Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Joseph Huber said from the bench Friday morning that he'll issue a ruling on a lawsuit seeking the Town of Los Gatos to conduct a full environmental impact report on the proposed Netflix project on Albright Way and Winchester Avenue next week.
During a hearing at the old Santa Clara County Courthouse on North First Street in San Jose, Judge Huber heard arguments in favor and against the full environmental study for the proposed project approved by the Los Gatos Town Council last September.
The project, which would eventually demolish five existing buildings on the 21-acre property known as the Los Gatos Business Park, hopes to build a
The lawsuit was brought against the town and developer John Shenk by a group of private residents—Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development—led by former Los Gatos planner Lee Quintana, the only named plaintiff.
On Friday, Quintana was present in the courtroom along with attorney Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, who represents the Citizens.
Arguing against the need for an EIR was attorney James Moose, senior partner of Remy Moose Manley LLP, an environmental law firm in Sacramento, who represents the town; and Andrew Sabey, a partner with Cox, Castle & Nicholson, who represents the project applicant, Los Gatos Business Park, LLC.
"Our attorneys filed documents with the court that demonstrate that the Albright project environmental studies and proposed mitigations considered by the town met California Environmental Quality Act requirements," said town attorney Judith Propp.
"The Albright project is an in-fill project that takes an already developed, but underutilized site located on major transportation corridors and replaces it with a Class A office campus incorporating energy conservation and other green building features," she added.
Judge Huber said he understood the case and had read the copious documents presented by both sides.
Mansfield-Howlett spent about 30 minutes explaining why the Citizens want an EIR conducted, saying the project is large, complex, constitutes up to 500,000 square feet of office space with a residential component and a retail component as well over a 20-year phase.
"It will constitute one of the largest buildings in Los Gatos," Mansfield-Howlett said, to which the Judge interjected asking, "Do we even know if it's a building?"
"It's very big," she reiterated, adding that the Citizens commented at length during the Los Gatos Planning Commission meetings about the need for the developer to present a project, however, he gave different scenarios without any specificity.
Mansfield-Howlett said the Commission objected to that since there were too many variables to adequately judge the project's impacts.
The project never should have been adopted with a negative declaration of environmental impacts, which is for low-level projects, she continued.
She cited concerns about the project's impacts on the town's aesthetics, traffic, and consistency with its General Plan.
Mansfield-Howlett also cited a Department of Transportation letter and concerns that traffic would impact nearby freeways and public trails. She said the project will generate more than 3,000 daily trips and 400 of them would occur during peak congestion time.
Another concern cited was the lack of story poles inserted into the ground to show residents how tall the structures would be and said only renderings were provided to understand the project's scope.
She said the Commission and area residents complained about increasing one of the proposed building's height to 85 feet tall, saying such jump was a huge departure from the town's traditional height of 35 feet.
Judge Huber hypothetically asked the defense's attorneys what would happen if one of the environmental issues brought up by the public was substantial enough to create concerns about impacts.
"If nine of them were phenomenal benefits for the community ... and one [far outweighed showing significant impacts]" it would require an EIR, the judge said.
"We don't believe that's the case," said Sabey.
The judge said: "This is a big project. This is the kind of thing that EIRs are done for ... "
The Citizens bear the burden to show substantial evidence of a potential significant and adverse environmental change, Sabey said.
"If this were a green field site ... out in the suburbs, then you have a very different expression than where we are," Sabey said.
The judge said he didn't think some of the arguments made by Citizens arose to the level of requiring an EIR, but some, he thought were in what he called the "ball park" and that included the traffic concerns.
If any of those impacts arise to the level required by an EIR, then one would have to be conducted, the judge said.