Los Gatos residential street
A residential street in Los Gatos. (Drew Penner / Los Gatan)

Los Gatos’ housing plan consultant says the Town is “95%” of the way to winning approval from the Department of Housing and Community Development, but a few tweaks may still need to be made, including around making the community less exclusive.

But during the special Nov. 15 Planning Commission meeting, Town staff said the State had shot down their last-minute plan to double-count 250 units that were included in the prior Housing Element.

That’s just as well for many residents, who have begun complaining that the “buffer” (beyond the 1,993 homes Los Gatos is required to plan for) has risen from the 15% initially supported by the Council to around 50%.

Local resident Jim Zanardi is one of them.

“Why add more units now for our town to bear?” he asked during public comment. “Why not put them on as you need them?”

It was another frequent civic contributor, Lee Quintana, who started to draw-out how Sacramento actually feels about Los Gatos’ creative homes-accounting.

She asked about the fate of the new-on-paper 250 housing units Los Gatos was planning on including in the Sixth Cycle Housing Element.

Staff confirmed this was now being flagged as an issue by the housing authority.

It was one of several things that Veronica Tam & Associates, the consultant, said were allowed in Southern California which HCD might not allow in NorCal.

“As our region has gone through the process, things that might have been accepted in Southern California are not being accepted any longer,” Community Development Director Joel Paulson said. “And if we have enough buffer, it’s just simpler for us to remove those units.”

Commissioner Melanie Hanssen wondered if the Town had done enough work on the portions of the document that are meant to outline how Los Gatos will succeed at eliminating segregation in the years to come.

“It seems like they keep pushing back and asking for more details,” she said, noting the Town already paid consultant Root Policy Research to develop this aspect of the plan. “Does it ever end?”

Veronica Tam, who has worked on around 60 housing elements this cycle alone, said she believes Los Gatos is “very close” to achieving certification for the homes plan.

“This is actually a pretty common process that jurisdictions have to take to get the Housing Element through,” she said. “You’re probably 95% there.”

Tam said she and her team are working on drawing out initiatives in the program that will make a difference.

Hanssen pressed her on this analysis—known as Affordably Furthering Fair Housing—wondering if Los Gatos really is doing enough to combat segregation.

“At this stage do you think we’ve gone far enough?” she asked. “It seems like what they’re looking for is, ‘What are you going to do about it?’”

Tam admitted that Los Gatos might still need to make a few more changes to ensure the longstanding issues the State is concerned about aren’t ignored again.

“I would say that we’re almost there,” she said. “I can’t guarantee that you are there yet, particularly with AFFH, because that is an area that the state is very, very picky about. But based on our assessments, you’re very close to getting there.”

Commissioner Emily Thomas expressed confusion about the course the Town is charting, after, days earlier, Councilmember Rob Rennie led a charge to leave the post office site downtown out of rezoning plans (where 72 condo units are proposed), at least for now.

The discussion was continued to another special Planning Commission meeting Nov. 29.

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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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