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Los Gatos council sends proposed senior community back to planning

A proposed senior community in downtown Los Gatos was sent back to the planning commission for further review after the town council denied the developer’s application due to high building heights and a lack of affordable housing, among other concerns.

The project was initially denied by the planning commission in January, and applicant Front Porch Communities and Services updated its plans to accommodate some of the commission’s concerns, including lowering some of the building heights and designating seven units as below market rate.

The proposed development would replace the Los Gatos Meadows retirement community located at 110 Wood Road with a new, full service senior living community that has 174 independent and 17 assisted living units. Construction would requiring tearing down the existing structures and removing some large, protected trees, according to the staff report.

At an April 5 meeting, Councilmember Marico Sayoc motioned to approve the project with some conditional changes, but councilmembers Matthew Hudes and Mary Badame voiced concerns over approving the plan without more information.

“I am reluctant to provide substantive comments on the alternatives because the information that has been presented is insufficient for me to understand those,” Hudes said.

Vice Mayor Maria Ristow recused herself from the project because she lives within 1,000 feet of the proposed development site.

Mayor Rob Rennie cast his vote to send the plans back to the commission, but said he would have preferred to approve them.

“I will vote yes, since it seems like the only option to move us forward here,” Rennie added.

The planning commission initially denied the project because of its proposed building heights, tree removal, lack of diversity in housing types and concentration of luxury housing units.

The developers came back to the planning commission with proposed adjustments, like reducing the height of two buildings and including seven below-market-rate housing units.

They also conducted an Environmental Impact Report, which found there were no significant and unavoidable impacts from the project.

Christopher Ichien, divisional vice president of Front Porch, told the council the developers had made an effort to partner with the community and had been working on the project for the past four years.

“We have held 11 town halls and dozens of one-on-one meetings with neighbors that have shaped the project you see today,” Ichien said. “As a result, we’ve earned the support of numerous immediate neighbors who want to see this beautiful project come online as quickly as possible.”

Ichien requested more direction from council to inform their update to their application.

Catherine Somers, executive director of the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce, spoke in support of the development and how it would benefit the community and create an estimated 150 new jobs.

“On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce in Los Gatos, I would like to show my support for the redevelopment of the Meadows Senior Living Facility,” Somers said. “We also love the fact that soon, 200-plus residents will be living out there, and will come down and shop and dine in our town.”

Los Gatos Meadows had been housed at the site since 1971, and closed in February 2019.

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