A heated debate is brewing over what to do with an orchard considered the last large undeveloped parcel of land in the wealthy San Jose suburb of Los Gatos.
The town has come up with what it calls the North 40 Specific Plan, outlining how to develop the 44 acres between Highway 85 and Lark Avenue. The plan would allow up to 364 homes to be built on the property, along with 580,000-square-feet of commercial and retail space. But some say that would change the look and feel of Los Gatos.
“What about the environment?” Tom Thimot said. “We already have a wonderful downtown and thousands of square feet of retail space and they want to double that to a Santana Row-like complex.”
Thimot said his group has already collected nearly 500 signatures from people against the plan.
Hundreds of residents attended a city council meeting Tuesday night to voice their concerns and opposition with the plan.
The Los Gatos Union School District predicts the development could add another 180 new students to area schools. Mikka Eriksen fears that will mean overcrowded classrooms for her three kids.
“I’m concerned when I look at the middle school and see it already has so many students, and then you have more from the development,” Eriksen said. “Where are they going to go? They have to have a plan.”
Eriksen is also worried the development will increase the troubling traffic in the area.
But a developer for the property, Grosvenor Americas, says the North 40 plan will improve Los Gatos by serving seniors and young adults. “We think there is a need for affordable housing in Los Gatos,” Don Capobres said, “and we understand the need for mitigations for schools and traffic, but we think the town Specific Plan has balanced those needs.”
The city council on Tuesday voted 3-2 to come up with more information for the Environmental Impact Report regarding traffic, schools and impact to the downtown area. The new information is expected to be ready sometime next year.
NBC Bay Area's Terry McSweeney contributed to this report.