Los Gatos residents rally against town growth
A single-family home along Los Gatos Boulevard. Photo by Tran Nguyen.

Los Gatos residents are overall happy with their quaint upper-class town, but when is comes to growth management, sentiment darkens.

Los Gatos recently conducted a community survey examining the quality of life and levels of services in town. The survey, conducted by market research company ETC Institute at a cost of $25,000, focused on where the town could improve living conditions for residents. Residents answered a series of questions via mail on a number of issues, including traffic, public safety, parks and housing in February. The town received 650 responses, and the survey has a margin of error of about 3.8%.

The survey results found nearly all participants—at 97.2%—rank Los Gatos as a good or excellent place to live. Two-thirds of all participants also are satisfied with the overall quality of customer service from the town. It also shows residents want the town to continue funding the police department, addressing traffic issues and maintaining infrastructure such as roads and streets.

But the survey also reveals roughly 44% of residents are concerned about how the town manages its growth—an issue with the lowest satisfaction rating in the survey. Other issues of concern include traffic congestion and availability of affordable housing—with 40% and 41% of residents dissatisfied, respectively.

Los Gatos commissioned the survey as the town is in the process of drafting its 2040 General Plan, where officials are looking to add 3,783 residences in the next 20 years. The town is also working on a plan to meet a state-mandated housing goal of constructing at least 1,993 homes—847 of which have to be affordable—before 2031. The town has barely grown in the last few decades.

The dissatisfaction on growth management jumped out to at least two town councilmembers at a recent meeting, but Mayor Rob Rennie said it’s not immediately clear how residents interpreted the question. He told San José Spotlight he assumed residents were referring to the 2040 General Plan. But town officials at a meeting last week said written comments mostly referred to the lack of growth for businesses.

“Of course, we want to work on what the biggest dissatisfactions are,” Rennie said, but noted key issues with the town’s growth management are unclear.

The survey results come as a group of residents, called Los Gatos Community Alliance, continues to push back on the town’s proposed general plan. The plan aims to make the town more inclusive for a less-affluent population by shifting away from building single-family homes to more multi-family housing, but members of the group said the proposal is unrealistic. They also argued it doesn’t address the core issue of the lack of affordable housing in Los Gatos.

“The town is clearly moving toward a pretty aggressive growth factor here, and we don’t believe that is the right answer,” Phil Koen, a member of the alliance, told San José Spotlight.

The coalition claims the dissatisfaction on growth shown in the survey results refers to the proposed general plan.

Koen pointed to another survey, commissioned by the town and conducted by EMC Research last October, that shows 62% of residents familiar with the general plan opposed the proposal as written. A question asking residents specifically about adding 3,900 houses by 2040 garnered nearly 60% opposition.

The coalition is also exploring asking voters to weigh in through a referendum if the Town Council ends up passing it as written. The council is looking to start working on the general plan by the end of June.

“We have been upfront with the council about this,” Koen said. “It’s not a surprise.”

Calls for more data

Los Gatos hasn’t done a townwide survey in recent years, officials said.

“As we think forward to our January strategic priorities and as the council considers its budget investment in the next fiscal year and the capital program for the next five (years), this data could be useful,” Town Manager Laurel Prevetti said at a council meeting last week.

Several councilmembers called for more data and information to better understand the survey.

“If we’re doing a survey, we need to pay attention to the result and develop actions for those items,” Councilmember Matthew Hudes said at the meeting, noting dissatisfaction around traffic and growth management stood out as concerning issues for him. “Otherwise it’s just window-dressing.”

Town officials said the council could either conduct follow-up surveys on specific issues or wait another two years for the next survey.

Contact Tran Nguyen at [email protected] or follow @nguyenntrann on Twitter. 

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