Los Gatos Weekly Times
Los Gatos staff breaks down proposed design requirements for developers
Standards come in response to state housing legislation streamlining development
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.