be addressed during the environmental review process.
Laguna Clara Apartments currently consist of 264 units. If Equity Residential’s plan is ultimately approved, 86 of those units contained within one of the development’s two-story structures that would be demolished. An additional 407 units would be constructed within two new four-story buildings resulting in an apartment complex totaling 584 residences. The affordable housing component would be 10 percent, consisting of both onsite units rented at affordable rates and comparable fees paid for the creation of units elsewhere in the Santa Clara.
“We are cognizant of the community’s concerns and will continue to work through the issues,” Hyjer commented. “There are always going to be people who are concerned about change. We will talk about some of the changes we’re making to the plans at the City Council meeting and then go forward. We’ve had this property for several years and we hope to be good neighbors.”
BDE Architecture is working on the project’s design. The plans currently show four-stories of wood construction over a concrete basement. A combination of studios, one and two-bedroom apartments occupy a total of 325,756 square feet of rentable space. Amenity and leasing spaces total 6,994 square feet with another 151,743 square feet devoted to garage parking.
Hyjer described the architecture as giving a sense of “warmth” and said that much attention will be paid to attractive and extensive landscaping as well as community spaces for the property. The plans also illustrate features such as an outdoor pool and courtyards as well as a clubhouse and bike storage.