the attorney representing the group that sued the parties says the plaintiffs are not against the project, but against the lack of the EIR.
"The petitioners are not against this project. We're not saying a tall project can't be built, we're just saying we need an environmental review," said Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, "We have to be forthcoming with what the impacts are going to be so that we can mitigate and look at alternatives," she said.
"This case gets mischaracterized as the petitioners not wanting the project, or trying to stop the project. We're not," she said. "We're just asking for more environmental review. Had the town done that, we wouldn't be here."
On Friday morning, the parties appeared before Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Joseph Huber at the old Santa Clara County Courthouse on North First Street in San Jose to present their arguments and a decision should be coming this week.
Andrew Sabey, a partner with Cox, Castle & Nicholson, who represents the project applicant, Los Gatos Business Park, LLC., said Friday the traffic issues brought up by the Citizens as adverse impacts are below the VTA impact threshold and that nobody came forward during related public hearings to say such impacts exceeded limits.
He said there's no evidence that the traffic generated from the project would exceed the threshold.
The project calls for demolishing five existing buildings on the 21-acre property known as the Los Gatos Business Park, located at the corner of Winchester Boulevard and Albright Way.
The project also hopes to build a
About the lack of so-called "story poles," a tool used to assist decision-makers and the public get an idea of how tall a project is going to be, Sabey said those aren't erected for 85-feet-tall buildings and that, instead, the developer offered something superior with photo simulation.
He said the project's tallest building would be "imperceptible," behind trees, in an area that's already built out. "We'll be replacing old concrete with well designed Class-A office space behind trees," he told the judge.
"This is the critical question that needs to be answered and that is, if someone comes forward in the course of a project such as this and says, 'I think it's too tall,' is that enough in any case, on an absolute basis, to say you have to do an EIR?"
"What is potentially significant adverse environmental impact?" Sabey asked, citing case law about the difference between what he called subjective disagreement and true environmental impacts.
"There really is nothing here to require an EIR at this stage," he said. "This is a rezoning and development agreement and this project, as proposed, each phase will be subject to an architectural and site analysis."
Sabey also told the judge the project will raze a quarter of a million square-foot office park along the freeway by the light rail and across the street from 55-foot tall buildings that are extremely dense.
The project is also in compliance with the General Plan and the Vasona Light Rail Element, which projects mass transit facilities along Winchester Boulevard and will link the town with the rest of Silicon Valley, he added.
Mansfied-Howlett argued, however, that a Caltrans letter shows the traffic impacts are greater than the threshold and that the negative declaration of environmental impacts issued on the project is inadequate.
She said a traffic expert who's an engineer said the project will increase traffic by 25 percent.
Mansfield-Howlett said contrary to case law presented by the defense, the project would also impact trail use, mountain views and nearby trees.
Judge Huber said Friday he would take the matter under submission and issue a ruling this week, which will most likely be faxed to the attorneys.
On a multi-million-dollar project, the idea that an EIR would be too expensive to do doesn't make sense, the petitioners said.
"This project is too large and too complex for a negative declaration," Mansfield-Howlett said.