Los Gatos Council considered changes to the Housing Element Draft on Feb. 6. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

It only took six tries.

Unlike neighboring Scotts Valley, which was able to get its residential housing plan approved on its very first submission, Los Gatos today announced that its sixth attempt at a Housing Element had finally won-over State housing regulators.

“The Town of Los Gatos announces the 6th Cycle (2023-2031) Draft Housing Element meets all statutory requirements for State Certification per the California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) letter received May 3, 2024,” a Los Gatos spokesperson wrote on Instagram, just before 3pm.

The official language obscured the relief and jubilation behind the words.

It’s a momentous occasion for a community that has faced serious division as community members aligned themselves into camps—those more eager to see housing built, versus those who fear the erosion of the atmosphere that has made Los Gatos unique compared to the rest of Silicon Valley suburbia.

Councilmember Rob Moore, one of the most vocal supporters of promoting housing development, dipped into the exclamatory in response to the post.

“The best news to start the weekend!! Wooo!!” he typed. “Thank you to the whole Town of Los Gatos team!”

Also quick off the draw with a reply was Pradeep Khanal, a longtime Intel employee.

“This is awesome,” he said, nodding to the difficult approval process with, “—finally after so much hard work.”

The thumbs-up comes after HCD spoke, on April 26, with Community Development Director Joel Paulson, Planning Manager Jennifer Armer, Jocelyn Shoopman and Erin Walter, associate planners, and consultant Veronica Tram—and following new comments from the Los Gatos Community Alliance, Silicon Valley at Home and Burke, Williams & Sorensen, LLP.

However, the OK is contingent on ensuring there’s additional housing capacity for the North 40 Specific Plan, as well as General Plan and zoning amendments, among other things.

“HCD appreciates the hard work and dedication the entire Town staff provided in preparation of the Town’s housing element and looks forward to receiving the Town’s adopted housing element,” wrote Paul McDougall, the agency’s senior program manager.

In the meantime, the Town received 18 applications for by-right “SB330” housing proposals, a process established by California lawmakers to force communities like Los Gatos to build more homes.

Having a substantially compliant Housing Element is the key to stemming the tide of housing projects hoping to take advantage of the “Builder’s Remedy” mechanism.

Earlier in the day, the Los Gatos Community Alliance posted a lengthy screed blaming Moore and his supporters for how long it took to get the Housing Element Certified, stating “12 nearby towns achieved certification. Los Gatos currently has 7 proposed apartment/condo buildings ranging from 7-12 stories high.”

However, it was Mayor Mary Badame and Vice Mayor Matthew Hudes who’ve voted against many of the changes (including rezoning or promising to intensify some areas) that twisted HCD officials’ arms to finally say, “Yes.”

On May 22, 2024, the Planning Commission will consider the Draft Revised Housing Element, and Council will have the option to approve the document June 4.

After adoption, the Housing Element will get handed-in to HCD, once again.

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Drew Penner is an award-winning Canadian journalist whose reporting has appeared in the Globe and Mail, Good Times Santa Cruz, Los Angeles Times, Scotts Valley Press Banner, San Diego Union-Tribune, KCRW and the Vancouver Sun. Please send your Los Gatos and Santa Cruz County news tips to [email protected].


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