Los Gatos bats zero in five attempts to certify state housing plan

Affluent town faces builders’ remedy applications while "fine tuning” the document

Los Gatos bats zero after five attempts to certify state housing plan
Mayor Mary Badame (Town of Los Gatos, Getty)

The City of Los Gatos has tried five times to get state housing officials to sign off on its required plan to build nearly 2,000 homes by 2031 — and failed every time.

Last month, the state Department of Housing and Community Development sent the Silicon Valley town back to the drawing board for the fifth time, the Silicon Valley Business Journal reported.

The failure by the upscale burg to certify its housing element plan by the Jan. 31, 2023 deadline has left it open to builder’s remedy applications from developers. 

The provision in state housing law allows builders to skirt local zoning laws in cities that fail to get their plans approved, as long as projects include 20 percent affordable homes for  low-income households, or 100 percent affordable units for moderate-income households.

Los Gatos is among the eight cities in Santa Clara County not to have a certified housing plan. The eight-year cycle requires the town to plan for 1,993 residential units by 2031.

The state identified 11 deficiencies in Los Gatos’ latest plan, according to its letter to the city. They include more analysis about how government constraints affect housing development for all income levels, as well as creating incentives for granny flats for affordable rents.

Veronica Tam, a consultant Los Gatos hired to help with its housing element, said the latest comments come down to “fine tuning.”

“I’m flabbergasted by the lack of progress,” said resident Chris Bajorek at the Dec. 19 Town Council meeting. “This is moving at glacial speed.”

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“With five failed submissions, a lack of proper guidance from the council to manage the process is very evident,” added Lee Fagot, another resident.

The Town Council has decided to get more involved in the process, first by asking Tam and planning staff to prioritize addressing the most challenging deficiencies HCD laid out in its letter.

It has also committed to holding meetings with Tam regularly. The Dec. 19 meeting was the first time the council had the opportunity to ask Tam questions in an official setting.

The council will review the latest revisions and provide feedback at a work session slated for Jan. 16.

Los Gatos has received several builder’s remedy proposals since the state denied its first housing plan submission. Homeowners in the affluent town of more than 32,000 residents have voiced concerns the high-density projects threaten the character of their community.

Among the builder’s remedy projects is the proposed conversion of the Post Office at 101 South Santa Cruz Avenue into a seven-story, 58-unit condominium complex.

“It’s a punch to the gut to even think we’d have a building that large dominating the skyline,” resident Lisa Harris said of the Post Office project.

— Dana Bartholomew

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