City Hall Needs Input About High Density Housing from Santa Clarans (Opinion)

By Howard Myers

At the October 24, 2017, city council meeting, the high-density SummerHill Senior Apartments were approved with little debate, primarily due to changes made by the developer.

At the meeting, we heard from some proponents of high density. They were mostly from out of town. The only thing they didn’t like about this high-density development was that there were not enough units. No matter what the question was, the answer was more density. If your only tool is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.

One of the out of towners was a representative from YIMBY, which is an acronym for “Yes, In My Backyard.”

Another brought some ideas back from Amsterdam and recommends we consider increasing the use of bikes, decreasing the use of cars and have more high density everywhere. For me, it would be more persuasive if he lived in Santa Clara, or at least in an apartment.

Even if we tried, we couldn’t make Santa Clara like San Francisco, New York or Amsterdam. And we shouldn’t try. But we can make changes to allow Santa Clara to grow in an organized, smart way, as suggested by Santa Clara 4 Smart Growth.

On the subject of smart growth, I am concerned about what is happening — or not happening — with the El Camino Real (ECR) Specific Plan and what community input is being used.

1. There was a walking tour of El Camino organized by an outside agency that promotes high density. Is there any input from this tour? Who sees it and how is it used?
2. Santa Clara had a booth at our well-attended Art & Wine festival asking everyone for input on what El Camino should look like. There was no way to control for residency, so the input is meaningless in regards to what residents would like.

Basically, I am not aware of any meaningful public input regarding the ECR Specific Plan.

If it is not moving forward, why not?

If it is moving forward, what input is being used?

And how can those of us that will be the most significantly affected by this plan, provide input?

If this plan is moving forward without valid community input, this would violate the promise of transparency.

Those of us supporting Santa Clara 4 Smart Growth are very interested in this.

Howard Myers, a longtime Santa Claran read a version of this statement during public presentations at Tuesday’s Council meeting.  He prepared this condensed version for Santa Clara News Online.


  1. “Kirk Vartan” – I didn’t cherry pick. I put a link to your posting, and pointed out some names of faces. People can see for themselves what you choose to post on your FB feed.

    I did find it interesting that you chose not to tag the developer and lobbyist, even though developer-lobbyist Erik Schoennauer is a Facebook friend of yours.

    And why do you choose to post such things to your Facebook feed and make it public for the entire world to see? Is it because you are being transparent, or because you are sending messages to public officials and orgs about how important you are? I’ve got to hand it to you – you are quite the PR machine.

    Everyday folks in my neighborhood (across the border in Santa Clara) often ask me why you promote developer’s interests, and I just tell them to look at your facebook page. Just don’t be surprised when people say what they say.

    Developers did build a lot of what we live in today – but it does not mean we, as residents, need to promote their interests. Here you go again – anyone that disagrees with your view of the world, you call “obstructionist”.

    Re: your San Jose Councilmember Chappie Jones, do you really think he cares about residents because he took a few of you out for dinner? I sure hope the taxpayers of San Jose didn’t pick up the tab. Did you know that San Jose Chamber of Commerce PAC spent $150K on Jones’ last election? That’s pretty big money, even by San Jose standards. Who do you think he answers to, business interests, or residents? Based on how the Stevens Creek Urban Village plans turned out, I think we know the answer. And you enabled it as chair of the advisory group.

    • “Santa Clara resident” these forum are really poorly formed for a specific dialog. If you have something to say about the way the process was run, did you join us at the meeting? If so, how many? We met like 14 times, maybe 15, I don’t recall. I wish there was more public participation in the process, but the seats in the audience were mostly empty. I posted *every* meeting on Nextdoor, my facebook page, and email lists. I tried to get people to participate.
      It seems like you feel I defined the process, selected the members, selected the consultant, and directed staff resources. I only wish that were the case. I have been very vocal about what I believed the process should be/should have been. And when it was clear that there was a specific scope to what the goals of the process were (capacity planning, identification of areas, and street scape), I could either help navigate that or sit on the sidelines and complain. I chose to engage.
      I challenge all readers here, what do you want to do? What process do you want to see and participate in? Change will happen whether or not we want it. We all grow old and die, whether or not we want to. Our area needs to evolve. How successful that is depends substantially on how we engage each other. Isolating each other and vilifying the development community is a strategy, but it has short terms benefits (nothing immediately changes in the area) and long term consequences (the lack of change continues to crush us all). What are we losing out on by not embracing some of the change? By deciding to do nothing or deny all change, we are making a choice not to look at potential future benefits.
      Again, happy to engage in conversation. Maybe we can hold our own kind of town hall. Not city driven, community driven. Anyone interested in that kind of dialog?

    • “Kirk Vartan” – you already know that (1) local residents did attend the meetings. I did as well. I strongly believe that the number of meetings one attends should not determine the validity of one’s input, which is what your comment is suggesting, (2) hundreds of people answered the consultant survey which clearly said the community was opposed to the 150 ft building heights you favored, out of sync with Santa Clara’s side of Stevens Creek Blvd – well, actually, you favored no building height limits but the arbitrary horse trading resulted in those heights, (3) Santa Clara councilmembers met with SJ councilmembers to express concerns and also attended the planning commission meeting but stated afterwards that they really didn’t think SJ was willing to take any input, (4) Santa Clara staff sent letters expressing concerns as well – too many to list on this forum, and (5) over 1000 people have signed an on-line petition opposing the out of scale proposals and asking for transit improvements first, and (6) congressional representatives Khanna and Eshoo also sent letters encouraging cooperation. As stated by many, we are not opposed to reasonable development – just proposals that are out of scale and proportion for the area. Yet you continue to label people that don’t agree with you as “obstructionist.”

      That’s a lot of input. If you didn’t think it was sufficient input (because the seats were empty at your meetings), then why did you as chairman not oppose the SJ city council vote to approve the plans? Why did you label area residents as “NIMBY’s” in communication with city staffers (do you remember that?)?

      I see you are now heading an SFYimby-aligned group called CatalyzeSV. SFYimby supports CaRLA – a group that is actively suing cities for decisions which don’t align with developer proposals, things that you promote at city council meetings like higher density and higher building heights. Santa Clara residents and elected officials should be wary of your alliances. Will CatalyzeSV be partnering with CaRLA to bring lawsuits to Santa Clara? Maybe you should register as a lobbyist.

      As far as change, I have no problem with reasonable change, as I believe most people in Santa Clara would agree. And I’m younger than you, believe it or not, so I expect to see a lot more of it. For me, Mr. Myer’s opinion piece makes a lot of good points, and I agree with him 100%.

    • It’s really too bad we can’t actually talk, and not have serial dialog. Email is terrible (and blogs are worse) to have a dialog or conversation.

      I’m glad you know me, what I do, what I have done, but how does that help communication; I have no idea who you are. I suggest a couple months ago that we should have a town-hall type dialog. I’ll happily dedicate a Winchester NAC (WNAC) meeting. WNAC boundaries include parts of Santa Clara, San Jose, and Campbell. You interested in sitting down and actually planning?

      Additionally, I’d love to expand the discussion on what statements made by you mean:

      “we are not opposed to reasonable development”
      “out of scale and proportion for the area”
      “I have no problem with reasonable change”

      Do you really feel this is my motive?
      “Will CatalyzeSV be partnering with CaRLA to bring lawsuits to Santa Clara?”

      I’d like to challenge you to find any time I called someone a NIMBY:
      “Why did you label area residents as “NIMBY’s” in communication with city staffers (do you remember that?)?”

      So whaddya say? Can we have public, live dialog? You know how to contact me; I can’t contact you. Ball’s in your court.

    • Kirk, I cited many examples where we showed up to your meetings or provided input in other forms before.

      At a May 11, 2017 urban village meeting, there were at least 50 people in the room wanting the plans to be scaled back to be more in-sync with Santa Clara’s side of Stevens Creek Blvd.

      You said “I’d like to challenge you to find any time I called someone a NIMBY”. I waited a few days to see if you would admit to what you said after that May 11 urban village meeting to San Jose staff, and say “oh yeah, I DO remember now calling Santa Clara residents NIMBYs”. All it would have taken was a search of your sent box.

      You characterized the meetings as “a conduit for NIMBYs to complain” to CM Chappie Jones’ Policy Director, Christina Pressman. That’s a direct quote from an email you sent May 18, 2017 ( Were you genuinely seeking input from Santa Clara residents during those meetings, or just giving an excuse for SJ council and developers to say that “outreach” had been conducted to Santa Clarans?

      As far as whether or not I really feel if “Catalyze SV be partnering with CaRLA to bring lawsuits to Santa Clara.” You have not denied or disavowed Catalyze SV’s association with the YIMBY political party, and the YIMBY’s like Laura Foote Clark have said they “love suing” cities. Surely you’re aware of that since they wear that as a badge of honor. I guess time will tell.

    • “Santa Clara resident” I don’t know what to say. Bravo. You got me. You found a single time I used the term “nimby” to describe the overall failure in the process I was a part of. A total of four people (including me) were on that email. But, you should also describe the context. It was a direct letter to the council office that created the Advisory Group process. Also worth noting, it was *after* the 2+ years of community engagement in this process. It was also after the last meeting where many Cupertino and other residents showed up (about 40 people) to make some kind of statement at the meeting. The crowd was not there to be productive, it was there to disrupt.

      I did not use the term as political name calling or trying to vilify anyone, as many do. I am very sensitive to the term as I was once branded a NIMBY by the Mercury News. Yup, consider that ironic if you like. So, whether you think I am out for myself or to bring down the suburbs or against your city or just trying to encourage solutions to today’s problems, I do what I do and I am transparent on how I am doing it. I have been actively engaged on both sides of the topics. I don’t hide from anything or anyone in a discussion.

      As I continue to suggest, this like of back-and-forth is not very productive. If that is the only format that you or others are comfortable with, so be it. I’m just suggesting this is becoming a forum for “gotchas” or “see…”, rather than a way to have meaningful dialog that moves us together.

  2. Kirk – I think it is understandable that people view you as pro-developer (I won’t use the s-word). It seems like you enjoy hanging out with and promoting your pro-developer friends, like Erik Schoennauer (San Jose developer lobbyist), Tom deRegt (founder of Fortbay Development), and Steve Kelly (Santa Clara planning commissioner). Why else would you post about it on your Facebook page four days ago? Looks like you enjoyed your time with them.

    • “Santa Clara Resident”..since you are poking around my Facebook page, it would be nice if you shared the *whole* story. It’s like you cherry picked pieces of that picture to suit your narrative.
      What would have been a bit more transparent would be to include the fact that I was in attendance with those folks, Councilmember Chappie Jones, and about 30 other members in the community because CM Jones was hosting an appreciation dinner for the two groups of people (WAG and SCAG) that spent over two years working with city staff, other cities, and community members on the Tri-Village Urban Village plans.
      See…you made it sound life I was having drinks with just the three of them. Let’s be more honest with information so people can draw their own conclusions.
      If we think developers are the enemy or they should not be spoken to, that is a problem. Just remember, developers built everything we live in today. I believe we need to hold them accountable to higher standards, but we need to hold ourselves accountable to not being obstructionists.

  3. Kirk, I would have loved to have brought it up at the meeting but I had to go by the apartment to see how romantic the story really was. Believe me if I see them again speaking about the Pierce Apartments I will definitely chime in.

    This is what I mean about being vigilant. Since no one vets these folks, these presenters need to be checked. I enjoyed the place making example of the Jewish Community Home on Charleston and San Antonio.

  4. “In fact, most of the people that work for the City of Santa Clara don’t even live in Santa Clara. Ironic.” What’s so ironic about that? The job boom started in Sunnyvale back in the 60’s, so I know a lot of people who work in Sunnyvale and live in Santa Clara. When Santa Clara got full, San Jose started building out. Until the late 60’s, most of South San Jose was just wilderness and farmlands. Now it’s all housing. I’d say the majority of people do not live where they work. Nothing ironic about it, just the history of silicon valley.

    The idea of ignoring boundaries is a fallacy. Ignoring boundaries means that bordering cities can totally screw up the “other side of the street”. I do agree that cities should be working together, but you have to respect the people who live in those cities. Urban sprawl is like ripples on the water. It ripples out and out, and that’s the natural progression. When it starts to go too far out, the solution is not to create more jobs where the ripples started and switch into high-density mode. The people in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino… if we wanted to live in stacked housing, we’d move to San Francisco, or New York, or how about Shenzhen, China (about 90% of the population there live in high rise buildings). For the residents here, that’s just not our vision of the future of our city. Howard trying to push for smart growth is not what’s dividing the city. The city is being divided between residents who love their city, and people just moving in to work at Apple or Google or Amazon and don’t give a rat’s ass about the city in which they live, they just want a bed to sleep on so they can go earn big money for high tech.

    The solution is two-fold: 1) Stop creating all the jobs in the middle, and start setting up shops further out, follow the ripples. 2) Stop building housing haphazardly without proper infrastructure planning, raping every nook and cranny that we can find; build the HDH closer to the fringe areas, and closer to real mass transit (like CalTrains). The bus system is dead, and has been dead awhile. Those buses you see once in awhile are ghost buses. There is no real mass transit on ECR, except at the CalTrain station near SCU. Sadly, the Light Rail has never really done well here, mainly because it doesn’t really go anywhere people want to go. How about revitalizing the Light Rail by building HDH by Light Rail stations, and putting more business near light rail, create a Light Rail ecosystem, so to speak. The ECR needs a facelift, but HDH is not the facelift it needs, and not the facelift that Santa Clara residents want.

  5. Howard,

    OK…have I heard you say that we don’t need more housing might not have been a quote, but when you object to building housing in busy transit corridors, then you tell me what you are saying.

    I looked at your site…I saw you present it at council. You are objecting to a few projects and praise one. So what is the solution? I don’t see one on the site. If Rivermark is the solution, then we should find 30-40 acres, level it, and build a community. I know that is not what you are trying to say, is it? Would really like to understand what you mean by “smart growth.”

    “We are concerned about quality of life. Everyones”

    OK…I’ll bite.
    – How are you concerned about people that do not own a home in Santa Clara, but work to serve its citizens?
    – How are you concerned about service workers?
    – How are you concerned about the future residents?
    – How are you concerned about the aging population?

    • Kirk, you complain about tit for tat and say this isn’t a real conversation sitting behind a keyboard, but then why did you chime in?

      You were not mentioned by name and I doubt if a dozen people that read this knew who I meant unless they are already actively involved. But you think the world of yourself, and who doesn’t, so you had to jump in. Don’t complain about getting dirty if you want to wrestle in the mud.

      No, I don’t care to answer a bunch of questions for you. But I will say I hope the development on Coleman gets plenty of density. That is smart growth, doesn’t sit in the middle of a residential area like the Mariani proposal, and is actually near transit.

      Yes, Kirk, the freeway is transit.

  6. Kirk, The place making presentation included The Pierce Apartments. If you want to go for a walk in the neighborhood I suggest a concealed carry permit

    I suggested working on transit and planning before building thousands of more apartments.
    Unfortunately VTA doesn’t understand the working person and their need to get to and from work. Since VTA has squandered all of the areas tax dollars on antiquated busses. The government typically doesn’t make great business deals and certainly are never cost effective.

    I appreciate your suggestion to build out of this mess, I believe it won’t work.

    • I don’t know what Pierce Apartment. But to make a blanket statement about placemaking because of one example that you have seen doesn’t seem fair. Do you even know if placemaking principles were followed? How was it executed? What was the process? Who led the effort? Way too many questions to say “BS” to something that many believe is the way out of the frustrations we all see in the area.

    • What’s frustrating is I sat through a place making presentation at council chambers and heard a romantic story about this project that was a total success. How they worked closely with the neighbors and everyone in the neighborhood has coffee together. After talking to a couple neighbors and a sincere desire to leave the hood, I call bullshit on the place making story.

      Kurt, Maybe you need to vet your shills.

    • Richard,

      Just so we are clear, you are talking about the Pierce in San Jose by 280, right? I don’t have shills. You want call BS on something, you should do so in a discussion. Sitting behind a keyboard and spewing your frustration is pointless. Is there a purpose to it? Do you just want to vent at me? Is your point that placemaking is crap?

      And let’s just be clear about one thing here: most of the existing development is unimaginative and not community focused. Judging the future on the past here is a mistake. You can’t build by looking in the rearview mirror. This is the Center of What’s Possible, not the Center of What Can’t Be Done…let’s start acting like we want to create excellence in the city.

  7. Kirk, Sorry you can’t find an apartment you like as we do have thousands of to choose from and thousands more on the way. There’s always San Francisco!

    I never said you weren’t a hard-working compassionate guy, from a person that has lived here his whole life, you’re trying to make it something it doesn’t need to for the sake of Transit and commute. Parking motorhomes on El Camino for homeless folks and building high-density skyscrapers is not the solution, you’re still going to have I traffic and Transit issues. The most ridership most of our buses get, is at the evening when the homeless people need a place to sleep. I also call bullshit on some of your place making stories. I went and checked out a development that some of your buddies presented on 1st Street and Reed in San Jose. People don’t get together at the coffee shop, because there is no coffee shop. They built high-density apartments in a neighborhood that used to have drive-by shootings and a very aggressive Latino bar. It didn’t seem very romantic to me.

    Sorry if you don’t agree with my opinion, I definitely don’t agree with yours. Building our way out of this is a one way trip that I don’t want to take.

    This is why all the residents need to stay vigilant and informed.

    • Richard,

      I don’t know about the development on Reed and 1st. I have not spoken about it. I don’t know why you are hating on placemaking. Placemaking is focused on community and creating places that the community can enjoy and integrate with.

      It’s unfortunate that you don’t want to try to contribute to the solution. Just staying “vigilant” means what? No change? Sorry, not an option. Change is always happening. It is unknown and scary. But if communities can come together and be willing to explore the options without an emotional reaction, who know what can be accomplished.

      I don’t think it is fair to say, “you’re trying to make it something it doesn’t need to for the sake of Transit and commute.” I’m not trying to do anything but try to push us all to focus on solutions and not simply rejecting. I get that you don’t want tall buildings in your neighborhood. But saying no to projects without a clear path to a successful future is not a solution.

      And if we think our current conditions are acceptable, then that is a totally different issue.

  8. Mr. Vartan,

    Building higher density is a simplistic and not very effective answer to our problems.

    First, we must see the problem. High housing cost and traffic is created by employers who hire employees from outside the area. Nothing wrong with that. They need talent.

    But their employment growth creates the problem. So the sensible thing to do would be tie the source of the problem to the solution via an employment tax. Other major cities do this. But thanks to the Silicon Valley Leadership Group who is the lobbying organization for major employers, we don’t. Rather, they have us focused on sales tax that is regressive. So all people, including poor people, who are not responsible for causing the problem are burdened with paying for it. Major employers are getting off easy.

    Second, cities who waive fees for developers and employers are making the problem worse. San Jose is the biggest offender because they are desperate for jobs and businesses. So they let developers and companies skate on fees. That makes traffic worse and pushes it into other cities. Santa Clara is smart to challenge San Jose and should sue them because San Jose doesn’t really care about other cities. If regional and state agencies, like MTC, won’t force San Jose to do its duty, than Santa Clara must use the legal system. The Task Force idea will result in a lot of talk and the drinking of coffee and no action without a lawsuit or some other enforcement mechanism.

    Third, stop thinking that VTA or CalTrans is helping. They make things worse. They are slow and costly. They have to fund big salaries and pensions and by some estimates double or triple the cost of transportation projects and timelines. If there’s a crisis — and there is — we need emergency measure to have private sector build solutions and fast.

    Finally, the people who say just build more affordable housing are delusional and should be politely asked to shut up. The private sector builds housing and the market determines price. Affordable can be mandated but not enough of it can or will be built to make a difference. Do the math and you’ll see that if you double the production of housing, you will only slightly, and that’s a maybe, bring down housing costs. If high paid workers are moving here, they will drive up the price of housing because it’s a competitive marketplace pitting buyer against buyer.

    We can help some small portion of our population with affordable housing and there’s nothing wrong with doing that. But it’s charity. It’s not a solution.

    • MTC Watch (I like that name):

      So, for the most part, I think we are in agreement. Putting the “high density” comment aside for a moment, I agree with your first three points. The problem *is* caused by the fact that this area is doing very well and it demands people. Every city in the region is to blame for that, including Santa Clara. But the fact that Santa Clara has a jobs/housing ration of 2.8 to 1 is a problem. San Jose has tons of housing. In fact, most of the people that work for the City of Santa Clara don’t even live in Santa Clara. Ironic.

      All that being said, the jobs are here and growing. The housing shortage is not get resolved. People with money will always find a place to live, but people without money do not have options. So, if there are more options for people with money, then at least there is an option for them. But it is also fair to say that if we don’t have options, then they cannot live anywhere else.

      San Jose should not give anything away and I have been very vocal about that, especially park fees. But their jobs/housing ratio is .89 to 1. It is the only large city in the country (out of the top 20) that shrinks in population during the day. That is a problem. If the employers house the workers they employ in the cities they are in, this would not be a problem.

      VTA is a wreck…I agree. They are trying, but it is too big a machine (in my opinion) to quickly address the changing needs of the area. We need to embrace the private sector to come in and make solutions for us.

      I don’t agree that affordable housing is charity. I just heard Gil Penalosa speak in San Jose yesterday and he states that cities are judged by how they treat their most vulnerable…their poor and aging and children. Affordable housing is just one element. There is no one solution and I don’t believe I ever said there was.

      Now back to the high density discussion. I am not saying that high density housing is the answer to our problems. What I am saying is it is a necessary part of the solution. Since we are not going to take down entire neighborhoods and start from scratch, we need to create pockets of dense communities. They don’t all have to be 10-20 stories, but some should. Others can be 6-7 stories that create enough density to allow for services to succeed. I’m not sure everyone is on the same page here, but without enough density (people density), services will never materialize or will fail. Transit options will not be justified. Services (like restaurants and experience locations that everyone loves to go to) will not exist or will fail.

      So, I think we are very much aligned with the issues. I think we need to further define them so they are clear and then focus on how to solve them…regionally. And that means working with neighboring cities like San Jose. I don’t care if the politicians don’t get along….it’s not about them. It is about the community working together to show we can come together….and drag the elected officials with us.

      It’s not easy, but who said it was easy. If it was easy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

    • Kirk, I agree with you that affordable housing, as it is being discussed, is not charity.

      It is welfare.

      Charity is something freely given by someone to help another.

      Affordable housing, forced on a developer, is paid for by those that pay market rate. It just jacks up the market rate.

      Affordable housing sponsored by the gov’t is taking from taxpayers and giving to others.

      Or as Karl Marx said “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs”

      So yes, we agree. Affordable housing is not charity.

    • Mr. TC, you always make so much sense when you contribute. Thanks for taking the time to do so.

      People that calculate that building more high density housing will lower the cost use a static model, as if nothing will change until at the end of all the building you magically have lower cost housing due to the volume. But if building more caused the rent to go down builders will quit building because their profits would go down as well so the building would slow down.

      And trying to force people out of their cars by making them expensive, inconvenient or illegal without a good solution is a bad move. People didn’t get off their horses due to laws or taxes, it was because something better came along. In our case, driver less shuttles are on the horizon, getting closer every day. These are more likely to get me out of my car than an antique bus ever will.

      Yes, sales tax is essentially a poor tax but many don’t see it. (topic for another time, eh?)

  9. Richard and Howard,

    Let’s cut to the chase here. You feel I am an outsider because I don’t live in Santa Clara.

    Well, I live about 300 feet from the border. I have been generating money for Santa Clara for over 11 years with our pizza shop in Santa Clara and have founded the first brick-and-mortar worker-owned cooperative in the south bay right here in Santa Clara. I attend many Santa Clara Council meetings and am always including Santa Clara in regional discussions I have. In fact, I usually lead with Santa Clara being the primary focus as I believe they are the ones to lead our region. I try to contribute respectfully to discussions of the region and how Santa Clara can be a leader in these areas.

    I lead the Winchester NAC which has Santa Clara as part of its make-up. I co-founded a group that is focused on creating better community engagement and supporting/enhancing projects that included all of Santa Clara as a focus area (along with west San Jose). And even my Nextdoor neighborhood is made up of mostly Santa Clara residents.

    Howard, if we (as a community) continue to use city boundaries to define our discussions, I feel we will continue to exacerbate the problems we have now. You speak about me not living in an apartment? Really? I grew up on the 10th floor. Do you see a lot of choices for quality apartment living? No. Apartment living is often looked at as “second class” or temporary living until you find a house. Not so. I not suggesting apartment living is for everyone, just like I am not saying stand alone house living isn’t for everyone. But we should provide choices and options.

    And as a point of reference, the SummerHill project is not a high density project. Sure, it is higher density than the house in the area, but it is four stories. The conversations we are having are divisive and not inclusive. It’s easy to trash a project, but where are the solutions?

    You want to disagree with Don Weden’s comments, fine…but do so with facts. It is widely documented by many that we will have more people over age 65 in 15 years than ever before…globally. That to me is a fact. People are living longer…also a fact. We are not “subtracting” people at the rate we used to, plus we are adding more people to the area. So arguing about whether or not our are is growing does not make sense to me. We are growing (even if we stop accepting new residents to the area). We should be talking about how our cities are aging and what we are doing about that. But we aren’t. We are just talking about the current problems of traffic, parking, and building heights.

    As I have said many times before, no matter what you do here or what you build, you will never approach the kind of density in NY. It’s easy to pick on NY and say you don’t want it, but it is kind of a red herring argument. It’s like saying we don’t want to live on the ocean floor. Well, you can’t. Same applies here. You can’t create NY here, so why are we talking about it. What we can do is talk about creating dense area in the region (City Place is a good example as is Valley Fair/Santana Row), areas that people go to and spend time in. How mobility and circulation works is critical. Depending solely on VTA or any public mass-transit solution is not the answer…we all know that. We also need to focus on how to keep our seniors active, engaged, and independent as long as possible, allowing for independence without feeling the need to own and operate a car.

    To me, this is what we should be talking about…solutions to the problems we will be facing, not today’s issues. Nothing we do today will fix the traffic issues we have now…NOTHING. There is no short term fix here. There is a long term fix, but that requires discussion on how to grow. Rather than trying to single out members of the community that are engaged, why not try to have a conversation about the future.

    • Kirk,

      You make it sound like you live in a single family home in San Jose because you couldn’t find an apartment in Santa Clara. That seems unlikely.

      The fact you are a successful business owner tells me you are a hard worker but we know that from the activities you engage in.

      I do complain that you should engage in these in your city, not ours. Yes,i do believe in boundaries and borders. Are you active in SC because it is easier to be noticed than in a larger city?

      Promoting high density in the right area makes sense to me and I would not push back so much if that was what you do.

      Your comments on what was called a community outreach for Mariani shows that you aren’t able or interested in differentiating between where high density makes sense and where it doesn’t. The Mariani project is already proposed to be 96 units/acre and dumping traffic directly onto neighborhood streets. What was your suggestion? More units. Step away from the hammer, Kirk,that isn’t a nail.

      Kirk, I am sure you understand the term ‘operational definition’. So when we talk about high density whose definition are we using? Are we talking about Kirk’s definition or Santa Clara’s definition according to our general plan? Obviously you are using your own definition to suit your argument. It is high density according to our general plan

      It is nice that you want seniors to be active, too bad we don’t always agree with you.

    • Howard,

      Going back and forth is not a conversation. Tit-for-tat is not productive.

      To simply lob into the conversation a meeting that I was invited to as some kind of condemnation is crazy. Is El Camino and San Tomas a good place for higher density? You bet it is. I know you are directly behind it and you are concerned that it is going to negatively impact your community. How about trying to figure out how to build a great project that will allow for more people to live in the community and also allow for benefits to the existing neighborhood? What I have seen a lot of is a lot of “this is too much” and “we don’t need more housing” coming from you. If you are supportive of higher densities in certain area, why don’t you tell us where those places are.

      And if you believe the region can be successful by only looking at your city boundaries, sorry, that is not only wishful thinking, it is impossible. You tell me how a business in Sunnyvale that employs people from Santa Clara or San Jose does not impact Santa Clara. Maybe in the old days when everything was orchards and we did not have this intense tech and corporate set of communities, it made sense. There was no real need for cities to work together. The value that your house has is directly proportional to the success of the area. So, if you were interested in removing 50% of the equity in your home so that better mobility solutions could be cerated or housing could be built somewhere else and a transit system could move people, that might work. But do you believe it is reasonable or equitable for the City or region as a whole to simply have home owners capitalize on the lack of housing and then prevent new housing from coming online?

      Businesses like mine and other small shops will not survive. You are already seeing this in the area. The very things that make your vibrant community will disappear. Then what will you have? You will have homes with nothing around them..maybe corporate chains like Mc Donalds, Applebees, or Little Caesars. But the fabric of mom-and-pop shops will continue to erode.

      I am spelling out a reality that you may or may not see by the actions you are suggesting. And by simply dismissing me as “not a resident” is…disappointing. Rallying people to oppose everything is not a solution. By choosing not to do something, you are choosing something else. While it may seem good now, or even for the next few years, it will be the undoing of the future. The future is as important as the present, if not more. Without a plan, you get what you get. And how do you like what you are getting now? This is a direct result of not planning, no neighborhood support for change, and fear of what change looks like. The suburb you moved into 30-40 years ago doesn’t exist anymore. That may sound harsh, but it is true. Look at the traffic. Look at the cost of living. It’s great you have house because you bought it when it was 200K or less (I know some people have houses that they paid $15,000 for), but whatever it is, $1.x million is not something most people can afford today. And rents of $2500 for a 1BR….really? That is a minimum of $100K/yr job. How many restaurant workers do you think make that? I’ll help out: ZERO. So, please help me understand what your solution to this dilemma is. Live farther away? And we wonder where traffic and congestion comes from?

      This is a regional problem Howard, not some other city’s problem. We are a county and we need to start acting like it. This suing each other because you don’t like the realties of the area we all created over the past 20+ years has got to end. If we spent that money on solving the problems and applying the incredible brain power right in our back yard, I’m pretty sure we could do things we would all be proud of.


    • Kirk,
      Saying things that aren’t true doesn’t make them true.
      I have NEVER said we don’t need more housing. If you find time or interest check out and see what we think smart growth is in Santa Clara.
      And it isn’t more is better no matter where.
      And this BS about property values is just that. We are concerned about quality of life.

  10. Nice piece Howard!

    Between the Outsiders and the blue chamber of commerce and their members on the council we need to be vigilant.

    Between the developers wanting to make millions of dollars in Santa Clara and the other people that maybe just want to make it like their Hometown New York City, they all have agendas of their own. Why can’t they go pick on other cities like Campbell or Cupertino. I believe San Jose hasn’t drank the Don Wheaton and Kool-Aid and perhaps Kirk doesn’t have as much juice there. Not everyone wants to live in an Urban Village.

    I believe this is for the residence of Santa Clara to decide. If we sell it all to Developers there’s no turning back. I personally don’t believe we can build our way out of this. I believe we need infrastructure such as a functioning Transit System, roadways and all the rest. Our bus system is a joke watching the giant empty buses go by the don’t really meet the needs of the people.

    We need a plan before we continue to keep building.

  11. In the last Planning Commission meeting Suds Jain commented on the ECR specific plan. He said the consultants are working on it and in his experience the public doesn’t get a chance to provide any input until the plan is pretty much set.

    At about 23 minutes the discussion and he doesn’t seem nearly as upset saying it as I am hearing it.

    That means consultants are designing our ECR specific plan, and what are their objectives???

    Not Good.

  12. Robert, thanks for helping to spread the word about what is happening in Santa Clara. I suggest those that disagree with your views and how you handle your blog submit a guest opinion.

    I maintain that YIMBY means Yes In Your Back Yard, Like It Or Not! The closest chapter I could find was San Francisco.

    • Well, Catalyze SV (co-founded by Kirk Vartan) considers itself a YIMBY (or YIYBY) group. So yes, they attend every Santa Clara meeting.

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