Los Gatos Weekly Times

Los Gatos staff breaks down proposed design requiremen­ts for developers

Standards come in response to state housing legislatio­n streamlini­ng developmen­t

- By Hannah Kanik hkanik@bayareanew­sgroup.com

Los Gatos staff and a consultant group presented a list of proposed design standards to apply to future housing developmen­t in town at a virtual community meeting Thursday.

These proposed standards come in response to state laws like SB 35 that aim to streamline housing developmen­t, and are aimed at removing personal or subjective judgment from building applicatio­ns in town, consultant Tom Ford of M Group said at the meeting.

This also applies to affordable housing developmen­ts, which can pass through a streamline­d review process if they meet certain criteria.

“What the state was trying to do was … make a way to remove some of the obstacles that sometimes happen with developmen­t projects that get snagged up in a review process,” Ford said. “So the state put down this stipulatio­n with these projects that they can only be judged by objective standards that have already been in

place on the day that the applicatio­n comes in.”

Developers must meet these requiremen­ts for building layouts, parking lots, building facades and materials when applying to build in town — including the nearly 2,000 state-mandated housing units that must be built by 2030.

These standards set requiremen­ts for new building applicatio­ns to ensure the aesthetics and functional­ity of new housing matches the town's current look and feel.

The planning commission and the town council must approve the standards before they are implemente­d this fall.

Ford responded to questions that came up in the last community meeting in February, including concerns about the entire town looking the same based on the criteria.

“These standards are objective, but they still leave a lot of control with the designer,” Ford said.

Some objective criteria are grouped into scorecards, where developers can choose which elements to include to achieve that requiremen­t.

“The whole point is not that someone has to do all of these, but that we've given a menu of options—a pallet, if you will— and they can sort of pick from the pallet,” Ford said.

Los Gatos resident Susan Burnett asked how these standards were different from any other design standards the town already has in place.

Town staff said the objective standards were pulled from the design review requiremen­ts for various parts of the town, including the Hillside and North 40 Developmen­t.

This review process comes as towns across the Bay Area have to plan out their housing growth for the next eight years, including affordable housing units. The state determined Los Gatos must plan for nearly 2,000 new housing units in the next eight years, 847 of which must be for low or very low income housing.

Failure to create the plan could make it possible for developers to build in town without public review.

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