Tonight: Transit-Oriented Development in Santa Clara and Sunnyvale

Tonight, Tuesday June 26, Santa Clara City Council has two important items relating to housing near transit and jobs/education:

  • a study session at 6pm about the Tasman East Plan calling for up to 4500 homes near Lick Mill Light Rail Station
  • reviewing for approval a housing/mixed use development across the street from Santa Clara Caltrain at 575 Benton Street  with 355 homes, retail and public space

Tasman East – 4500 homes near CityPlace and Lick Mill Light Rail 

The Tasman East location is adjacent to the Related CityPlace development recently approved with 9 million square feet of mostly commercial space.  Tasman East would help provide homes the jobs-rich CityPlace and other locations in North Santa Clara and near North San Jose. The area is proposed for up to 4500 homes, at up to 100 dwelling units per acre.  The plan sets aside three areas for open space, which is good.

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Regarding transportation – Santa Clara has been working on a plan to improve conditions for walking and bicycling along Tasman – it would be helpful to make comments that such improvements will be very helpful in evolving the area to be a mixed-use neighborhood where people can walk and bike.

The “transit” orientation in the proposed plan focuses on the Lick Mill light rail station – hopefully the VTA light rail will get more and more ridership and be more useful as Santa Clara and its neighbors in Sunnyvale and San Jose add more walkable, mixed-use development nearby along the line.  However, the staff report ignores the Great America station serving Capitol Corridor and ACE. With improved service over the life of the development, that line could provide a better express connection to Diridon and Santa Clara station.

Regarding affordable housing – the plan proposes a grandfather clause whereby residential projects with applications filed prior to August 1, 2019 will be subject to a 10% inclusionary requirement (at an average 100% Area Median Income affordability level), if planning entitlement is complete prior to December 1, 2021.   Following that, residential projects will be subject to a 15% inclusionary requirement.

Also, the city proposes a lower affordability requirement as an incentive for higher density housing which would require more expensive steel-frame construction.   Affordable housing experts Silicon Valley at Home are encouraging Santa Clara to adopt a policy similar to the more typical density bonus with more affordability housing for denser developments. 

575 Benton across from Caltrain – great location, too much parking

Santa Clara City Council is scheduled to review for approval a mixed-use development with 355 homes across the street from Santa Clara Caltrain. Planning Commission recommended for approval on June 13.

This is a fantastic location for housing with retail, but the development could be improved with less parking, as appropriate for the transit-rich location, and more affordable housing.  For more on the development see this blog post.

Even though this is not perfect, this is a great location near transit and jobs to provide homes addressing the housing shortage in a place with less need for driving. It will help for decision-makers to hear that “the community” doesn’t only include people who want more parking and fewer homes in walkable, transit-rich places.

Come if you can, or send thoughts by email to MayorAndCouncil@santaclaraca.gov

Sunnyvale: More housing and better connections in Lawrence Station Area 

Also on Tuesday 6/26, Sunnyvale City Council is making a decision on Tuesday about studying additional housing in the Lawrence Station Area, in a plan that is mixed-use but jobs-heavy.  Sunnyvale’s Planning Commission recommended studying more sites for housing and more density, as well as coordinating the Lawrence Station Area Plan with the bicycle/pedestrian plan, including evaluating a pedestrian/bicycle route from the area east of Calabazas Creek to the Lawrence Caltrain Station..

Staff recommends against the increased density because the location is .6 to 1 mile from the Caltrain station.  Better bike routes and shuttle connections can help provide better access to the station from this distance.  

The Lawrence plan is up for review in the regular City Council session at 7pm, Sunnyvale City Hall, 456 W Olive Ave, Sunnyvale.  It will be after the city council reviews the budget, so it could be late.  You can watch the meeting online and come when the item is about to come up. Come if you can, or send a note to city council.

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