The order, issued Friday, was being hailed as another victory for the developer of the project, John R. Shenk on behalf of Los Gatos Business Park LLC and the Town of Los Gatos.
"Once again, the court has ruled against the desperate legal maneuverings of the few local residents who continue their attempts to kill the Netflix expansion through the courts," Shenk told Los Gatos Patch.
"This ruling, combined with our submission of more than 4,000 signatures on our initiative petition this week, gives us great optimism that this issue will be decided favorably once and for all by Los Gatos voters in June of 2014."
Judge Joseph H. Huber issued the ruling following a Friday, Dec. 6 hearing at the old Santa Clara County Courthouse in San Jose, where an attorney representing petitioners Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development asked the magistrate to interpret whether the controversial project was in violation of the town's General Plan due to the height of the buildings.
The project calls for four edifices, two at 65 feet and two at 50 feet, plus a three-story parking garage for a total of 485,000 square feet. The Citizens claim the height exceeds their interpretation of the General Plan's building height provisions, whey they believe caps them at 35 feet maximum.
Citing case law, Judge Huber quoted: "[A] governing body's conclusion that a particular project is consistent with the relevant general plan carries a strong presumption of regularity that can be overcome only by a showing of abuse of discretion."
He then wrote: "The standard of review applicable to a determination by a local agency that an approved project is consistent with any applicable general plan, as articulated in a clear line of appellate authority, is deferential to the local governing body. This reflects the public policy determination that such bodies are better equipped than courts to make these determinations."
The magistrate said the Town of Los Gatos' determination, made by the Los Gatos Town Council in June of this year when it approved the project, was consistent with the General Plan and not arbitrary, capricious or without evidentiary basis.
The judge said the General Plan expressly provides that it "is intended to meet multiple and sometimes competing policy objectives. Therefore the town may not be able to adhere to every policy in every decision that it makes to implement this General Plan.
"The Town Council has final discretion over which policy objective will have priority instances where there are competing policy objectives affecting a single decision."
The General Plan also expressly provides for so-called "planned development overlay zones" to be created to specially tailor specific development standards for project sites that can differ from the general standards and zoning applicable to the surrounding area, Judge Huber said in his ruling.
Furthermore, Judge Huber ruled that the Council's height limit for the project, by adopting such zone, is consistent with the General Plan and is "reasonable."
The magistrate then said in the ruling the petitioners', or the Citizens challenging the project, should invest their energies at the ballot box rather than the courthouse.
The Citizens, in this latest legal round lead by Los Gatos residents John Shepardson and Andrew H. Wu, said they're now considering taking the matter to the 6th District Court of Appeal.
"I respect Judge Huber's judicial acumen," said Wu, who's an attorney. "What weight a judge decides to place on a specific piece of evidence, a particular fact, or an interpretation of law is subject to that individual's own ... background and sentiment."
Wu said he believed Judge Huber was incorrect in his findings and that in reading the order and its reasoning, the magistrate placed a significant amount of emphasis upon prior case law that favors a preference for exercise of discretion on the part of ... our Town Council.
To defer to the Council's discretion when it may have arguably been incorrect is worthy of an appeal consideration, Wu added.
If appealed the matter would be headed to three Justices for interpretation. "Just as he deferred to the discretion of the Town Council in his ruling ... the Court of Appeal will also review for abuse of discretion of his findings," Wu said.
The burden of proof, Wu lamented, is also always on petitioners on such legal matters. "It's a significant burden to prove that there's an abuse of judicial discretion."
ALSO ON LOS GATOS PATCH:
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- Netflix/Albright Way Development Construction Has Begun in Los Gatos
- 'Netflix Grew Up in Los Gatos And We Would Love to Stay Here'
- Scaled Back Albright Way Project OK'd Monday by Los Gatos Town Council
- Timeline: Legal Challenges to Future Albright Way/Netflix Development Project
- Updated: Petition Drive Begins to Place Future Netflix Project on June Ballot
- Is the Los Gatos General Plan Outside the Court's Jurisdiction?
- Is Los Gatos' Netflix Staying or Leaving?
- Los Gatos' Albright Way Project Continued Until June 3
- Cherry Pickers to Illustrate Height of Future Los Gatos Netflix Campus
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