The Los Gatos Town Council voted unanimously this week to return a controversial affordable housing plan to its General Plan Committee for further study.
After an intense four-hour public hearing Tuesday evening, the Council decided to "continue" to study its so-called Affordable Housing Overlay Zone, or AHOZ.
Los Gatos Community Development Director Wendie Rooney, who's retiring, said the General Plan Committee will now evaluate the other 36 sites on the list of potential parcels as well as other alternatives for achieving the Regional Housing Need Allocation.
The Council stated that the roughly 35 to 40 public speakers raised compelling concerns that warranted the town to further evaluate whether the five recommended sites were the best ones to apply the proposed overlay, Rooney said.
Under the plan considered by the Council this week, the AHOZ was divided into five properties, three on Oka Road, the former County Courthouse property on Knowles and Capri drives and the rear lot of the Southbay Development site on Knowles Drive and Winchester Boulevard for a total of almost 500 units.
The Council has received several emails from town residents giving input on the proposed AHOZ areas.
Choni Yangzom and Charlie, Jenny, George and Wendy Huang wrote the Council: "The location of the AHOZ parcels in this area (Oak Road and near Netflix) is reckless planning on the part of the town, a travesty for the local residents and a missed opportunity for the town of Los Gatos."
Other residents opposed the AHOZ locations citing traffic, pedestrian safety, disparity of affordable housing location and school impacts concerns, among others.
New Los Gatos Councilwoman Marcia Jensen moved to consider alternatives to the plan, including rezoning, redistribution of sites in the AHOZ and different ways to approach the town's RHNA as its going through a new cycle and update school and traffic impacts in conjunction with other developments taking place or being proposed.
Los Gatos Vice Mayor Steven Leonardis said due to the scale of the project, it's important to hear from as many residents as possible about the proposal. "I don't think Los Gatos wants to be known as a community of social injustice or segregation or any of those things that your signs say," he said. "This Council heard you loud and clear tonight."
Leonardis also said north Los Gatos and its availability of land seems to be the final frontier with many projects aimed for that area. However, he said, most developments should not be approved just to meet numbers or satisfy state requirements, but to create the community all residents want with a sound master plan.
Mayor Barbara Spector, who serves on the town's General Plan Committee, said coming up with the current proposal was a challenge because the mandate is imposed by the state with the Association of Bay Area Governments giving numbers that must be met. "My reaction was ... no way," she said. "You talk about the traffic, you talk about the schools ... yes, there's a disconnect in my mind, too, when you tell me you're going to put all these houses and there's only going to be x-amount of kids in the schools and x-amount of people and x-amount of cars going through that section of Lark (Avenue) and Oka (Road). It makes absolutely no sense to me ... "
She continued: "The information that you fed into us tonight, loud and clear, dealt with the distribution or location of the AHOZ sites and as someone on the General Plan Committee ... I hear it. I get it ... that's probably the main thing that we're going to be examining when we revisit it."