Town of Los Gatos Netflix Construction Project Rezoning "Albright Way" Initiative, Measure A (June 2014)

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A Town of Los Gatos Netflix Construction Project Rezoning Initiative, Measure A ballot question, also known as The Albright Way Initiative, was on the June 3, 2014 election ballot for voters in the Town of Los Gatos in Santa Clara County, California, where it was overwhelmingly approved.

Measure A authorized the appropriate changes in zoning and construction code regulations to allow a development project to go forward, creating two 65-foot-tall buildings, two 50-foot-tall buildings and a 35-foot-tall parking garage on the block between 90 and 160 Albright Way and 14600 Winchester Boulevard. Prior to the approval of Measure A, the town's General Plan limited construction in this area to only 35 feet in height. The plan allowed one community development director to approve any changes of the plan.[1]

Many critics of the initiative and proponents of the alternate council-approved plan disapproved of the provision that allowed one person to approve or reject changes to the plan. They, instead, would have liked to see the whole town council involved in the development process.[1] The DVD mailing and video streaming company Netflix, which has its headquarters in Los Gatos and employs approximately 1,100 people, has agreed to occupying about half of the building space created by the 485,000-square-foot project.[1]

Developer John Shenk and his partners were set to begin a similar project in 2013, but the project was stopped by a lawsuit citing the town's General Plan. This lawsuit was filed by Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development. In response, Shenk joined LezLi Logan and Phil Albanese, who worked for his family concrete construction business called Jos. J. Albanese, Inc., to create the group called We Support Los Gatos and to begin circulating signatures for this initiative.[1]

Due to an agreement between the developer John Shenk, residents opposing the project and the city council, this measure did not have much real effect on the outcome of the Albright Way construction project. Opponents agreed to let the project go forward if it complied with the council-approved building plan, and initiative proponents, including the developers, agreed to a compromise that made the initiative-proposed plan and the council-proposed plan nearly identical. Since the initiative was approved, the specific plan put forward by We Support Los Gatos went into effect. If the measure had been defeated, the city-approved plan would have gone into effect. Both plans, however, were set to accomplish nearly the same thing due to the agreement. Although the measure was largely symbolic, it was required by law to be put on the ballot since the initiative petition was certified.[2]

Election results

Measure A
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 4,652 72.72%
No1,74527.28%
Election results from Santa Clara County Elections Office

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:[3]

Shall the Town’s General Plan, General Plan Land Use Map, and Zoning Code and Map be

amended and shall the Albright Specific Plan be adopted to provide land use rules for approximately 21.6 acres of land at 90-160 Albright Way and 14600 Winchester Boulevard?[4]

Ballot title

The official title of the initiative that was enacted by Measure A was:

"Initiative to Amend the Los Gatos General Plan and Zoning Code and Adopt a Specific Plan for the Development of 90-160 Albright Way and 14600 Winchester Boulevard."[1][4]

Support

Supporters

Developer John Shenk joined LezLi Logan and Phil Albanese to start the group called We Support Los Gatos and circulate the petitions, collecting enough signatures to put the Albright Way Initiative on the ballot.[1][5]

Phil Albanese worked for his family family concrete construction business called Jos. J. Albanese, Inc., which was hired to work on the proposed Albright Way project.[1]

LG Business Park LLC has provided major funding to the group We Support Los Gatos.[6]

Arguments in favor

Supporters of the initiative have projected that the office buildings proposed for development could result in about $1.3 million per year in tax revenues and $485,000 in community benefit money. They also pointed to development fees that would be paid to local schools if the project was allowed to go forward.[1]

Albanese said, "I want to live in Los Gatos for the remainder of my life and this project is important for Los Gatos to stay the same."[1]

Logan said, "We want the Netflix expansion--and the jobs and revenue that come with it--and we want it now."[1]

Netflix facilities director Amy Dee said to the city council, "Netflix has spent a significant amount of money and my team has spent countless hours on plans for the buildings since you approved the Albright project. We need to move into those buildings as soon as possible. So it concerns me when there's any uncertainty around us being able to occupy the buildings next year as planned."[7]

Opposition

Opponents

  • Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development
  • Jennifer Croft Grewal

Arguments against

Opponents can be broken into two groups. One group did not want the project to go forward at all and included Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development, which originally sued to stop the first project plan that was approved by the town council. The other group did not necessarily oppose the project, but did not like the way the initiative handled authorizing changes to the development plan. Many in this group would rather have had the original project plan imposed because it was controlled more by the entire council.[1]

Opponents of the initiative argued that the initiative would harm the town, especially by removing the town council as a whole from the decision-making process involved in the Albright Way project, allowing for potentially harmful effects and lack of oversight.[6]

Jennifer Croft Grewal, a critic of the initiative, said, "The developer is asking for one town employee, the community development director, to be their only point of approval for any changes to this project. They are asking to completely bypass the town's process. That is a significant amount of power being granted to one employee if this initiative passes. Will the next developer coming into town also decide to side-step our town's governing body for its own benefit, too?"[1]

Competing development plan

The Los Gatos Council, as of February 19, 2014, was considering putting a competing measure on the ballot, containing its council-approved development plan as an alternative to the plan put forward by developer John Shenk, which was authorized by this measure. Netflix representative Amy Dee said that, although Netflix had no problem with the town council plan, it was opposed to putting a competing measure on the ballot because of the possible delay it would cause.[7]

John Shepardson, a leader of Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development, said that, if the developers were willing to abide by the council-approved development plan, the group would drop the lawsuits that caused Shenk and the pro-development group to put this measure on the ballot in the first place. But Sean Welch, the attorney representing the initiative's proponents, said, "We have no ability to pull the initiative. It must go on the ballot."[7]

Councilman Joe Pirzynski and Councilwoman Diane McNutt did not support putting a competing council-referred measure on the ballot. But Mayor Steve Leonardis, Vice Mayor Marcia Jensen and Councilwoman Barbara Spector voted to appoint a council subcommittee to look into the option of an alternative ballot measure. Ultimately an agreement was reached that made an alternative measure moot.[7]

Settlement

Due to a three-way agreement between the developer John Shenk, residents opposing the project and the city council, this measure did not have any real effect on the outcome of the Albright Way construction project. Opponents agreed to let the project go forward if it complied with the council-approved building plan, and initiative proponents, including the developers, agreed to a compromise that makes the initiative-proposed plan and the council-proposed plan nearly identical. Thus, as the initiative was approved, the specific plan put forward by We Support Los Gatos went into effect. If the measure had been defeated the city-approved plan would have gone into effect. Both plans, however, were set by the agreement to accomplish nearly the same thing. Although the measure was largely symbolic, it was required, by law, be put on the ballot since the initiative petition was certified.[2]

Town attorney Robert Schultz, concerning additional fees imposed on developer John Shenk, said, "The settlement agreement also requires an additional $350,000 for nearby project enhancements. This is in addition to the $485,000 that was already approved. That money is also being used to compensate the town for the release of right-of-way easements."[2]

The lawsuit and settlement also required the developer to provide up to $80,000 to cover the costs of the election on this initiative, as well as giving $125,000 to Citizens for Responsible Development to cover the attorney's fees of the group.[2]

Andy Wu, leader of Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development, said, "The settlement in this matter achieves all of the town's objectives; it achieves the objectives John Shepardson and I have sought from the very beginning. I can say with some assurance that we've come to a meaningful and good resolution."[2]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

The Los Gatos General Plan prohibits any building taller than 35 feet from being constructed in the Albright and Winchester area. When developer John Shenk and his partners planned a construction project with four buildings, all of which exceeded this building code restriction, the group Los Gatos Citizens for Responsible Development sued Shenk in order to enforce the height restriction. Shenk joined LezLi Logan and Phil Albanese to start the group called We Support Los Gatos and circulate the petitions to put the Albright Way Initiative on the ballot. We Support Los Gatos submitted petitions with 4,100 signatures, 3,020 of which were found to be valid by the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters. The group only needed 1,896 signatures, making their petition more than sufficient. This means voters will get a chance to decide this issue on the June election ballot.[6]

Netflix spokesman Joris Evers issued a statement via email responding to the lawsuit that originally put the project on hold and triggered the petition effort. In this statement he said, "We have committed to about half the space [two buildings] in the new development on Albright Way. We feel the project was well deliberated and the town's elected council struck a good compromise after much discussion and thought. It is unfortunate that a small group of people makes it so that the developer feels it necessary to hold a referendum on this issue."[6]

Polls

We Support Los Gatos commissioned a poll of 361 Los Gatos voters conducted by FM3 Research, which was released on January 22, 2014. The survey asked the following question:[1]

Shall the initiative ordinance, allowing for up to 485,000 square feet of Class A office and research and development space at 90-160 Albright Way and 14600 Winchester Boulevard, in four buildings, two of which may be up to 65 feet tall, to replace existing Class C office space at that location, by amending the Los Gatos General Plan and approving a Specific Plan, be adopted?[4]

The question was asked once with nothing presented beforehand and then again after a statement of pros and cons of the project was read.

FM3 Research Albright Way Initiative Support[1]
Poll Support Oppose/OtherSample Size
Without pros and cons stated
January 22, 2014
65%35%361
With pros and cons stated
January 22, 2014
75%25%361
AVERAGES 70% 30% 361
Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to editor@ballotpedia.org.

Responses

An FM3 news release said, "The initiative enjoys solid support from over 65 percent of the Los Gatos electorate on the first question in the survey and following the presentation of pro and con messages the support reaches the 75 percent level."[1]

Albanese said, "This polling data matches what we heard in the community during the signature drive to qualify the initiative. Voters in this town are tired of the lawsuits and delays."[1]

Similar measures

See also

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