Los Gatos Delays Decision on 320 Units

Diego Aguilar Canabal
Wednesday, August 17, 2016

We reported last month that Los Gatos would be facing a contentious decision on a mixed-use apartment development in the North 40 area, at the intersection of two highways. Last night, the Los Gatos Town Council voted to postpone thei decision on the 320-unit project until September.

Spearheaded by Eden Housing and SummerHill Homes, the dwelling units come as part of a broader development by Grosvernor Americas which would also include 66,381 square feet of retail space and open, walkable plazas decorated with local flora.

Map of the proposed North 40 project

Councilmember Marcia Jensen urged an unsuccessful motion to approve the project. She cited the region’s dire need for new housing, mentioning both Kate Downing’s recent resignation from the Palo Alto Planning Commission, as well as local litigation group CaRLA’s threat to sue under the Housing Accountability Act.

“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” she argued. “That’s a subjective standard.” She later reminded the audience, “we all live in houses that used to be an orchard.” She also delivered scathing rebuttals to those who scoffed at the threat of litigation. “Lots of you said, 'don't worry about litigation, we'll deal with that.' …Threatening to sue is not bullying,” she insisted. “Bullying is being called a murderer in a town council meeting. Bullying is getting cars broken into and trashed.”

Jensen seemed to be fully aware that her unpopular opinion could face blowback. “I recognize that saying what I'm saying now, there are personal consequences to that.”

Despite the controversy, a contesting motion by Mayor Barbara Spector to deny approval of the project also failed to pass. After further discussion, the mayor expressed her primary concern to be the cost of market-rate rentals, not the density, and suggested she could support the project if it included Below Market Rentals.

Eventually a motion to delay the decision did pass, on the condition that Los Gatos would consult with the California Department of Housing & Community Development on the city’s Regional Housing Needs Allocation, and study the “economics” of the situation. The project is expected to return before the council in September.