CGF opposes redesignating land to facilitate overdevelopment in South County

(We sent this letter to the Santa Clara County Planning Commission last week.  -Brian)

June 30, 2010

Santa Clara County Planning Commission

            Re:  CGF support for the County staff position on Planning Commission July 1, 2010 meeting Agenda Item 11, recommending rejection of application for formal processing

Dear Commissioners;

I regret that I may not be able to attend the Planning Commission meeting discussing the Pickett General Plan Amendment Proposal, but as we also stated in 2007, the Committee for Green Foothills continues to oppose the proposal, and the current proposal does not change any important issue that constituted adequate reason for rejecting the proposal three years ago.

The staff report describes several reasons for rejecting the application, both now and in 2007.  Related to the 2007 discussion, I would like to correct the record contained in the staff report:  it correctly states that I spoke on behalf of CGF in opposition to the project, but also states that I supported “conversion of lands to rural residential if the property is 35 percent or more surrounded by rural residential.”

I am attempting to obtain the audio recording for that meeting, but at the least, the record does not describe what I intended to say.  Proposals like this one, where a minority of adjacent land is Rural Residential, should be rejected.  Proposals where even a majority of adjacent perimeter land is Rural Residential may also be inappropriate, and only where a substantial majority, such as three out of four sides, may be appropriately considered infill under some circumstances.

The applicant’s proposal for what constitutes “infill” actually leads to a logical contradiction.  As can be seen on the parcel maps for the area, parcels with a large variety of sizes and shape are adjacent to one another.  If infill is only allowed where a substantial majority of adjacent perimeter is Rural Residential, then there will soon be a condition where the infill has “infilled” and no other parcels qualify for consideration.  If, on the other hand, the County uses the applicant’s very different, proposed criteria of a minority of adjacent land being sufficient to justify changing designation, then the “infill” will actually expand consistently outward.  Instead of infilling holes, the applicant’s rationale will lead to outward expansion, in direct contradiction to the purpose of infill.

Take the applicant’s own example, where approximately one-third of their parcel number 77611001 borders Rural Residential property.  Changing this parcel’s designation means that other neighboring parcels will have similar or greater percentages of perimeter shared with Rural Residential and appropriate for re-designation – parcels 77929027 (small parcel to the east), 77926003, 75619032 (already at equivalent percentage), 75619036, and 77612008.  These parcels, once re-designated, would justify changing the designation of still other parcels in an outward expansion that includes parcels 77929028, 75619031, 75619006, and 77612012, and those parcels would justify still more re-designations.  This is just in the immediate vicinity of the applicant, but their argument logically applies to any parcels anywhere in the County that border Rural Residential land.

The problem with the applicant’s argument is not that it may someday take us down a “slippery slope” of accepting ever-smaller percentages for justifying re-designations.  Rather it is the applicant’s own principle without any further deterioration that justifies outwardly expanding “infill”.

Committee for Green Foothills has seen too many instances where past environmental mistakes have been used by developers to justify arguing for new mistakes.  We urge the Planning Commission to avoid a repeat of that process, and to recommend rejection of this application.

Please contact us with any questions.

Sincerely,

Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa ClaraCounty

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