Santa Clara kills housing/mixed use development across from Caltrain and proposed future BART station

In March, Irvine Company withdrew its application for Mission Town Center, a housing-focused mixed use development on El Camino Real, across the street from the Santa Clara Caltrain station, and proposed future BART station.  The application was withdrawn after Council demanded more parking and less housing in the transit-rich area, in response to resident concerns.

The project had initially called for 450 apartment units, with retail on the ground floor. The number of apartments was later reduced to 370, then again to 318 in the final review in February. Within the development, 10 percent of the units were required to be provided at below market rate.


Residents were concerned that the new development would generate massive traffic, despite the transit-rich location. Residents were also concerned about having to view the buildings up to five stories in height; the changes reduced the height to a maximum of 4 stories facing other residential streets.

Parking was increased to nearly two spaces for each unit of less than 900 square feet, despite robust evidence that providing excess parking encourages driving and traffic. Parking for this development was increased because residents were afraid that new residents in the development would park on existing neighborhood streets, despite evidence that residents at such transit-rich locations use less parking that residents with less transit nearby. One way to address this concern is residential parking permits for the neighborhood to protect them from parking spillover, and asking the developer to pay for parking permit administration. However, the city did not use RPP policy to address the concerns.

Meanwhile, VTA is moving forward with a proposal to fund the BART extension to Silicon Valley, including a segment from Diridon to Santa Clara, duplicating the current Caltrain service. While Caltrain trains are quite crowded in much of the line, the Santa Clara to Diridon segment is currently under-utilized.   While the goals of the VTA and the region are nominally to align transportation investments with land use, the current plan is to reward the city with a new BART station, which is popular in Santa Clara, despite the city discouraging transit-oriented development near the station.

Meanwhile, the City of Santa Clara is moving toward potentially approving the largest development ever in Silicon Valley, without any assurance that there will be substantial investment in the Great America commuter and light rail station areas, which are currently poorly designed and not very walkable.  Santa Clara is looking to provide redundant BART service parallel to Caltrain, without new development, rather than investing in non-redundant transit facilities to support massive new development.