Development versus Planning versus Vision

One of the biggest complaints about the city is development. Whether you think the projects are too big, too small, focused too little on retail and commercial, focused too little on housing, or located poorly, one thing is clear: development is being done with a lack of vision, and against our plan.

This is the General Plan Phase II diagram.

This is the Approved and Pending projects list from Appendix J of the Santa Clara Gateway Village project.

This is list of Residential and Residential Mixed-Use Developments from July 2016.

This is the list of Residential and Residential Mixed-Use Projects for the last four years.

Note how many of the projects changed their zoning to PD (Planned Development) or High-Density Residential development, and how many mixed-use projects went to 100% housing.

Note the numbers of housing units.

Then look at where the projects are going. How many of them are on El Camino Real, or smaller streets? This happened in the last four years. The situation has actually gotten WORSE.

I’m not against more housing. I’m not against higher-density housing. I am against bad planning, or the lack of planning altogether.

Look at the General Plan map; it represents the plan for our city for the next 10 years. But by focusing on only housing in areas designated for mixed-use, we’ve pushed out the markets, restaurants, and stores that bring balance to our city by providing resources for the people who live here. These are the same markets, restaurants, and commercial areas that the council used to justify the high-density housing in the first place.

People on council say they want people to walk and use bicycles more, while we remove needed shops and make people travel farther. We say that “The Mission City” represents a lifestyle and a community, as we break down the neighborhoods by putting high-density housing, and just housing, in the middle of single-family communities.

And where is the benefit? All of this development was supposed to be good for the city, but I haven’t seen much improvement. El Camino Real is essentially a gravel road — ask anyone who has to bicycle along it in Santa Clara. People point out that El Camino is not a city road, but Santa Clara is still the lead agency. Here’s a challenge for you: Drive along the length of El Camino from San Jose to Menlo Park and note the road condition. El Camino Real is only really bad in Santa Clara. Crossing Lawrence Expressway to Sunnyvale shows immediate improvement, and it never really gets bad again. Don’t just look at El Camino; look at the connector streets, like Pomeroy or Alpine. Look at the older tar slurried streets. Look at how many “fixed” streets have rectangular “cut-outs” as we try to fix the infrastructure after the fact. Why can’t we fix the infrastructure first, and THEN fix the roads over it?

I’ll repeat: Let’s restore vision, emphasizing planning over mere development, to create new communities with homes and families while preserving the nature of existing neighborhoods. Let’s return focus on infrastructure, including streets, sewers, and open space, so that future generations of Santa Clarans will have room to grow and reasons to stay.