Developer: New Lawsuit Against Los Gatos Albright Way Project 'Irresponsible'

John R. Shenk says latest legal challenge makes same arguments already rejected by court; asks plaintiffs to 'drop their lawsuit before irreversible harm is done.'

John R. Shenk is the developer of the Albright Way/Winchester Boulevard Class-A Office Park project. Photo by Sheila Sanchez
John R. Shenk is the developer of the Albright Way/Winchester Boulevard Class-A Office Park project. Photo by Sheila Sanchez

The developer of the future Netflix campus in Los Gatos called the latest lawsuit against the project and those behind it "irresponsible" in a response sent to Los Gatos Patch Wednesday afternoon.

John R. Shenk, who represents the land owners, Los Gatos Business Park, LLC., said the most recent civil complaint against the project, at the corner of Albright Way and Winchester Boulevard, makes the same argument that the Santa Clara County Superior Court did not accept in mid August.

Judge Joseph H. Huber threw out the previous appeal, filed by the same group—Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development—saying there were no merits to its arguments that it violated the town's General Plan standard of 35-foot height limit for buildings.

The Los Gatos Town Council on June 3 scaled back the project by a 4-1 vote from 550,000 square feet to 485,000. It also lowered the height of two of its four buildings from four stories, or 65 feet, to three stories, or 50 feet. One of the lowered buildings was the one closest to Highway 85 and the current Netflix campus at 100 Winchester Circle. The other two edifices remain at 65 feet.

The company has signed leases for two of the four buildings and Shenk said demolition of sevent of the 10 current buildings on the 21-acre site would take place last week. He anticipated completion of the project by Q1 of 2015.

The project's originally proposed three-story parking garage will also be capped at 35 feet, with the option of going underground, the Council voted.

Shenk said it was unfortunate that the Los Gatos Community Alliance and The Citizens and the two recent plaintiffs named in the most recent complaint—John Shepardson and Andrew H. Wu—are using the legal system to advance their own personal agendas without regard to what the majority of the citizens want for Los Gatos.  

"We would call on [them] as well as their supporters ... and others to put aside their personal agendas and drop their lawsuit before irreversible harm is done," Shenk said.

The latest petition was filed with the court Aug. 30 and challenges the project under California planning and zoning laws.

Santa Rosa-based attorney Rose Zoia, who represents The Citizens, writes in the petition that as part of the project latest approvals in June of this year, the town adopted a zoning ordinance inconsistent with the Los Gatos General Plan.

Zoia says the plan mandates a 35-foot-height limit on buildings located in the light industrial zone.

"A zoning ordinance inconsistent with the general plan at the time of its enactment is 'invalid when passed,' " according to the complaint, which cites case law Sierra Club v. Board of Supervisors.

The suit's goal is to have town government officials set aside the project's most recent approvals, including the zoning ordinance, the petition states.

On April 23, 2013, Judge Joseph Huber ruled that the town's first approval of the project in 2012 violated the California Environmental Quality Act.

The Los Gatos Town Council in September of 2012 rescinded its project approvals due to Judge Huber's ruling and Shenk, on behalf of Los Gatos Business Park, LLC., began a new application.

This past June, the town rescinded several ordinances and amended the zoning ordinance for the project allowing a new so-called "planned development" overlay zone that allowed for the project's building heights to exceed the 35-foot cap.

"If the project remains approved, construction may proceed with immediate, severe and irreparable harm to the environment and to petitioners, the town, the county and the state of California residents," the petition states.

Netflix spokesman Joris Evers declined comment Wednesday on the latest legal challenge.

"The Albright Way approvals are 100 percent compliant with the Town of Los Gatos’ General Plan and zoning. The town staff and the elected officials all thoroughly and thoughtfully analyzed this during the process and in the public hearings and concluded that the zoning is compliant," Shenk said.

Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson wasn't immediately available for comment.


Chris September 06, 2013 at 01:20 PM
@Jim Gough – There were 2 points to the statement about Netflix, and you missed them both. First is that Los Gatos residents feel loyalty towards Netflix, but Netflix doesn’t return the favor. Netflix management has a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders, end of story. Second is that Netflix decided to move operations out of Los Gatos immediately after the Albright project was first approved on a much larger scale at 85’ tall. Again, Netflix management will do what is best for their company, and their decisions are unrelated to the size of the Albright project or the sacrifices that Los Gatos makes to our Town character. Some people might not think this is a sacrifice to the character of Los Gatos, but the poor residents who will live at the foot of those towers certainly do. Same with residents of nearby neighborhoods who cannot travel to/from their houses without getting caught up in Lark traffic and stoplights every 0.1 mile. The Town Council and Town staff made a decision to sacrifice quality-of-life for residents of north Los Gatos in exchange for town revenue so that employees like Town Manager Greg Larson can continue to receive over a quarter-million dollar annual compensation package.
Irene Aida Garza-Ortiz September 06, 2013 at 01:28 PM
Chris September 06, 2013 at 01:47 PM
^ ... says the person who won't have a new office building staring directly into the back windows of their residence.
Robbie T September 07, 2013 at 02:16 AM
I, for one, am glad our economic future is being dictated by retirees and their sense of nostalgia, and their idea that somehow Los Gatos isn't part of the greater "silicon valley".
Jim Gough September 10, 2013 at 02:25 AM
@Chris ^...says the person who currently does have an old office building just a little bit shorter staring directly into the back windows of their residence. @Eric C. I'm not a Faux news guy myself (actually if some of my friends heard you say that they would laugh, I'm pretty damn progressive) But I realize the reality that the Town of Los Gatos is in a very competitive marketplace and if we were to lose Netflix it would be devastating to our tax revenue. I agree with you about Netflix's primary objective, I have no loyalty or love for them. Frankly I think their current leadership is middling at best, but the company IS an asset to Los Gatos and I'd like it to continue to be so. Frankly, the exemptions they are requesting aren't that terrible, and I drive by the place every day.


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