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Traffic Issues Take Center Stage at Planning Commission

At an Oct. 23 meeting, Planning Commissioners were presented with a proposed amendment to a development agreement that would grant a project a three-year extension. The development agreement is for a 3.06 million square foot office project at 5010 Old Ironside Dr. involving a rezoning from Industrial to Planned Development. The project is related to the adjoining Mission Point mixed-use project at 3005 Democracy Way, also known as the Kylli project, however only the 3.06 million square foot office aspect was discussed at the meeting.

The project, which had been owned by Yahoo and now Innovation Commons Owner, LLC, had been previously approved in 2010 with a 10-year term that’s set to expire in May 2020, and would need an extension to be granted before then. An addendum to the environmental review document under California Environmental Quality Act, aka CEQA, concluded that there would be no new significant impacts resulting from the extension, and City staff recommended that commissioners approve the extension.

Commissioner Suds Jain raised concern that since the original approval in 2010 much has changed in Santa Clara, notably ever-worsening traffic congestion that’s palpable for many residents, as well as changes to laws and planning policies such as the creation of a Climate Action Plan.

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“Traffic has gotten terrible and I don’t want it to get worse from this development,” Jain said. “They have to come back to us with a better proposal.”

City staff stated that the project did in fact have a very robust Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program that was “very progressive for the time.” However, what the TDM lacked was detailed requirements for reducing the number of vehicle miles traveled by commuters.

“There’s nothing in there we can hold them to,” Jain said. “If there aren’t any metrics in there, it’s meaningless.”

Commissioner Steve Kelly ultimately submitted a motion recommending that City Council approve the project with the condition that a requirement to reduce vehicle trips by 35 percent be added to the TDM plan. The motion passed, four commissioners in favor, three opposed.

3035 El Camino Real 

A residential project by applicant Hayden Land Company LLC was heard by Commissioners about plans to construct 48 condos and six live/work townhomes on a 1.88-acre site at 3035 El Camino Real. The project requires rezoning from Thoroughfare Commercial to Planned Development, and includes adding private driveways, parking spaces, landscaped areas and site improvements. The project also includes 6,750 square feet of open recreational space and about 8,000 square feet of commercial space that will likely be retail.

Two community outreach meetings had been held for the project, at which some support for the plans was expressed, though one resident criticized the design as being too “modern.” Commissioners disagreed on whether the outreach was adequate.

“I want to commend the fact that you [applicant] did outreach with neighbors and I also want to commend the fact that we have neighbors who came here tonight to give their opinions,” said Commissioner Nancy Biagini. “That’s what makes things moving forward in Santa Clara move better.” Biagini also stated approval on the project’s design.

“I heard that the community outreach was very poor,” said Commission Chair Anthony Becker. “A lot of people didn’t hear about this. I’d like to see more community outreach. More and more people are saying that they didn’t know and are then surprised about a project being built next door.”

The Commission voted to approve the project with conditions such as the addition of an eight-foot masonry fence to protect the privacy of rear neighbors, a maximum of two cars allowed per unit, transit passes provided for ten years and upgrades to exterior lighting.

 

Other Business 

An alcohol use permit was approved for Lupitas Taqueria Restaurant located at 2341 El Camino Real.

Commissioner Jain praised a presentation given at a recent meeting by an outside expert on TDM planning, in which it was brought to light that Santa Clara is behind on the issue compared to other nearby cities. He said that with worsening traffic conditions in the City, more time and resources need to be devoted to the topic at future meetings.

The Planning Commission’s next scheduled meeting is on Wednesday, Nov.13.

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