Santa Clara is banking an extra $6.2 million thanks to a settlement in the City’s California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) lawsuit over San Jose’s massive Santana West development plans on Santa Clara’s Stevens Creek border, Santa Clara announced today.
In 2017, Santa Clara challenged the project’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on building heights (aesthetics), traffic impacts and a general lack of sensitivity to the impact on the development on neighboring cities. The City of Santa Clara subsequently sued San José and the cities reached a settlement in January 2018.
Santa Clara will use the $5 million to support affordable housing and transportation improvements in the City, according to today’s news release, with the remaining $1.2 million earmarked for specific traffic and transportation improvements.
The settlement terms also include $2.5 million in San Jose traffic improvements before occupancy permits can be issued. In addition, if San Jose waives traffic fees for developments that affect Santa Clara traffic, the money will be made up by San Jose. San Jose will also pay part of Santa Clara’s legal bill.
“We are looking forward to implementing the specific traffic and transportation improvements and proposing a recommendation for the $5 million to the City Council that invests in our community,” Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana said in the release.
San Jose’s Santana Row Urban Village, bordering Winchester Boulevard in San Jose and Stevens Creek Boulevard in Santa Clara, has been on the books since 2015. It includes 2.5 million square feet of commercial space and 2,600 new housing units, with 10-12 story buildings on Stevens Creek.
Stevens Creek Winchester Traffic Central to Dispute
A 2014 traffic analysis commissioned by San Jose confirms what anyone who’s ever been to Santana Row or Valley Fair knows from experience: that traffic congestion at Stevens Creek and Winchester Boulevards and the 280 freeway is often just short of gridlock.
But San Jose’s master plan to put thousands of additional workers and residents around those intersections described the additional traffic problems as “significant” but “unavoidable.”
San Jose did “not envision continually widening streets and expanding intersections to the detriment of neighborhoods and other transportation modes,” according to the Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan Environmental Impact Report.
In its Transportation Impact Policy, San Jose exempts certain intersections in its Special Strategy Areas from its level of service standards, euphemistically calling them “protected intersections.”* One of them is Stevens Creek at Winchester.
These are intersections “that have been built to their planned maximum capacity” and cannot maintain a level-of-service (D) where traffic is congested but still moving. (E and F levels of service are near-gridlock and gridlock.)
*The common usage of “protected intersection” is an intersection that physically separates bicycle and vehicle traffic.
Although I think it’s great that our city (and council) decided to hold San Jose accountable for their unbalanced development and extracted some financial relief, it’s outrageous that San Jose isn’t using the funds to build the affordable housing itself, instead “outsourcing” the affordable housing needed to support their development projects to neighboring cities like Santa Clara. This goes against everything that Mayor Sam Liccardo and Vice Mayor Chappie Jones supposedly say when declaring they want to help “solve” affordable housing issues.
And Vallco on Santa Clara’s border is a similar crazy situation, with much more office space than housing being built, bringing in tens of thousands of workers and only providing for a fraction of the housing units. I’m not sure how they can get away with it. Maybe they have no choice due to politicians in Sacramento threatening to override them. I guess Santa Clara will be expected to build housing for those workers as well along ECR, Homestead, Lawrence Expy, etc.