By Robert Haugh
We hear complaints about how long things take to get done in Santa Clara when it comes to development. We know that developers are impatient because time is money. So we don’t think it’s a big deal to hear complaints in most cases.
But we’ve heard some unusual complaints recently from neighbors of a development who think the city is taking too long.
We’re talking about the shopping center at 3402 El Camino Real between Flora Vista and Pomeroy. A fire destroyed it on May 25, 2016. About a dozen stores were there including Kumar Jewelers, Seoul Rice Cake, Korean Hair Salon, My Style Boutique, Akira’s Sushi and Radhe Chaat.
Many of the stores were popular in the Asian community and the neighborhoods near El Camino. Some people think the city is dragging its feet in getting the shopping center rebuilt.
We checked to see who was contributing to the delay. Was it the developer? The Council? City staff?
The fire happened 21 months ago (May, 2016). Rancho Retail, owned by local developer John Vidovich, submitted completed plans to rebuild the center 15 months ago (December, 2016). So we don’t think that’s the delay.
Then in April, 2017, the City Council decided to establish an El Camino Specific Plan to better master plan the El Camino corridor. But at the council meeting, they exempted the pipeline projects, including this one. So the council is not responsible for the delay.
That leaves city staff. According to the information we’ve been able to put together, the Fire Department and Fire Chief Bill Kelly signed off on the project. But things are stuck with the Community Development Department and its Director Andrew Crabtree.
People are saying there’s been lots of reports and city staff meetings, but no progress getting the project in front of the Planning Commission. it was supposedly an El Camino “pipeline” project and had a green light from the council. And it’s been almost 2 years since the center burned down.
Some people say that because the shopping center was primarily Asian stores, it’s not getting the attention of city hall. We certainly hope that’s not the case.
But we do remember Crabtree’s last presentation to the city council. That was about a month ago, on the mega development proposed for the former Yahoo! site. Crabtree forgot to tell the council that the development would be 10.5 million square feet on only 46 acres. He also forgot to mention that it would have 6,000 housing units. And he didn’t say that the buildings would be 35-60 stories high.
Crabtree also said at that meeting that he and his department would have no problem processing the development while they approve the equally massive Related Companies’ City Place project. Really?
It’s hard to believe Crabtree. Can he and his department handle two major developments at the same time? Or other developments in the city? They seem to have trouble with a dozen stores that burned down almost two years ago on the El Camino.
Photos of the fire are available from Craig Allyn Rose Photography.