By Jack Stubbs
The City of Sunnyvale has, in the recent past, experienced its fair share of prominent mixed-use developments. One of the more notable examples is DeAnza Properties’ acquisition and proposed redevelopment of Butcher’s Corner, a project at the corner of E. El Camino Real and S. Wolfe road at 871 East Fremont Ave. in Sunnyvale. Sunnyvale’s last remaining working orchard, Butcher’s Corner was sold to DeAnza Properties in 2013—the property management company submitted a formal application to redevelop the site in September of 2014. Orchestrated by John Vidovich, preliminary plans are currently underway to develop a mixed-use development on the approximately 5-acre site.
Current plans for the project to include 153 residential units—approximately 30 units per acre—and almost 7,000 square feet of retail/office space. The redevelopment proposal also includes three-story townhouses on the west side of the development, a five-story multifamily residential building—with retail and office on the first floor—along the frontage of El Camino Real, and a seven-story multifamily residential building along Fremont Ave.
At a planning commission meeting on July 13th, John Vidovich of DeAnza Properties and Associate Planner Noren Caliva-Lepe presented a summary of the project and outlined the potential benefits of the development. Members of the community attended the study session, and several expressed concerns about the building heights, school and traffic impacts as well as tree removal. While the developer’s project plans have been largely positive thus far, city staff affirmed the concerns raised by some residents.
At a subsequent city council meeting on July 28th, the council approved the initiation of the annexation process for Butcher’s Corner—one of the first steps the council takes before making any determinations or judgments about the development and zoning issues or the project application itself, according to Hanson Hom, director of Sunnyvale’s community development department. “No determinations will be made about the rezoning until the annexation is completed at a later time. [The council] can’t make any determinations on the project until the Environmental Impact Report is completed for the project,” he said.
Annexation of the property, which should be approved by the council over the next few months, will benefit all parties involved, according to Hom. “Annexation is simply accepting land-use authority. It is important to establish that now the city of Sunnyvale has land-use authority over the property rather than Santa Clara County,” he said.
Although the Council’s approval of the initiation of the annexation of Butcher’s Corner doesn’t allow the council to judge the actual development application itself, the July 28th meeting was an important step in the larger process. “The project has been in the pipeline a long time and I think there is anxiety from the council and so [approval of the initiation of the annexation] is a way that [the council] can gently ask the staff to please assist getting the traffic impacts report to them so that they can legally judge the merits of the project,” Vidovich said.
The annexation process and the developer’s receipt of the Environmental Impact Report both have to be completed before the council can fully address their concerns about the project and the developer can amend their project proposal in response to those worries.
“The applicant has not yet revised the [project] plans to respond to those concerns about building heights and massing, front setback and tree removal, but they may choose to do so in the future as part of the final project application. Meanwhile, we are basing the EIR on the plans as they currently stand,” Hom said.
Any decisions by the city council about the development application—whether an approval or rejection of the proposed redevelopment—would occur only after the EIR has been certified, which is expected to be completed in March 2016, and after the entire annexation process for Butcher’s Corner is completed.
Rendering courtesy of the Dahlin Group