Santa Clara County – Upper San Juan Residential District
On Thursday, September 15, 2022, CaRLA and co-petitioner Kenneth Shotts, a political scientist at Stanford, filed suit in Santa Clara County Superior Court to remedy the illegal downzoning in the form of increased lot requirements for the newly created Upper San Juan Residential District. These increased development standards pre-emptively preclude any “small-lot” developments, such as the ones under construction in the Cabrillo-Dolores Faculty Housing development approved in 2019.
CaRLA sees through this ruse expressly created to appease wealthy homeowners who don’t want any new housing, and CaRLA has filed suit. The Santa Clara ordinance is designed to ensure that this neighborhood remains single-family homes on very large lots – the type of housing that is the least affordable and accessible.
The Cabrillo-Dorolores project was fiercely fought by a subset of neighboring Stanford faculty with neighbors specifically citings opposition to smaller lot sizes, new buildings not meeting the “historic character” of the neighborhood, and decreased property values from new development. When before the Board for approved in 2019, Supervisor Joe Simitian made his intentions for a future downzoning clear:
“We are essentially obliged to approve the application because it is in fact consistent with the general plan, the area plan, and the relevant ordinances as they currently exist, and I’m looking right at the planning staff as I say ‘as they currently exist.’ There were, however, a number of folks who used words that resonated with me today. Words like ‘context.’ ‘part of a larger question,’ ‘precedent,’ ‘historic integrity’ and I think that the other piece of the motion that I wanted to offer is to direct staff, as we go forward in considering any applications pending or future, to consider whether or not there are ways we might want to amend the existing general plan, area plan, ordinances so that we don’t find ourselves in the same situation we find ourselves in today, where I feel handcuffed….but this larger set of issues deserves recognition and consideration as we move forward.”
In order to (illegally) find a way to downzone the district without upzoning another area to compensate and without running afoul of SB 330, also known as the Housing Crisis Act (HCA), the Board direct staff to pursue action that would “apply a mechanism for reduced density and more rigorous development standards.”
Upon the recommendation of the Santa Clara County Planning Commission, the Board adopted an ordinance on May 24 to establish a new zoning overlay (Ordinance No. NS-1200.381) as well as a second ordinance that applies the new zoning overlay to the neighborhood (Ordinance No. NS-1200.382). The Board of Supervisors’ new zoning designation for the neighborhood requires 30-ft front yard setbacks (from 25 ft previously), 100-ft lot width frontages (from zero), and a new 20% max building lot coverage for single-family dwellings and 35% for duplexes (from zero).
While certain neighbors, who are required to have ties to the university to live in the area, have been vociferously opposed to new development, Stanford alum and professor Ken Shotts has been a supporter of more housing. He has joined the CaRLA suit saying, “Even professors struggle with housing affordability, and the problem is much worse for most working people. Stanford ought to build more housing and the County should encourage construction of housing whenever possible. Instead, the County is requiring ultra low density housing, thereby contributing to the housing crisis.” Professor Shotts adds, “Anyone who can’t afford housing in Silicon Valley should be outraged by local government regulations that mandate enormous lot sizes, whether in Atherton, Los Altos Hills, Stanford, or any other town. It’s particularly egregious that this action was taken by the County Board of Supervisors, which is supposed to represent the interests of all county residents, not just a small group of current property owners.”
Applicable State Law:
Housing Crisis Act of 2019 (SB 330)
Originally passed as SB 330 in 2019 and extended as SB 8 in 2021, the HCA makes it illegal for jurisdictions to enact zoning, planning, or development standards in areas zoned for residential uses that are more restrictive than the standards that were in effect as of January 1, 2018, regardless of whether the standards explicitly reduce permissible density in the area.
Documents in this case
|2022-09-21 04:37||CaRLA||Santa Clara County Petition for Writ of Mandate and Complaint for Declaratory Relief|