A two-story blue house in Los Gatos
The state gave Los Gatos the green light on its housing element, more than a year after the deadline. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

After months of contentious debate among residents and town officials, Los Gatos has received state approval to build nearly 2,000 homes more than a year past the deadline.

Los Gatos received a letter from the state on Friday stating it met “statutory requirements.” This is the town’s sixth attempt at its housing element — a detailed planning document submitted every eight years to the state — which outlines how it will accommodate at least 1,993 new homes by 2031, 847 of which must be deemed affordable to low-income families.

The plan identifies Los Gatos Boulevard, Los Gatos-Saratoga Road, Oka Lane and Burton Road as future development sites for housing. The housing element must still go through final Los Gatos Town Council approval before heading back to the state for certification.

“This was a monumental task that did not come easy,” Mayor Mary Badame told San José Spotlight. “Moving forward, the town remains dedicated to implementing the strategies outlined in the element to effectively achieve our Regional Housing Needs Allocation.”

The approval comes roughly 16 months past the Jan. 31, 2023 deadline, caused by ongoing disagreements over divisive items such as multi-family housing and story poles. Councilmembers Rob Moore, Maria Ristow and Rob Rennie voted yes in March on this latest attempt, while Badame and Vice Mayor Matthew Hudes voted no.

Los Gatos has already felt the effects of the approval’s delay. The town has had less control over developments due to “builder’s remedy,” a state law enacted in towns with noncompliant housing elements allowing developers to bypass local zoning and development standards to get projects swiftly approved. The town has 20 Senate Bill 330 applications on its website, both formal and preliminary, with some repeat sites. SB 330 applications often preclude builder’s remedy projects — leaving some residents upset about the effects of potential changes in their neighborhoods.

Jo Greiner, a town resident since 1980 and homelessness advocate at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, said she hopes the plan will help the most vulnerable in Los Gatos including unhoused residents. She said as a retired teacher, she wants the new housing to help educators if the homes aren’t affordable to unhoused residents.

“To be here in (this) community and potentially be housed is huge,” she told San José Spotlight. “I would hope it would help anyone who would like to work in Los Gatos (to) live here.”

Los Gatos was not the only municipality in Santa Clara County struggling to get its housing element passed. Cupertino received the state’s stamp of approval last month more than a year past the deadline and San Jose received approval in January.

Ali Miano has lived in Los Gatos since she was 5 and hopes the approval will allow for more diversity.

“It’s nice to have a lot of different backgrounds and it’s nice to see homes that don’t look like cookie cutters,” she told San José Spotlight.

The planning commission and town council will reexamine the housing element on May 22 and June 4, respectively.

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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