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Updated: Judge Orders Environmental Impact Report for Netflix Project

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Joseph Huber has sided with the Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development who want developer of future Netflix project to conduct an environmental impact review.

Update: 3 p.m., April 26: The plaintiffs who sued the Town of Los Gatos and the developer of the future Netflix corporate headquarters on Winchester Boulevard and Albright Way issued a written response Thursday afternoon to the ruling:

“We are grateful for the Court’s careful, well-reasoned decision requiring the Town and the developer to follow state law prior to any further consideration of the development project," the Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development said in a press release issued by attorney Rachel Mansfield-Howlett.

"An EIR will provide the Planning Commission and Town Council with necessary information about potential development impacts and ensure that all members of the community have the opportunity to learn about and understand the environmental impacts of the Project prior to Project approval. With this information, the community and interested sister agencies can provide input about the analyses that will be conducted to minimize the chances of unforeseen, unintended, and expensive oversights. An EIR will require enforceable mitigation measures to be implemented and consideration of
alternatives to the Project that reduce impacts to the greatest degree. We are especially appreciative of and offer our thanks to those members of the community who supported our efforts,” the statement said.

On Wednesday, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Joseph H. Huber sided with the Citizens who want the future Netflix campus developer to conduct an environmental impact review.

The Citizens' petition was heard on March 23 at the old Santa Clara County Courthouse and Judge Huber took a month to deliberate on its findings, ruling in favor of the EIR.

The order was issued on Monday, April 23 and Judge Huber had mailed it to the attorneys who received it Wednesday.

John Shenk, the developer of the Netflix project at the Los Gatos Business Park, located at the intersection of Albright Way and Winchester Avenue, was unavailable for comment Wednesday afternoon.

Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, the attorney representing the Citizens, had argued that the California Environmental Quality Act mandated such a review due to the size of the project and impacts it would create such as traffic congestion.

Just one impact would trigger the preparation of an EIR, the judge said during the March 23 meeting.

"We're obviously very pleased with the decision," Mansfield-Howlett said of the 16-page ruling. "We feel that the court gave a very well reasoned decision and we're pleased that an EIR is going to be prepared and the decision hit the issues that we cared about the most."

Mansfield-Howlett said the two most significant impacts mentioned by Judge Huber were aesthetics and traffic.

Regarding traffic impacts, Judge Huber stated in his decision “… the project, together with other planned development in the area (which an EIR would have to consider) may cause further gridlock and send commuters cutting through nearby residential development in an attempt to avoid it.”

About aesthetic impacts, Judge Huber said, “Petitioners make a valid point that,
given that the MND [Mitigated Negative Declaration] does not even determine the building configuration for the project site (which is left to the developer to determine over the years depending on various factors), the assertion that there will be no significant aesthetic impacts regardless of the configuration chosen is suspect.”
LGCRD members respond to the Court’s decision:

The project calls for the demolition of five existing buildings on the 21-acre property. During its first phase, it would build a

The petition challenged Shenk's and the town's assertion that the development would not have an adverse impact on the environment.

In an email late Wednesday evening, Quintana said: "We are relieved that the wait for the decision is over and are very pleased with the judge's ruling."

Los Gatos Mayor Steve Rice said he respected Judge Huber's opinion. "We don't question the ruling. Obviously our attorney and outside counsel will have to dig into it in a little more indepth because they just got it."

Rice said it's now up to Shenk what steps he will take related to the project. The mayor also noted all five Los Gatos Town Council members voted to approve the project's so-called "negative declaration," which the Citizens felt was inadequate. He explained the council voted 3-2, with Vice Mayor Barbara Spector and Steven Leonardis opposing the project's zoning and design.

Attorneys representing the town and the developer were also not available by the time of this posting.

To read the complete ruling, please see attached pdf.

a different kind of truth April 26, 2012 at 04:30 PM
Mr. Rice suffers from selective amnesia. It is true that at the first council hearing about the Albright Way Project, the council did unamimously support Mr. Rice's motion to adopt the mitigated neg dec. But the meeting was continued and that vote was nullified. The 2nd Albright hearing the vote was 3/2 with McNutt, Rice and Pirzynski all voting in favor of the mitigated neg dec. as well as the project. You can watch the meeting online to verify the actual truth.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Hi Larry, to be fair to Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson, he had nothing to do with the Los Gatos Town Council's vote to approve the negative declaration on this project and the architecture and site review related to this project. That decision was made by the Council. I also hope we stop attacking Larson and find a way to offer constructive criticism for him and the rest of the town staff. Disparaging comments will no longer be tolerated against town staff.
Jonathan Knowles April 26, 2012 at 05:38 PM
Sheila, It would be great to see a policy on Patch that required real names and some kind of verification of identity (many sites do this). I know that people will still game the system and hide behind false names and "handles." As they say, "Haters gonna hate." But at least some minimal attempt would be appreciated. Under the 6th Amendment to the US Constitution, if an accuser does not appear and testify, the entire proceeding must be dismissed. I realize that Patch is not a court (Good heavens--that would be something!), but this seems like a good idea. I respect those who share their opinions openly and candidly, but not when they hide in the shadows of the net. It's frustrating to see so many anonymous comments. I am encouraged by those who do post openly such as my very good friends Larry Arzie and Peter Carter.
AR April 26, 2012 at 05:46 PM
how would you enforce this? make people post pictures of their drivers' licenses? i can call myself Jonathan Nowelles....how will you disprove me? we don't need an internet gestapo telling us to "show papers".
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 05:46 PM
Hi Jonathan, I will forward your suggestion to our regional editor who can then pass it on to the right person. This continues to be an issue for many online publications. I know that requiring everyone to identify themselves by name and verify their ID will prevent many from commenting openly. I love your idea of having a user at least provide verification of ID and then being allowed to comment under a pseudonym. Thanks for the feedback. It's greatly appreciated.
Larry Arzie April 26, 2012 at 05:47 PM
SHIELA, you are not that naive . The town manager rules. He is in charge. He is in control. This Town council aquieces to his authority without question. Except for two of them. It was HE that thought up the process to circumvent the EIR. After that any vote of the council was compromised. His power is not giving the council all the information they need to ethically proceed. The buck stops at his desk. He needs to fess up or get out and take his head planner with him.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Larry, are you're telling me that the Los Gatos Town Council members allow Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson to tell them what to do?
AR April 26, 2012 at 05:56 PM
i have no problem with an EIR. a project this large should have one. even if an EIR is damning, it doesn't represent a binding prohibition, its just one more piece of data, and may provide some sobering reality checks for critics (e.g., being very near a major highway, the project results in comparatively *reduced* impact relative to other locations in the town). generally i support the netflix project. the "accessible-only-by-car bedroom community" is a remnant of 80s thinking...that ship has sailed and sunk. see: silver creek. los gatos will have to continue to incorporate employers, retail, etc in order to attract the young and families needed to stay relevant and vital. otherwise, get used to massive tax and fee hikes...the money has to come from somewhere.
Jonathan Knowles April 26, 2012 at 05:56 PM
Thanks very much Sheila. Imagine if we we didn't do this with our legal system. It was in fact the case in Nazi Germany that there was no such right. Accusations, charges, insults, and even death sentences came anonymously from the cowards in the shadows. Sunshine brothers and sisters, sunshine! Let's light up the dark corners and see if the rats scurry away!
Larry Arzie April 26, 2012 at 05:57 PM
Peter, the end does not justify the means. The town manager screwed up knowingly.
AR April 26, 2012 at 06:08 PM
please point to the death threats that have been issued by people not using their real names - this is just a scare tactic that has no justification. we are all ultimately identified in patch's logs by our ip addresses, and those ip addresses can be used to trace to a telco billing account. this information is passed to law enforcement all of the time. no one making illegal threats is protected by using a handle instead of their real name, stop fear mongering.
AR April 26, 2012 at 06:14 PM
and furthermore, after working at a "very large" website for over a decade, i will tell you that unless required to, you should never provide a website with your real personal information. do you know patch's privacy policy? who do they sell this information to? how do they control the access to this data internally? not only do i use a handle, i use an email address in my contact info that is used only to log in to patch. i can tell you that at any company that has your personal information, it is likely being used or perused in a way that would mortify you.
Jonathan Knowles April 26, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I am Los Gatos resident Jonathan Knowles. Let us be positive and open about this. Let's be upfront, honest, and produtive together as community members. In my opinion, candor with respect is the best approcah. I am certailnly more open to new perspectives and approcahes when I know who I am engaged with in dialoge.
Sheila Sanchez (Editor) April 26, 2012 at 06:18 PM
I think the way it's supposed to work in this form of government is that the town manager answers to the council, whose members hired him to do the job of running the town. The Council members are the manager's supervisors.
Larry Arzie April 26, 2012 at 06:25 PM
You don't need a refresher course in Poly Science. Yes that is the way it is supposed to work, at least on paper. In reality the power is in the hands of the Town Manager. He controls everything except the councils vote. It is what he doesn't tell council that controls the vote.
Sandra Vaurs April 26, 2012 at 06:27 PM
To the shy ones, KMD and AR, Netflix is not going to leave because the developer, Shenk, didn't get to overbuild the Albright site. It is Shenk who wants to build the project, not Netflix. This has been stated several times on the Patch website, but these two keep beating the same old drum, and for what purpose? I would like to know.
AR April 26, 2012 at 06:44 PM
but ms. vaurs - netflix has spoken out in favor of the project repeatedly. you seem to suggest that they are merely indifferent to what would become their corporate headquarters
AR April 26, 2012 at 06:48 PM
sorry jonahthan, i respect your desire to what you see as transparency, but you have also made yourself transparent to the data and sales networks at AOL, which certainly includes sales and data centers outside of the united states, where you cannot influence how your data is used (and abused). i have worked inside a similar organization...trust me when i say you are better off not being identifiable in their db. if you wish to identify yourself, continue to do so. there is no verifiable way to promote this universally, so you should stop trying to force other people to follow your lead
KMD April 26, 2012 at 11:06 PM
It's not about Netflix wanting the project to materialize, it's about making it attractive for them to want to be here which benefits us all. Make it difficult or impossible to do so, they then exercise their freedom to choose another community happy to accommodate them taking job opportunities and tax revenues that would otherwise be ours. The real question is: Where exactly would Lee have construction take place so as to bring about jobs and tax revenues to improve or sustain a community? My bet is her answer would be "No where." She is not interested in either of those. Lee thinks all construction has a negative impact on the environment and therefore is bad. We need to wake up and embrace we are part of the environment not invaders of it. We can't continue down the path of driving businesses away in the name of environmentalism expecting to maintain the Los Gatos "quality" (nice schools, parks, library, community programs, police, fire fighters, roads, etc) of life and then complain when there is no revenue to support it when it's gone. We can build and be responsible too. I am very concerned when people like Lee are filing lawsuits on my behalf without my consent. People who disagree with Lee should consider counter suing for false representation. Research Agenda 21 - it explains environmentalism and what its goals are.
Jonathan Knowles April 26, 2012 at 11:21 PM
I respectfully disagree Larry. I believe your focus on the Town Manager is misplaced. I would love to see you focus on the council members. Hold them accountable for their decisions as our elected servants. Bottom line is that it is their responsibility to understand these issues and act in the best interest of the residents. You have a powerful voice in our community. Election season is just around the corner. Council can and should be directing staff. Let's make certain that we have representative servants who do just that.
Larry Arzie April 26, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Dear KMD, Lee did not file a class action suit. You are not part of the citizens group she filed it for. So no need to opt out. If your not part of the citizens for responsible development then your not included. I think you misread Sheila's introduction and picked up on her reference to "Citizens" instead of Citizens for Responsible Development. I don't ever remember reading that Lee doesn't want Netflix there. What I think she wants is the developer and the town to follow the rules, both State and local that protects all the citizens of Los Gatos. Just because Netflix originally wanted a 5 story building doesn't mean we should role over. There is plenty of property there to build within the regulations. Lets see what the developer proposes next. I don't think Netflix is very anxious to start spending 5 or 6 dollars a foot while taking it on the chin of late. There is time to work this out. There is time to do this right. I hope even you will finally agree with the results.
KMD April 27, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Yep, you're right. I did. Thank you. I continue to be skeptical about Lee's concern for the Citizens (rights) of Los Gatos vs the environment. Something to consider, because somebody passes a law or creates a rule does not necessarily mean either is good. I'm not sure the rules Lee wants followed are good ones. On any other day I would complain about the obstructive overbearing micromanagement of the LG planning commission and the federal gov't who live to deny me my private property rights on a daily basis - you must use..., you must do..., you are zoned for..., you can't build... It can only be... But today I agree with the commission. Check with me tomorrow ( : Rules are made to control people and laws are passed to protect us... from what? Ourselves and the freedom of self determination! But that is a whole other topic for another day ( : http://youtu.be/CZ-4gnNz0vc Bunco night, gotta go!
KMD April 27, 2012 at 12:36 AM
see below ( :
John Lochner April 27, 2012 at 01:35 AM
John Lochner Interesting comments regarding the Netflix proposal. Planning staff review a proposal, work with the developer to make sure that all of the information is there and forward it to the Planning Commission for their review. Many times the Commission send it back for additional information to be able to make a decision. This includes whether a full EIR is necessary or a Mitigated Negative Declaration. If people disagree with the Councils decision, the only choice for them is the Court system. Judge Huber showed that the system is working, regardless of his decision. I disagree with my friend Larry Arzie's comments regarding the Town Manager. Having served eight years on the Town Council in the 70's, two as Mayor, with two different Town Managers, I can assure you that from my experience, they are not the power grabber,s as you have depicted. They have enough to do to run the Town as directed by the Council. It is extremely important that they provide adequate information for the Council to make a reasonable decision. I believe the Greg Larson is certainly a qualified Manager, supervises his staff very professionally and responds to the Council directions in a timely manner. I do not consider that a power move. You can certainly disagree with them but lets give our Town Council a little credit for doing what they think is in the best interest of all of us.
Larry Arzie April 27, 2012 at 02:36 AM
I respect John Lochners experience and am pleased to be considered his friend. I propose only that the bias that got us into this expensive court battle came from our town manager and his head planner and is unacceptable. The town council did not ask him to break the rules. If what you say is true our town manager failed to correct an errant council. His incompetence requires walking papers.
Larry Arzie April 27, 2012 at 11:10 PM
OK Johnathon I get it. You are saying that it was McNutt, Pryzinski and Rice that asked the Town Manager to break the state laws regarding an EIR and get rid of Rice at the next election. The staff report should clear up some issues and the record should speak for itself . It will be interesting to find out who brought up the idea of a negative declaration and what the possible consequences would be from the Town manager by circumventing the EIR. In either case this calls for an inquirey. I doubt the three names above will request one, indicting themselves. So lets see if the town manager is willing to give it a go since both you and Sheila think he's swell. I wonder what Citizen Ray would say if he was here. I suppose he would ask the district attorneys office to do do the inquiry. This is as constructive as I can get Sheila. Thank you Johnathan for another viewpoint.
Thomas Mangano April 28, 2012 at 01:28 AM
I would say it is a case of a Town Manager, Developer Director, and Legal Council telling the dominate powers of the City Council what they want to hear, not what they need to know. That is not good for the Town.
carol musser April 28, 2012 at 06:52 AM
It was a good read to see all the comments. Our Town has always been vocal on development decisions with those on the side of keeping a quaint closed community or those who would like to see some controlled growth. That's what keeps it all in check. If you are biased one way or another you will disagree with the Council or Commissions decisions. That does not mean that they or the Town Manager are wrong in their thinking or should be condemmed. Hopefully the EIR will answer the questions of the concerned citizens and that Netflix will be able to move on with their project. This so echoes the sentiments expressed in the planning of the newly reconstructed Safeway on Santa Cruz Ave. The traffic, the size, the design, the congestion, were fears and worries expressed by some of you. Do you still feel your concerns were not addressed? I for one feel they did a super job on this project, minimized taffic flow impact with the underground parking design and Safeway is now an enhancement to our Town. Keep communicating and do not close your minds, things can be worked out.
Katt April 28, 2012 at 08:09 PM
That you tube video KMD keeps referring to seems like propaganda. I would like to see your world without regulation. Oh, wait that was a Mel Gibson movie. Mad Max. "If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it. " – Lyndon B. Johnson
Katt April 28, 2012 at 08:56 PM
KMD: Here is your Agenda 21 as written by the UN in 1992 http://www.un.org/esa/sustdev/documents/agenda21/english/Agenda21.pdf Sounds Wonderful. Section III chapter 30 article b-e very informative. A lot of what is posted via internet other than actual publication is quite bias and opinionated. Seems very right -conservative and Tea partyish. Everyone should read the actual Agenda. Thank you for educating me. Agenda 21 is a GOOD thing!

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