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After years and years, Los Gatos approves North 40 land-use framework — Really!

June 18, 2015 | Silicon Valley Business Journal

By Nathan Donato-Weinstein

The Los Gatos Town Council late Wednesday approved the land-use guidelines for the town's so-called "North 40" area, a major milestone that comes after years — even decades — of false starts.

The 3-2 vote sets the stage for the transformation of the last remaining large piece of undeveloped land in Los Gatos, which is actually about 44 acres.

If this sounds familiar, you're right: Back in April, I wrote about the town signaling its support for key elements of the new specific plan. But it did not formally adopt the plan until last night's vote, when officials also worked out some key sticking points.

They got through all the policy issues and essentially adopted the specific plan, zoning code changes, general plan changes, all the CEQA findings," assistant town manager Laurel Prevetti told me today. "They basically finished the work."

The action sets the stage for the city to begin processing formal development applications. The most notable interested party is Grosvenor, which is in contract to buy the majority of the land in the area from the Yuki family, a longtime landowner there. Grosvenor had wanted to build a first phase consisting of 60,000 square feet of retail and 331 housing units, the latter in partnership with affordable developer Eden Housing and SummerHill Homes.

This sets the rules for what new development will have to follow when they are ready to invest in the North 40," Prevetti said. "Now we have the rulebook and we know what the expectations are in terms of quality of construction, bikeways, pedestrian paths."

The specific plan allows 435,000 square feet of new commercial space on top of the 66,000 square feet of existing commercial space. That could include retail, hotel, services and office space, thought there are restrictions on the amount of each product type as well. The plan also allows up to 270 housing units, but that number could increase if a developer takes advantage of a state density-bonus rule.

A key sticking point resolved on Tuesday is whether or not any retail space would face restrictions on size. Council members were contemplating a table of size limitations in an effort to control the types of retailers that would go into future projects and safeguard downtown. But in the end, officials opted not to go down that road to preserve flexibility.

the council also voted to allow a building height of up to 45 feet for mixed-use projects as long as a minimum of 40 percent of the project is affordable to low and extremely low income people. Otherwise, the town's standard 35-foot height limit applies.

This is a huge milestone in the ongoing North 40 saga, which some real estate observers had filed in the "never-gonna-happen" folder.

Grosvenor and its partners will now work on turning in a revised application that responds to the new guidelines. One interesting thing to watch now is what other developers are eyeing the area. While Grosvenor and the Yuki family are working on most of the site, there are other developers who are also interested. When it comes to residential, there is probably not enough capacity to satisfy everyone.

We'll have more on the North 40, including reaction from Grosvenor, in an upcoming story.

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SummerHill Homes is a nationally-recognized home builder focusing on the unique needs of the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. SHH has earned recognition and respect as one of the nation’s premier residential community builders. The company is renowned for developing specialized single-family detached and multi-family housing communities in established residential settings throughout California. Since its inception in 1976, SummerHill Homes’s goals have been to provide quality homes for its customers, Communities of Distinction for cities, and sound business opportunities for its partners.

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SummerHill Apartment Communities is the leader in providing quality, smart growth, multi-family rental housing and mixed-use developments located throughout the western United States. SHAC defines excellence in customer relationships, the quality of products and in every aspect of operations. Criteria for site development are highly selective to meet the company’s objectives. SHAC uses extensive market analysis to identify housing needs, and then customizes each development to achieve the highest potential.

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