Los Gatos council rejects appeal against assisted living facility for seniors

Los Gatos council rejects appeal against assisted living facility for seniors

The Los Gatos Town Council rejected an appeal against the development of a three-story assisted living and memory care facility at its Tuesday night meeting, dodging the potential for a project of higher density and size in the future.

The proposed project, located at the intersection of Winchester Boulevard and Shelburne Way, was approved by the planning commission last month and calls for the demolition of an office building and four residential buildings and the construction of a three-story, 125-unit building.

Los Gatos resident Eric Hulser filed an appeal against the planning commission’s decision, saying the group granted special permission for the project and consequently would impact the neighborhood he lives in.

Developer Jessie Bristow of Swenson Builders said if the project was not approved, there is a high likelihood that the land could be redeveloped to house a six-story, high-density building through state housing laws that streamline construction of residential units on lands zoned for office buildings.

Council’s vote was split 3-2, with Vice Mayor Mary Badame and Councilmember Matthew Hudes voting against rejecting the appeal and Councilmembers Rob Rennie and Rob Moore, and Mayor Maria Ristow voting in favor of rejecting the appeal.

“I don’t want to make a decision on this specific project because I’m afraid what will come next is worse,” said Ristow. “We do know from our housing laws there’s a risk with everything, but I think we need to look at this project on its merits, which is what the planning commission did.”

Hulser, who is one of the two closest homeowners to the project site, said the planning commission allowed variances for the maximum height and lot coverage, which increased the size and scope of the project. In 2017, the planning commission approved the development of an office building at the property, though the project never came to fruition.

“When we purchased our home in 2019, we did so in full awareness of the previously approved office building. This development, though, is not an acceptable alternative,” Hulser said. “All I’m really asking here is that the building adhere to the zoning requirements and not be granted any special privileges.”

The facility would include 107 assisted care units and 18 memory care units. Planning manager Jennifer Armer said the assisted care units would count toward the town’s housing element requirement, though the 18 memory care units would not.

“In the grand scheme of things, I really think a three-story building is a change, but it’s not massive and it’s not unreasonable,” Bristow said.

Representatives from Monte Sereno also voiced concern about the project. Mayor Bryan Mekechuck and former councilmember Liz Lawler said a number of Monte Sereno residents would be impacted by the project, even though the site is zoned for commercial development. The back walls of the building would reach 50 feet in some areas, which some residents and councilmembers argued is too high for what is currently permitted.

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Moore argued that the town was in need of any housing development and that this project checked a lot of important boxes.

“I think this is a good project. I think this is the best project we’re going to get on this property, listening to the developer. I think this is going to be much preferred compared to other potential uses, especially in the current market,” Moore said.