A home with a lawn in Los Gatos
The Los Gatos Town Council is resubmitting its housing plans to the state for more affordable housing in the community. File photo.

Los Gatos is one step closer to securing state approval for its housing plan, more than a year after the deadline and months of contention among town officials.

The town submitted the latest draft of its housing element — a detailed planning document laying out how Los Gatos will accommodate more affordable and market-rate housing by 2031 — to the state on Monday. This follows the Los Gatos Town Council’s 3-2 vote moving it forward. Councilmembers Rob Moore, Maria Ristow and Rob Rennie voted yes and Vice Mayor Matthew Hudes and Mayor Mary Badame voted no at the March 5 meeting. After submittal, the state will have 60 days to approve or deny the plan.

The state requires cities and counties every eight years to address housing and affordability as its population grows.

A major point of contention was an increase in small multi-unit housing, such as duplexes. The latest plan widens where those homes can be built, but excludes high fire risk and hillside residential areas and historic districts.

Moore said he believes the plan will garner a stamp of approval. He said he can afford to stay in Los Gatos because he rents a home in a fourplex.

“It’s what allows me to have housing that is affordable enough to be a young, working professional and afford to live in the town that I love,” he told San José Spotlight.

The state’s original deadline for approval was Jan. 31, 2023. Los Gatos has to build at least 1,993 homes by 2031, 847 of which must be deemed affordable to low-income residents.

Cities failing to meet the state deadline can be subject to a state housing provision known as builder’s remedy, allowing developers room to bypass local zoning and development standards to get projects swiftly approved.

Builder’s remedy projects often use an application that falls under Senate Bill 330, a law that makes it easier to build affordable and moderately priced housing. Los Gatos has seven preliminary and four formal SB 330 applications, although it is unclear how many are builder’s remedy projects.

Karla Albright, a Los Gatos resident for 30 years, said builder’s remedy projects concern her because a developer could take a site the town targets for dense housing and build housing used by only a few residents.

“There went the available plot of land that you were going to use to help reach your goal. But you have no control over it now,” she told San José Spotlight.

The town’s struggle for state approval reflects a broader problem in Santa Clara County. Cupertino is still without an approved housing element and San Jose didn’t receive state approval until this January, a year after deadline.

Alison Cingolani, policy manager for housing nonprofit SV@Home, said she doesn’t think Los Gatos’ plan goes far enough and wants to see more affordable housing spread throughout the town.

“Los Gatos is a great place to live. It has all kinds of fantastic amenities,” she told San José Spotlight.  “We would just love to see more folks be able to enjoy and have access to those, and housing that meets the needs of all of Los Gatos residents at all income levels.”

Albright said the plan is a beneficial compromise between residents who don’t want to see change in town and those who want more affordable housing.

“We’re not special or unique. We need to comply,” she said.

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

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