San Jose sues Santa Clara over City Place Project
Story and photo by Alissa Reyes

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San Jose sues Santa Clara over City Place Project

The City of San Jose filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Clara on Friday July 29 claiming that the 240-acre City Place project will have a negative impact on San Jose.

“The City of San Jose hasn't gotten very specific with their complaint thus far,” said Vice Mayor of Santa Clara, Teresa O'Neill. “The lawsuit is at the very beginning phase... We are waiting for further information from San Jose before we can take any further action.”

City Place, commonly referred to as the Related Project, is a Santa Clara development project located across from the Levi’s Stadium. The project will include retail, entertainment, and office space as well as hotels and residential units. The project is slated to break ground in 2017 and be complete by 2020.

San Jose claims its complaint is justified under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and that City Place will be environmentally damaging to the region.

According to California’s government website, CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts.

“[The City of San Jose] basically are saying that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that the [Santa Clara] City Council voted to accept in late June failed to adequately address impacts on traffic and housing,” said O’Neill, “thus creating spillover impacts into the City of San Jose, particularly in having to provide housing for those people who will work at City Place.”

On November 23, 2015, San Jose sent a letter to Santa Clara commenting on an earlier draft of the City Place’s EIR. According to the letter, one of the main concerns is that Santa Clara does not plan on building enough housing within City Place to support the number of jobs the project will provide.

Since the development is very close to the San Jose border, San Jose officials are concerned that the demand for housing will increase in that city. There is also the concern that this increase in population will put a strain on San Jose services, such as police and fire departments.

The 2015 letter also cites that the growth in population will cause the regional air quality to decline and increase greenhouse gas emissions; which the letter claims is in violation of the Bay Area’s 2010 Clean Air Plan.

According to the City of Santa Clara’s website, the project will include up to 1,680 residential units and provide 25,000 jobs. However, O’Neill claims that there will be more housing outside of the project.

“Santa Clara is planning to build many housing units near City Place,” said O’Neill. “Including possibly as many as 4,500 housing units in the 40 to 50 acres adjacent to the project at Tasman Drive and Lafayette Street.”

Santa Clara released the final EIR for the project on April 26, 2016. However, in a CEQA complaint letter dated July 29, San Jose said, “The project description in the EIR fails to include the whole of the action, resulting in the understatement of the project's environmental impacts. It is incomplete and misleading...”

Additionally, San Jose claims that Santa Clara’s City Place project is inconsistent with its General Plan. In its CEQA complaint letter, San Jose claims that when Santa Clara adopted a new General Plan back in 2010, it did not take the City Place into account.

Santa Clara’s General Plan is the city’s vision of itself over the next 25 years. It’s meant to set goals and polices in place to guide with decision-making.

San Jose claims that Santa Clara did not update the General Plan to include City Place when it was first proposed in 2015, and did not do the required EIR before approving the project.

“The adopted General Plan did not anticipate, or accommodate, the project on the selected site, “ states San Jose’s complaint. “In fact, the project conflicts with the General Plan in numerous respects and violates consistency requirements imposed by the California Government Code.”

There is no hearing date set for this case and it’s still in the pleadings phase. If the lawsuit moves forward, O’Neill believes their EIR will stand in court.

“We are expecting that the EIR will be found acceptable in court,” said O’Neill. “San Jose is probably looking for direct financial compensation from Santa Clara or that the development be scaled back or slowed down until Santa Clara builds more housing for those who will be employed at City Place.”

In the meantime, Santa Clara recently hired an environmental and land-use attorney, Tina Thomas, and responded to San Jose’s lawsuit with public record request for 15 San Jose development projects. The case number is 16CV298317.