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Los Gatos to Remain Netflix's Home

By a 3-2 vote, Town Council approves project where company can expand operations.

By the skin of its teeth, will presumably have a new place to call home in town, in addition to its current one on Winchester Circle.

By 3-2 vote, developer John R. Shenk and Netflix CFO David Wells can now complete a deal with Mike White, the owner of about 21 acres located at 90-160 Albright Way and 14600 Los Gatos Blvd., to build the Internet movie and TV show subscription giant additional office space.

Council members Barbara Spector and Steve Leonardis voted against the plan while Diane McNutt, Steve Rice, and Los Gatos Mayor Joe Pirzynski gave the go-ahead.

“Albright Way is the only site in Los Gatos that would enable us to stay here and to be contiguous with our existing campus,” Wells said Monday evening before the Los Gatos Town Council.

The plan includes two buildings, at four and five stories, respectively; a three-story parking garage, and 168 units of senior housing. The four-story building is located on the southern portion of the site and stands at 75 feet tall.

Linked next to it, via suspended glass walkway, is a five-story high building that stands at 84 feet tall and is parallel to Winchester Boulevard.

Alongside Highway 85 will be the three-story parking garage at 35 feet tall. All three will be mostly hidden from Winchester Boulevard thanks to what is called a “tree screen,” providing the illusion that the buildings are not as tall as they really are. This, Shenk said, will help keep the aesthetic feel to the town.

The developer will have 10 years to build the structures in compliance with the agreement, said Los Gatos Community Development Director Wendie Rooney, with a possible 10-year extension available through the Council.

The three buildings are part of the project's first phase. The senior housing units, for residents older than 55 years of age, would be built in approximately five years or 60 months. The height of this part of the project has been lowered from 70 feet to 50 feet and has been limited to seven acres.

All things considered, the Council said it believed keeping Netflix's tax dollars and business was crucial, despite the negatives provided to the council by the public who attended the meeting at Town.

“We cannot let these guys build a structure of this height in our town. It goes against everything we've had up to this point, it does not fit with the rest of the structures in town,” said resident Steve Johnson.

His complaint was one of many from town residents who packed Council Chambers to voice the same concerns. Other issues the public had with the project were with the lack of so-called story poles, or a wooden formation to show the public the height and shape of the buildings, traffic impacts and whether senior housing needs to be a part of the proposal in the first place.

“Senior housing is better than multi-family housing as far as traffic is concerned [and] as far as school impacts [are] concerned, but there is still a traffic impact. The traffic impact of this facility as currently proposed is enormous in an area that's already heavily impacted,” said Richard Allen, another concerned citizen.

The Los Gatos Planning Commission will mull over various architectural designs related to the project at its Aug. 24 meeting. Then, the project goes before the Council again on Sept. 5.

Despite the controversial decision to ignore the town height policy of 55 feet for buildings, among other things, Los Gatos still needs Netflix and some and

Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson said: “The decision to remain the headquarters for Netflix was easy; the challenge was ensuring the quality architecture and open space that make Los Gatos special.  Tonight’s decision will help migrate the Town from declining DVD tax revenues to a more stable fiscal future for our entire community, including over $1 million a year for our schools.”

Correction: This story has been revised. An earlier version incorrectly attributed a quote to Andy Wu. The quote belonged to another speaker at the meeting. Everybody makes mistakes ... even us! If there's something in this article that you think should be corrected, or if something else is amiss, give Local Editor Sheila Sanchez a ring at 408-391-8725 or shoot her an e-mail at sheila.sanchez@patch.com.

Thomas Mc August 02, 2011 at 02:56 PM
quote: "issues the public had with the project were with the lack of story poles" Want to put that in language the public can actually understand?!?
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) August 02, 2011 at 03:31 PM
Point taken. Thanks for reading. Poles erected at future construction sites to show the public how tall the structures will actually be. Hope this answers your question. Thank you again for pointing this out.
AR August 02, 2011 at 04:09 PM
i'm baffled by the height restriction grumbling, and fail to see what is the fundamental principle at stake. i *want* development at main arteries to go -up-, not -out-. if you're sick of sprawl, worthless mass-transit, and an endless sea of parking lots, i don't see how anyone can advocate more suburban low-rise development. i don't have much pity for the neighbors, this lot was zoned commercial almost certainly before they moved in. the schools issue was a valid concern though, and seems to have been addressed. the gravity of tech tenancy is moving north, with most new startups in SF itself, and a southern bound emerging near mountain view. without a tier-one tech tenant in town, there will eventually be an impact on property values as los gatos becomes a backwater bedroom community. we're very far south of the action now folks. keeping netflix in town is essential, but even that may not be enough to stem the tide of new tech moving to SF.
KM August 02, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Anyone that regularly drives through the intersection of Lark and Winchester already knows the impact this development will have. Shame on the City Council for poor oversight and planning and their almost complete disregard for the residents occupying a very large part of the town along either side of Winchester – all the way from Blossom Hill Road to Courtside and beyond. I am all for keeping Netfix (in whole or in part) for the revenue it provides the city, however the nightmare congestion that will result from the outrageous scope of this project coupled with inadequate ingress and egress will go down in Los Gatos history as one of the biggest blunders ever. The next election will determine the level of our dissatisfaction. Again, it is not so much the development I am against; it is its scope. This development will effectively shut this corridor to all those who use it today and will put even more pressure on Highway 17, Los Gatos Blvd and Highway 9 as Los Gatos residents start their commutes to and from home. The ultimate test will be in how the traffic engineers try to mitigate this terrible decision.
AR August 02, 2011 at 06:45 PM
this is a constant refrain from critics...the "scope" of the project. yet no one has identified a viable scope that satisfies them, this argument seems to exist solely as a foil for those opposed. if you argue that "scope" implies "height", you haven't made an argument about density or impact at all, you're making an aesthetic critique. if you're talking about pure numbers, then you're basically telling netflix to take their hq out of town, because they aren't going to predicate their campus design on the concept of splitting workers across discontinuous lots. as to the commute argument...netflix has always been a reverse commute for the traffic flow of the south bay, thats part of the allure they hold out for candidates to work there. residents of los gatos are impacted by northbound traffic in the AM, southbound traffic in the PM, exactly opposite of the flow of traffic from netflix
Tim Vantress August 02, 2011 at 06:57 PM
Currently, the town is working on syncing the signals together to increase flow of traffic. That should help a bit. It definitely did for Lawrence Expressway. Not sure how much the fact that Winchester is twice as small as the Expressway changes things, though.
KM August 02, 2011 at 07:13 PM
I'd be happy to define 'scope' as it relates to my argument. In this case ‘scope’ has everything to do with the number of people housed in the project and the resultant 'trips' throughout the day and particularly at rush hour. My argument has nothing to do with athletics. It may be true that for Netflix employees, being housed in Los Gatos creates a reverse commute, yet that is an empty promise for those of us dealing with that traffic once its exits the freeway; the issue at hand is the capacity of Winchester and Lark to accommodate the current as well as the forecasted volume. I’ve lived in this area for 26 years and know the traffic patterns well. It is a mess now and with an additional 1000+ trips per day, it will be a disaster along this corridor. As for Netflix and housing its employees; Netflix already decided (prior to this decision) that is should move 600 employees out of its HQ to San Jose (where, by the way, the rent will be ¼ of what it will be in Los Gatos – wait until Netflix’s Board gets that comparison). All large Silicon Valley companies disperse their workforce for a number of reasons. It is not necessary to provide 500,000 s.f. of space and some 160 units of Senior Housing to guarantee Netflix’s continued HQ operation in Los Gatos.
AR August 02, 2011 at 10:04 PM
you still haven't told me what the "scope" is...how many people should work on netflix's campus? i am sympathetic to your concerns about traffic, but every desirable location in the bay area has traffic. that doesn't justify adding traffic recklessly beyond capacity, but the capacity can grow. every road and highway in the bay area has been widened to capacity and winchester eventually will as well. if netflix vacates, you'll still have traffic but less revenue...that location is zoned for commercial and is going to be developed over time due to its proximity to 85 and 280, netflix or not. your best bet is to have *high density* development, which will eventually bring with it light rail or some other form of mass transit, which will get people out of cars. they're not going to redirect mass transit to low-density routes.
Steve August 03, 2011 at 03:07 AM
we'll have the startrek transporter before light rail arrives at a cost of $300 million..besides who wants to sit next to a bum on public transit when you can be texting your mistress in the privacy of your own range rover..
KM August 04, 2011 at 12:37 AM
No one needs to prove there will be more traffic – it is self evident so let’s stop this silly argument and accept that Winchester will be swamped as will the north-bound highway 85 on ramp along with Lark Avenue as Netflix employees try to access south-bound 85. It’s going to be a disaster plain and simple. Secondly, if you honestly think this development will spur mass transit you are smoking it. Lastly, over-development of that site is NOT inevitable. With careful city planning and proper mitigation, the site’s capacity could be modestly increased and Netflix could still enjoy a 500,000 square foot HQ coupled with the current Sobrato property without creating a complete disaster for everyone concerned. And what about that Senior Housing? What does THAT do for Netflix? This all has to do with the developer’s ROI and the Council took the bait hook line and sinker without proper due diligence and all the residents of Los Gatos WILL suffer the consequences whether they currently believe it or not. We the People of Los Gatos have been failed by our elected officials and as mentioned earlier, they will pay the price with our votes. Then there is the matter of Netflix actually SIGNING a lease. As mentioned, the rent and other costs to Netflix will be at least twice if not three times as much as relocating to San Jose. Their Board still needs to approve this and someone on that Board will ask about traffic and cost – I hope.

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