A group of residents has filed a lawsuit against the Town of Los Gatos alleging it approved the Los Gatos Business Park project, where Netflix could possibly expand to in the future, on an inadequate mitigated negative declaration of environmental impacts.
Under the California Environmental Quality Act, the town must determine whether the project, located at the corner of Albright Way and Winchester Boulevard, had a significant adverse effect on the environment. The town issued a mitigated negative declaration in August.
"The town hasn't been noticed yet, although it's aware of the suit," said attorney Rachel Mansfield-Howlett, adding that the citizens bringing the action are calling themselves Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development. It was formed this month.
Mansfield-Howlett said the residents brought the suit as a public benefit organization to ensure compliance with CEQA. "The major thing that the clients want to say is that they're not against the development of the site or the proposed tenant (Netflix), but they just want to make sure that all mitigations and environmental impacts have been resolved prior to any further approval," Mansfield-Howlett added.
Los Gatos Town Manager Greg Larson said although the town has not yet been served on the lawsuit, the matter has been referred to legal counsel for review. "We will then analyze the lawsuit’s merits and impacts, if any, before making a recommendation to the Town Council," Larson said.
At the crux of the issue is the project's mitigated negative declaration. Masfield said the project is large enough and has so many potential impacts that a more indepth review of an environmental impact report was required. "The negative declaration is only appropriate when the town can say absolutely no impacts would result. It's the lowest level of review. Any time there's substantial evidence that there may be an impact ... then the town must require that an EIR to be prepared.
"We're not asking to stop the project, we just want the appropriate level of environmental review to be conducted," Mansfield-Howlett said.
Los Gatos Mayor Joe Pirzynski, Vice Mayor Steve Rice and Councilwoman Diane McNutt voted in favor, while Councilwoman Barbara Spector and Councilman Steve Leonardis voted against.
relating to materials, landscaping and traffic mitigation for the
Spector and Leonardis have opposed the project due the buildings' height, which is against the town's three-story limit or about 55 feet.
The suit was filed Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
"I'm aware the lawsuit was filed," said Los Gatos resident Eric Anderson.
According to longtime Los Gatos resident Larry Arzie, several town residents unhappy with the project wanted to avoid a suit and publish a full page report outlining their concerns related to the CEQA certification, a traffic study and an EIR report.
The Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development and former Los Gatos Planning Commissioner Lee Quintana are the petitioners on the suit which names the Town of Los Gatos and the Los Gatos Town Council as respondents. The petition also names Peter Pau, Sand Hill Properties, Co., Los Gatos Business Park, LLC.; Mike White, Huetigg & Schromm, Inc., and developer John Shenk as parties in interest and the project applicants.
Some of the petitioners supporting the complaint are members of the Los Gatos Community Alliance, Arzie said. The LGCA and Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development are two different groups.
According to the LGCA Facebook page, the group has been established to assure the citizens of Los Gatos that the town political bodies are maintaining the character and feel "of a small town designed for the residents. One of our objectives is to not become an extension of San Jose."
Arzie said "the suit effectively stops everything unless within 30 days an arbitration meeting resolves the differences, otherwise it may be a year before it goes to trial, which will mean Netflix will most likely not sign a lease and move, which might have happened anyway. The developer will most likely lose his financing as well."
According to the complaint, the petitioners challenge the town's approval of a phased 20-year term project on 90-160 Albright Way and 14600 Winchester Blvd., to allow up to a maximum of 550,000 square feet of office space of a mix of office, retail and 168 senior housing units on 21.5 acres.
The project would demolish existing structures on the site and remove up to 384 "protected trees" on the basis of an inadequate and incomplete mitigated negative declaration, the complaint states.
The project is also located next to the Los Gatos Creek, a tributary to Guadalupe River, which empties into the South San Francisco Bay. The eastern project boundary abuts the Los Gatos Creek Trail and the reparian creek corridor, it adds.
Mike White and Huetigg & Schromm Inc., were listed in the project file as the property owners for the site until about May of this year. The petitioners believe that the property was sold to Peter Pau of Sand Hill Properties Co. and/or Los Gatos Business Park, LLC.
—To read complaint, please see the attached pdf.