Longtime Los Gatos resident Lee Quintana remembers writing an essay about the Constitution in junior high school where she stated it was a wonderful document but its intent was not always followed.
She cited examples such as the then segregation in the South of public facilities, schools and the Poll Tax.
Her teacher failed her and the principal asked her to rewrite the paper or flunk the class. She did the first, but she regrets doing so to this day.
Six decades later, that incident moves Quintana, a petite woman under 5-feet, to speak her mind, even if she becomes one of the town's most controversial figures.
The Citizens, according to Quintana, are simply asking the Town to follow state law, clearly divulge the impacts of the 20-year phased project, and propose adequate feasible mitigation before going forward.
After the complaint was filed in Santa Clara County Superior Court, an opposing group of residents took out full-page advertisements in the taking Quintana to task for suing the town.
The ads proclaimed: "Who's behind 'We Support Los Gatos?' We are!"
Formed under the url www.wesupportlosgatos.org, the group stated that the community's response to "the wasteful lawsuit" had been overwhelming.
conducted by the research firm of Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates or FM3, hired by the owners of the Los Gatos Business Park, LLC, whose 21 acres of land are being considered to build the new Netflix headquarters in the future.
The ads called the lawsuit "egregious" and said it was filed to block Netflix, endangering "millions of dollars in needed revenue for our schools and town services."
They quoted several residents who said they supported the Los Gatos Council majority who voted to approve the development.
While Quintana states that she and the Citizens respect the right of "We Support Los Gatos" to express their opinion, the issues involved are far broader than the impact on schools.
Quintana is suing hoping to make the town and the developer conduct an environmental report on the project. The petition, scheduled to be heard by a judge this coming Friday, challenges Los Gatos government's assertion that the development would not have an adverse impact on the environment.
Just weeks before it was filed,
A Planner at Heart
Nobody better than Quintana understands the complexities of environmental impact reports for big developments. Her entire professional life was spent working as an urban planner for the City of San Jose.
After retiring, she applied and served on the Los Gatos Redevelopment Advisory Committee, the General Plan Committee and was appointed in 1999 to the Planning Commission, where she labored for eight years.
During that time, she says, she was often known for, and "often not appreciated for," asking applicants and staff members hard questions to understand how projects fit into the General Plan and town policies.
When she was not re-appointed to the Commission for a third term, Quintana says she continued attending Commission and Council meetings and slowly began asking questions and requesting information.
Becoming a Watchdog
While she has never filed a Public Records Act request, she became a frequent visitor to the Planning and Public Works departments to look at files and government documents.
"I could almost hear staffs' thoughts as I approached, 'Oh, not her again,' " she says.
Today, Quintana is surprised at the amount of people who stop her on the street to say they have heard her speak at Commission or Council meetings and thank her for asking questions, providing information and being concerned about what she calls "the bigger picture."
One tangible example of the fruits of her open-government work is that, at hers and others' requests, Commission and Council agendas now have, in addition to staff reports, exhibits, plans and other pertinent documents, available for public review on the town's website.
Quintana admits she's continually reading confusing town documents, pointing out inconsistencies and contradictions in them and requesting clarification.
Sadly, Quintana says, she realized in the last few years that she had exhausted her effectiveness with the town to initiate change and was not getting meaningful answers to her questions.
She says she also noticed an increasing number of residents expressing frustration with projects brought before the Commission or Council before they were fully thought-out.
With the town's supposed lack of response to residents' concerns about projects, processes, compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, town ordinances, codes, policies and what she perceived was an increasing lack of transparency in the decision-making process, she says she had no choice but to sue.
"It appeared that the town would only take notice if a legal action was filed. The decision to file a lawsuit against the town we all love was not made lightly," she says. "A short answer to why [the lawsuit was filed] would be frustration, love of Los Gatos, belief in the responsibility of government to be transparent and to listen to and respect its citizens, and a belief in freedom of speech."