Santa Clara’s El Camino Real Station Area Plan Triples in Density With Karen Hardy’s Key Vote

By Robert Haugh

At Tuesday’s Santa Clara City Council meeting, the Santa Clara City Council tripled the density of the El Camino Real Station Area Plan.

Councilwoman Karen Hardy who represents neighborhoods near El Camino was a key vote on the issue.

Approximately one year ago, Hardy supported lower heights to respect the integrity of existing neighborhoods along the El Camino.

After lengthy discussion, Hardy voted with Vice Mayor Suds Jain and Councilmen Anthony Becker and Kevin Park to select “Alternative 2.”

They increased the height of buildings from from 2-4 stories to 4-6 stories. The number of housing units increased from approximately 1,500 to approximately 4,500.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor, Councilwoman Kathy Watanabe and Councilman Raj Chahal dissented.

The council previously approved the Plan in a unanimous vote a year ago. Nearly $1 million has been spent on studies already. 

Now, they’re asking for an extra $250,000.

Residents near El Camino have long complained about the push for super-high density proposals that create shadows and privacy issues for the existing neighborhoods. 

Santa Clara started studying the El Camino Real Specific Plan in 2017. And we’re still not done.

Karen Hardy
Councilwoman Karen Hardy

Editor’s Note: We changed the hi-rise photo. The photo was a stock image. We apologize the error.

17 comments

  1. Very dissapointed in Kevin Park. A few years ago myself and others thought he was “reasonable” in terms of density, but now I hear he wants to remove all height limits on ECR. I don’t live too close to ECR, but this is not a good sign for the rest of the city.

    As far as Kirk Vartan’s comment about looking at San Jose’s Urban “Villages”, yeah, that’s not turning out too well for them. Winchester Urban Village Plan isn’t being followed, Stevens Creek Urban Village Plan is a mess with heights up to 150 ft (15 stories) allowed after rezoning – both of which Kirk was involved in. It was a big handout to developers who owned the land, and saw their property values increase overnight due to upzoning. Gave away any chance of negotiating for any community benefits.

    • Dear Community,

      The City of San Jose and their Urban Villages are not working out very well at all.

      Alum Rock Urban Village does not Officially EXIST.

      THAT WAS A PLOY BY THE CITY TO MOVE DEVELOPERS IN WITHOUT CHECKS AND BALANCES.

      The City and Councilwoman Carrasco wanted and pushed to build a Charter School and Housing over Polluted Soil much like Love Canal and Fairchild.

      That is your next Santa Clara County School Board Member, by the way, she really cares about….

      The Urban Village Process is not working for the East Valley as far as –

      Zero Jobs for our Residents
      VTA goes no-where our Families need to
      Lack of Accountability
      Lack of Community Support
      Lack of Respect
      Lack of Communication

      These are just a few of the issues in the East Valley alone.

      Development and Owners owe the Community nothing is the pledge.

      4 UNPERMITTED PROJECTS STARTED IN THE EAST VALLEY AND ONLY THE COMMUNITY SUFFERES.

      This is my opinion.

      In Community Spirit,
      Danny Garza

  2. Council member Park had some good insights regarding strategic planning of density based on location and lot depth. Many lots on ECR that back up to existing neighborhoods are shallow. Maybe try areas closer to Central or 237 for market-rate housing instead of more data centers.

  3. A few observations:

    1. Where is the non- existent water supply going to come from to both build and supply these
    developments? Where is the energy going to come from?

    2. For the past few years, there has been a net outflow of residents and the regional population
    continues to decrease. The pandemic brought a paradigm of change to the job market which
    will continue into the future. So many people work remotely and continue to move out of this
    area. This trend is increasing and could lead to an over building of residential units. Wait.

    3. The collective weight of these buildings on the valley floor causes subsidence of our
    underground aquifers by compacting their structure. Our Valley floor has already sunk many
    feet and lost precious water storage capabilities.

    4. ECR in the 70’s had a bowling alley, movie theater, drive-in movies, hardware stores, and a
    great mixture of dining, gardening, family entertainment, and many more stores, many being
    mom and pop stores. This has disappeared leaving a huge void to our city that will be
    permanently severed by a thousand cuts as each new high density housing development is
    built. This city council has little time to study such issues as the 49ers are all consuming of
    theirs and staffs time and resources.

    In all likelihood this ECR “plan” which was approved this week by the city council would NEVER have been approved if the 49ers had not put $3,000,000 (Three million dollars) into electing our current city council. I believe the city council had good intents by passing the ECR plan, but perhaps others with better knowledge and independent thinking, who are able to get along with others, would have been on our city council, if not for the pariah 49ers.

    Following the sports side of the 49ers, the 49er organization is dysfunctional in every way, and to me it is no coincidence, that they bring that same mentality to dealing with Santa Clara. How much are they paying for a backup QB because they botched and mishandled that situation?

  4. Make sure if you see any of the 49er five at the art and wine festival, you let them know exactly how you feel about their representation of our city and your district

    • They cut public safety and my Northside substation.
      Not happy. Not happy one bit. I have plenty to say
      and have no qualms about saying how I feel!

  5. The ECR can be a great transit corridor but not if people don’t take bus. People still need cars to get places in a timely manner. Busses don’t always do that. SV is not NYC. Put density where it fits in. Put retail where it fits in.

  6. Providing an image of Dubai, is that really relevant to compare a 2-4 story increase in scope? Come on. That’s not being honest. Does *anyone* feel that Dubai’s downtown core is what was being suggested on Tuesday? Images like this are distractions and undermines the credibility of this site. You can say they want to increase the heights from 30 feet to 60 feet. You can say they want to increase density 3x. But to say a 4-6 story buildings is a downtown scale or imply clusters of 70-80 story buildings is not fair.

    I actually do think there should be discussions on increased density in certain areas (like San Jose’s concept of the Urban Village). The El Camino corridor is the #1 revenue generator for VTA, literally the highest, and has the most potential. This is where investing in development would be beneficial. I do think high density (like real density, not 6 stories) is warranted in certain, but definitely not all over. You need to have critical mass of people, infrastructure, and services to get real impact to an area. El Camino is long, and strategy locations around major arteries would encourage super-block type development, large-scale shared parking, and large walkable and vibrant pedestrian area. That is what cities need. Putting density everywhere is bad. But not embracing the notion of real density that supports the community benefits and goodies we all want is equally bad. Not going dense enough will get you the worst of all worlds (traffic and no services).

    The Kylli development was a great first attempt to start this kind of discussion. I only hope the Related development can consolidate their ideas and do what they did in NYC with Hudson Yards. That is a real urban experience. NYC spent over $2B to extend the #7 train to their development to it had a direct transit connection to the subway. It would be nice to see this kind of partnership here in the Heart of Silicon Valley and the Center of What’s Possible.

    • Thanks for updating the picture. This is a much more accurate reflection of the kind of apartment buildings that would be built. Again, I would encourage a look to find places on the El Camino that *can* and *should* be 30-40 stories.

  7. “Super-high density” is not 3-6 stories. In fact density is not reflected in the number of stories at all (ie. a 2 story home is 1 unit). Please be accurate. And your photo of London or wherever is deceptive journalism – there is no way SC will ever have building of this caliber.

    • Thank you for changing the photo Robert! +1 for you.

      Misrepresenting density is NIMBY talking point #1. And #2 of course, is that we don’t have enough park space.

  8. This massive density increase for the El Camino Plan is all Suds Jain. He wants to ruin the City of Santa Clara because he hates the neighborhood residents of Santa Clara. Jain wants more density without any concern for infrastucture or public services. Jain voted to cut police services, fire services, library services, senior center services and many more community services. Jain wants to take traffic lanes from our already over congested roadways and dedicate them to the seldom used bicycle lane. Jain does not care about traffic congestion, after all we now have scooter rentals available. Lookout downtown folks, when Jain gets through with that precise plan it will be nothing more than a soulless heap of cheaply built high density and student housing. The downtown dream is dead under Suds Jain.

  9. As an original member of the El Camino Real Specific Plan committee it find this appalling. Why would anyone want to put in the time, effort, and emotion to be on a committee or commission with this screwed up 49er council?

    I truly wish karma for these 4 council members. Raj as well!

    Thanks for destroying everything good about our city..

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