At the Sept. 12 meeting, the Council voted 5-2, with Council Members Debi Davis and Pat Mahan dissenting, to allow Santa Clara-based SiliconSage Builders to go forward with a significantly redesigned 13-unit Newhall Terrace condominium project at the corner of Saratoga Ave. and Newhall St.
Originally presented in early July, the project consists of 1,200 to 1,400 sf two-story units with under-building parking – three stories in all – surrounding an interior courtyard. At that time, the Council sent the proposed design to the drawing board because a majority objected to the modernistic design.
“I hope you’ve found us responsive to Council concerns,” SiliconSage Land Use Consultant Erik Schoennauer said at last week’s meeting. “We hope that you’ll find that this is consistent with the goals of the city.”
The new design increases the setback from the single-family homes on Newhall St. to 20 ft. from 18 ft. The development will be accessed from Saratoga Ave. and, in addition to all the parking required by city code, electric car charging stations and dedicated bike storage.
Because of neighbors’ complaints about privacy, the new design replaces back balconies with enclosed sunrooms reduces the overall height to 33 ft., and adds more fast-growing privacy landscaping.
Despite this, some neighbors remain unhappy about the development. They’re asking the developer to reduce the density from 13 to 10 units. One neighbor across Saratoga Ave objected to the development because it would increase traffic, present parking problems and reduce property values. “I would not want to buy across from this kind of development,” he said.
The 16,518 sf parcel at the intersection where Newhall becomes Scott Blvd. is home to a shuttered gas station, currently an automotive smog-testing shop. It’s less than a mile from the new Santa Clara Town Centre retail development on El Camino, scheduled to open in 2015.
Saratoga Ave. and Scott Blvd are both home to numerous apartment and condominium complexes, and small office buildings. Adjacent two-story apartment buildings on Saratoga Ave are almost 30 ft. high.
“There’s nothing that drags a neighborhood down more than having a defunct gas station in the middle of the neighborhood,” observed Schoennauer.
“Bringing high-quality, ownership housing in an attractive building is a way to raise up a neighborhood. Our project fully meets parking requirements of City Code. They are speaking about parking problems with an apartment complex that has nothing to do with our project. The number one thing the neighbors asked us to do is remove the balconies from the rear. That was a significant concession [in the interest of increasing] privacy.”
“When these folks came to us in June the Council gave them a laundry list of changes they thought would improve the project,” said Council Member Pat Kolstad.
“I thought that list was a little excessive, but I was impressed when I thought all of the changes had been addressed. This is a great project. It’s going to allow 13 families to build equity and have home ownership. That’s a real asset to the community. That’s additional families who shop and spend money in our community. I see all positives.”
“A lot of people are concerned that we’re looking to convert all of Santa Clara into high density developments and that’s not the case,” said Council Member Teresa O’Neill.
“This piece of property does lend itself to higher density because there are already other apartment buildings in that neighborhood on Saratoga.” O’Neill noted that the city needs both entry-level homes for young people as well as the needs of older people for opportunities to downsize.
Matthews, noting that he grew up on Bellomy St.,”Between California St. and the corner is mostly apartments. Adding home ownership opportunities is a good thing for the neighborhood and not inconsistent with the neighborhood.
“The developer’s done a lot of work to make this project a great project,” he continued, adding that it’s always a balancing act “between the quality that you want, the density that you need, and the practicality of it. Someone has to make an investment. This old gas station site has been a derelict site for quite awhile. [The development] will be a beautiful addition to the neighborhood.’