By Nancy Amdur
The Los Gatos Town Council recently took a step toward determining how land will be used on the 44-acre “North 40” site, giving preliminary approval of a specific plan that will guide the creation of a mixed-use neighborhood on the northern edge of town. The plan is scheduled for final ordinance adoption on August 4.
“It’s a major step for Los Gatos,” said Don Capobres, the Washington, D.C.-based senior vice president of development for Grosvenor Americas, the lead developer on a project slated for 32 acres of the site. “The approval of the specific plan allows us to begin making decisions and start moving the process forward.”[contextly_sidebar id=”y5F1P4KlYZXxqh21NMHZgLbBbUUfLpUq”]Plans for the area, located at the intersection of Highways 85 and 17 and bordered by Los Gatos Boulevard on the east and Lark Avenue on the south, have been brewing for decades. The specific plan calls for a “vibrant mixed-use community” on the site, said Laurel Prevetti, the assistant town manager for Los Gatos.
“It’s intended to be a modern contribution to our community and fit into the fabric of Los Gatos,” Prevetti said.
Development in the area would provide needed housing and help stem the $80 million in retail leakage caused by residents shopping outside town boundaries, Capobres said.
The specific plan guides development of the site, including land use, infrastructure and design.
The Los Gatos Town Council approved a plan allowing 270 residential units, with a potential density bonus for a certain level or number of affordable housing units boosting the total to 364 units. The council also set the site’s building height limit at 35 feet—up to 45 feet for affordable housing and/or a hotel—and the maximum new commercial space at 435,000 square feet of a combination of retail, office and hotel uses.
There are 15 property owners on the North 40, but Grosvenor controls the majority of the site. The privately owned property group is working on its project with San Ramon-based housing developer SummerHill Homes and Hayward-based affordable housing builder Eden Housing Inc.
With changes to the specific plan, the total number of planned residential units is still being finalized, said Wendi Baker, SummerHill’s vice president of development.
SummerHill will build for-sale townhouses or condominiums, and Eden Housing will build rental affordable housing units for seniors. Housing plans were formed to meet the need in Los Gatos for units geared toward millennials and seniors, Baker said.
SummerHill conducted focus groups to look at floor plans, finishes, amenity packages and open space “to see what really appealed to the millennial population,” Baker said, “because it’s a little [bit] of uncharted territory.”
The developer will offer a variety of sizes and floor plans. Units may include features such as loft space, concrete kitchen countertops or Murphy beds for guests. Outdoor space may include fire pits, an outdoor television and a bocce ball court, she said.
The first phase of the project also will include an artisan marketplace offering specialty foods, Capobres said. Other retail space likely will intermingle smaller shops, mid-size box retail stores and restaurants. The specific plan requires 30 percent of the site to be reserved for open space. Capobres said the project could include a “dynamic open space program” with features such as a dog park, community gardens and public plazas.
The North 40 area is now mainly a walnut orchard. Grosvenor in 2008 inked a contract giving the company control of 32 acres owned by the Yuki family, who have held the property since the 1940s.
“It is one of the last large development pieces in Los Gatos,” Capobres said.
Much community outreach took place over the years, discussing issues such as how development would impact density, traffic and schools, he said.
“It’s been so collaborative that none of that collaboration will stop,” Baker said. “We want to keep all of these people involved and engaged so relationships don’t end when the specific plan is approved.”
Developers will resubmit applications for the project to meet the new changes approved in the plan. If approved, Capobres said the first phase of construction could begin in late 2016 or early 2017.
“It’s going to be a while before we see development actually happen,” Prevetti said, “but this is a key milestone in terms of identifying a vision for these 44 acres and having clarity around what the allowed uses will be.”