Housing element ‘biggest challenge’ Saratoga faced, says Mayor Walia

Dozens of community members voiced their opposition to Saratoga’s plans for future housing developments in a special virtual meeting Monday evening.

More than 550 residents sat in a seven-hour meeting where Saratoga City Council reviewed a list of nine potential sites to meet their state-mandated housing element requirement. More than 130 people expressed concern over this High concentration of proposed development Area along Saratoga and Cox Avenues and north of Highway 85. About 600 potential units have been allocated along Saratoga Avenue.

Saratoga resident Gail Ducote submitted a written public comment on January 3, saying she was concerned that potential development along Saratoga Avenue would unfairly affect the Saratoga Woods neighborhood.

“This is a neighborhood of families that is already going to be affected by the creation of a Costco and El Paseo housing development,” Ducote wrote. “Please consider the impact of the increase[d] Traffic, the traffic through our neighborhoods, and the negative impact on safety and crime in our neighborhoods along Saratoga Avenue.

Gail’s husband Robert Ducote commented on the “proportional housing distribution” proposed in the plan during the meeting on Monday.

“The area of ​​the whole city north of Highway 85 is 14% of the total area of ​​the city, yet the city council is already proposing 70% for the construction of new housing units required in the affected area,” he said. .

The council is set to finalize the list of potential housing sites in its January 19 meeting. Before submitting the housing element plan to the state, the city will conduct an environmental impact report to evaluate traffic impacts and strain on infrastructure.

California cities are required by state law to update their housing element every eight years to plan for future housing needs. The state calculated that Saratoga needs to plan to build more than 1,700 new housing units between 2023 and 2031.

“In my mind, this is the biggest challenge the city of Saratoga has faced since its formation,” Mayor Tina Walia told the meeting. “It’s going to fundamentally change Saratoga’s character, and it’s very upsetting for me personally.”

Housing elements should include plans for building housing units for all income levels identified in the Regional Housing Needs Allocation (RHNA). The state determined that Saratoga would have to be added. 454 very low-income housing units, 261 low-income housing units, 278 moderately priced units and 719 housing units above middle income.

Residents were disappointed with those numbers, calling the RHNA report “one-sided,” “unbalanced” and “unequal.” Some members of the city council agreed.

“Our community has finally woken up to the reality of what is happening,” said council member Rishi Kumar. “The feedback we’re getting is that we’re seeing an incredibly uneven approach to solving a very complex problem, and I’m not happy with that.”

Saratoga City Council Appealed its RHNA allocation last July, asking for a 50% reduction in 856 new housing units from 1,712. The Association of Bay Area Governments, or ABAG, received 28 such appeals from Bay Area jurisdictions, six from Santa Clara County; All were rejected.

Community development director Debbie Pedro said the city would be subject to “severe penalties” if Saratoga does not meet the housing element requirement.

“These include reducing our say over future development, which includes building permits, subdivisions and use permits. Other penalties include fines and loss of grant money for things like money to improve our roads,” Pedro said.

Pedro said Saratoga was assigned 439 units in the last housing element cycle seven years ago, and since then the city has issued just 154 permits.

“The city is fined for not issuing enough permits,” Pedro said. “As an example, the Quito development was able to be submitted without any design review by the developer, so the city had little control over that project.”

Some people who spoke at Monday’s meeting pushed Voting Initiative Proposed for November’s vote aims to give local governments more control over local land use. The city council passed a resolution last October in support of the proposed statewide initiative.

“That initiative will not be decided until November; The deadline for submitting the housing element is basically next month,” City Manager James Lindsay said at the meeting. “While we hope that the initiative will come to pass… it is still prudent to follow the path of achieving a certified housing element and go through this unfortunate exercise which is what we need to do.”