As a community resident and downtown business person,
A vision statement for the North 40 is essential in order to provide guidelines to determine just what does get developed on this huge parcel of land.
The need to protect the Los Gatos downtown from the North 40 development was discussed at the meeting, however a specific plank for that purpose really wasn't explored. I believe it needs to be included in the final vision statement.
I am writing both to make this point and because I believe our community, including the business community, is not sufficiently aware of the potential damage this development could have on our downtown.
Los Gatos would not be the same without its "wonderful downtown" as the "vision" of the General Plan states. Many things define our community, but our charming downtown is critical to our identity.
Downtown Los Gatos cannot be replicated by any development, but it can be harmed by one. The North 40 can do serious damage to the downtown if not developed carefully.
The LG downtown is a fragile entity and it requires a critical mass of people to be vibrant. People walking the streets and shopping. We know that the developer of the North 40 would love to do a Santana Row south.
We have seen the damage Valley Fair and Santana Row have done to downtown San Jose, or El Paseo and Westgate to Saratoga.
While I am confident that the town will not let something of that size happen, even a modest retail development with small shops and restaurants, would have a profound effect on downtown businesses.
The notion that the north side of town is under-served with retail shops and restaurants is potentially dangerous. It is not a virtue and should not be a goal of town planning to have a retail or mixed-use development every quarter mile.
Residents should be encouraged to take advantage of our downtown. The support of local merchants will continue to ensure a healthy, vibrant downtown. That is in all of our best interests.
The reality is, there is now more competition from the extraordinary redevelopment of downtown Campbell which, I think, is drawing visitors away from our downtown.
We do not need another competing center at the North 40. As one of the Council members wrote in the study questions, "It is difficult to see what specific restaurant and retail providers would not impact our downtown."
Several of the Council members wrote that the North 40 should provide for "unmet needs, services not currently available ... [ be] not competitive ... ." I could not agree more. That means prohibiting small retail or restaurants there, and encouraging other possibilities like: a hotel, senior housing, a school, a park, medical buildings, or even big box retailers that are not provided for downtown. There are many things that can be developed there that would be complimentary to our fragile and vulnerable downtown.
Finally, I believe that the vision should include a specific plank that addresses protecting the downtown directly, so that later there is absolute clarity and no room for a misunderstanding. Something to the effect of: "The development of the North 40 shall in no way compete with or do damage to the downtown." This addition would help protect our downtown for years to come.
—By Los Gatos resident Ed Rathmann, owner of and located at in downtown Los Gatos.