Los Gatos: With houses on verge of going up in North 40 site, residents mount a last stand against controversial project

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LOS GATOS — New roads have been paved and the frames of model houses are about to sprout up from an old walnut orchard at the interchange of Highway 17 and Lark Avenue, but the controversy that for years stalled the planned “North 40” development has returned with a vengeance.

And the project, which weathered numerous public hearings and lawsuits over several years before being narrowly approved, now faces another roadblock. 

Instead of houses, the battle this time centers on the size of the planned parking garage for a market hall building designed to resemble Los Gatos’ old-town charm, where a variety of artisan foods will be served.

The developer, SummerHill Homes, wants to eliminate an approved underground level of the four-story parking structure, saying its 127 spaces aren’t necessary and admitting the modification will save it about $4 million.

The building’s previous developer, Grosvenor Americas, planned to use the extra parking for the second phase of the project, according to SummerHill.

Asked about the reason for the extra parking, Steve Buster, a senior vice president with Grosvenor, wrote in an email Wednesday that his company “worked with and listened to the community over several years and agreed to the underground parking structure during the entitlement process.” 

SummerHill president Robert Freed said his project is completely independent of any future development and that Phase 2 parking would have to stand on its own.

Grosvenor retains the rights to North 40’s second phase, which covers about 20 of the property’s approximate 44 acres, but has not submitted an application to the town nor does it have preliminary plans, according to Buster.

“Once we formally commence the entitlement process, we will first be reaching out to the community and stakeholders for their feedback on potential land plans and uses,” Buster said.

SummerHill Chief Operating Officer Chris Neighbor said construction on Phase 1 — which will include 253 for-sale housing units, 50 affordable senior units, retail shops and the market hall — began a couple of weeks ago and should take three or four years.

“We’ve made a lot of great progress,” Neighbor added. “We have broken ground. We have our first phase paved. We have our model homes under construction. We are moving forward with permitting with market hall and everything else.”

But SummerHill’s bid to remove a parking level from market hall lit another charge into residents, particularly those who live near the site. They contend SummerHill is trying to pull a fast one and that elimination of the underground parking level will send the garage’s overflow vehicles onto nearby streets and clog traffic.

“Put simply, they are trying to weasel out of their commitment. Don’t let them!” organizers of a Los Gatos-resident Facebook page dubbed “Town not City” posted.

Travis Engelman, who lives across the street from the project, was among some 50 residents who submitted emails urging the planning commission to reject SummerHill’s parking proposal.

Engelman said while he was among the …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle


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