It's back to square one for the Los Gatos Town Council. A proposal to build 452 affordable housing units in the ritzy South Bay town has been sent back to committee for review.
An intense public hearing Tuesday night at Los Gatos town hall played a huge factor. The town council may revisit some of the 36 other sites that were previously looked at and see if there are better locations.
The walnut orchard on Oka Road in North Los Gatos near Highway 17 and Highway 85 is one area where many feel building more homes will turn an already congested area into a traffic nightmare.
There's also concern affordable housing will decrease property values and hurt the quality of education. Families with children are worried about increasing class sizes at the schools if more families move in. Others are concerned putting affordable housing in one area will create a visual division between the higher income parts of Los Gatos and the more affordable part of town.
"This has to be spread [out]," Noa Sklar, who lives near Oka Road, said. "So [new residents] can have access to shops, into downtown, into different kinds of schools. This should not be all in one location. Not to create a ghetto if you will, a cluster, of oh these people."
Sklar represented the majority opinion in the audience, but a couple of residents like Nayan McNeill gave their support for the project.
"But I think it's one of those that we must use because there's a space there," McNeill said. "I hope you will consider. I don't want the town to lose financial support from the state which it will if it doesn't approve this."
Before the meeting, several residents also opposed the plan.
“They chose not to use those alternatives that were closer to downtown , closer to transit, that were closer to shops and convenience stores,” Los Gatos resident Jeff Laughridge said.
In addition to the concerns he has over the low-income residents' access to services are concerns over his own property value. Laughridge says that if a developer decides to put in high-density housing in the walnut orchard near his home, his property value will stagnate.
Fellow Los Gatos resident Iddo Hadar also said before the meeting that there are concerns over traffic in an already-busy corridor and increasing pressure on local school districts. He says he understands the need to plan for affordable housing, but that it seems the town is just looking at the numbers and not the reality.
“We think that the town is doing what we call, ‘Not in My Downtown.’ We see that the decision process was to push the housing as far away as possible from downtown the high-income, more advanced part of town to what is the lowest income part of Los Gatos,” Hadar said.
The item has been the most controversialof strategic planner Wendie Rooney's career, and she is soon retiring.
“I think the council is in a difficult position you have a community that has concerns over the impacts that it could cause and you have the state that is telling us what we have to do,” Rooney said.