Community Activist Lobbies for Urban ‘Agrihood’ in Santa Clara

Peering through the diamond-crossed wire fence, Kirk Vartan describes his vision for the empty plot of dirt and asphalt across the street from Westfield Valley Fair mall. In just a few years, he says, those six acres could become a bustling urban village with low-income senior housing, a community farm, rooftop, aquaponic and vertical gardens, artisan shops, studios and an open-air market.

“This is the only open space, the only contiguous six acres the city of Santa Clara has left,” he says, clutching colorful renderings illustrating the site’s tentative future as a so-called “agrihood," a tract built around shared farms that’s cropped up in about a dozen cities throughout the nation. “We don’t want to see another boring proposal. We don’t want development for the sake of development.”

A decade after acquiring a slice of a former agricultural research site at 90 N. Winchester Boulevard from the state, the city of Santa Clara has revived plans to redevelop it. Based on the original terms of the sale, the city has to include at least 165 low-income senior homes and meet a strict deadline to break ground by early 2017. But Vartan, neighborhood groups and some city officials want to do more than rehash a stale development plan.

“Our city is seeing greater visibility,” says City Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor, who voted with her colleagues to put out a new request for proposals. “This could be a chance for us to showcase our creativity while preserving this land as a little snapshot of our agricultural past.”

Last month, eight developers submitted concepts for the empty lot bounded by Winchester Boulevard to one side and sentinel-straight rows of townhomes on the other. While the details of those proposals remain private, at least one draft circulated at a neighborhood meeting borrows from Vartan’s vision: edible gardens and orchards alongside affordable housing and public gathering spaces.

The Silicon Valley Business Journal filed a Freedom of Information Act request to get the names of those developers, which are listed here.

Vartan has been lobbying for this type of inter-generational urban-ag enclave in some form or another for the better part of a decade. Though his has largely been a losing battle against developers and the powers that be.

The site slated for redevelopment has been vacant for a dozen years. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

The site slated for redevelopment has been vacant for a dozen years. (Photo by Greg Ramar)

Remarkably, despite considerable setbacks, he remains hopeful. Proving his faith in the project, he put up more than $100,000 of his own money for architectural renderings of what he calls Win-6. His optimism belies a history fraught with political controversy, allegations of backroom dealings and retaliatory litigation that put Vartan personally in the crosshairs. Now with an end in sight, he’s willing to make amends, even with former political foes.

“The conditions have changed,” he says, “so my approach has changed. I think we can use this property that wedged the community apart to bring it back together.”

For 80 years, scientists and master gardeners studied agriculture at the 17-acre Bay Area Research and Extension Center (BAREC). They came up with ways to treat plant diseases, to make less-pungent compost and new varieties of turf. They hosted field trips and dispensed free gardening advice.

“When I was little, I lived down the street and would often go down there with bugs in jars to show the researchers,” Santa Clara City Councilwoman Teresa O’Neill recalls. “Lots of people would go there with a leaf from their garden to ask what’s going on with their plants. It was an incredible resource.”

But in 1999, the University of California, which owned the land, sold it back to the state in exchange for a $2 million annual funding increase. The sale took the community and even high-ranking political leaders by surprise. Then-state Sen. John Vasconcellos called the process leading up to the sale “truly abominable” for excluding public input. A year later, the site closed. It wasn’t long before the state reneged on its promise of a pay bump for the UC system.

Win-6

An early rendering of the Win-6 Village concept.

With the state in control and talks of another sale in 2002, a group of concerned citizens formed a group called Save BAREC to talk about how to revive the fallow farmland. They wanted to keep the property open and public, with at least part of it for agricultural education to honor the site’s history.

In 2005, the city spent $11.5 million on six acres with plans to build below-market-rate senior housing. SummerHill Homes bought the remaining 11 acres for $32 million, promising to set aside one acre as a public park. As head of Save BAREC, Vartan petitioned for a referendum to prevent construction of market-rate homes, but lost to a $1 million campaign bankrolled by developers.

Save BAREC then filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s environmental review, which delayed construction but ultimately lost in court. SummerHill sued Vartan and colleagues Kathryn Mathewson and Sharon McCray to recoup some of the legal costs, though a judge eventually tossed that case, too.

“It was exhausting,” Vartan says, reiterating that he’d rather talk about the future than the drawn-out legal wrangling of the recent past.

Homes went up in 2010, crowding out most of the open space. Plans by Charities Housing and Santa Clara Methodist Retirement Foundation to build the low-income senior homes were stalled by economic recession and the state’s dissolution of redevelopment agencies—a chief source of affordable housing funds. Finally, five years later, the housing market has come roaring back.

“There’s justification for this type of public investment now,” says Vartan outside A Slice of New York, a popular local pizza chain he founded after his engineering career at Cisco brought him from his native New York City to Silicon Valley. “I’ve been criticized for being too grandiose, but just look at the growth slated for this area.”

Valley Fair plans to spend $600 million on a new high-tech parking garage, theater and 150,000-square-foot Bloomingdale’s. Santana Row, across the street from the indoor mall, plans to build more office space and expand into the 11-plus-acre site of the former Century dome theaters.

“We’re about to see an unprecedented explosion in infrastructure and traffic as a region,” says Vartan, who has spent the past several months presenting his Win-6 concept to community groups and policymakers. “It makes sense to do something innovative here.”

Funding, he realizes, will be a challenge. In its call for ideas, the city encouraged creative proposals with limited public subsidy. For example, a developer could buy three acres for market-rate homes and use the resulting revenue to pay for low-income counterparts.

Recently, Vartan found an agrihood ally in native plant expert Alrie Middlebrook, founder of the California Native Garden Foundation (CNGF). At least one developer, according to plans submitted in response to the city’s call for proposals, has identified CNGF as a potential nonprofit partner for the community farm.

“We could actually create an urban village here with the capacity to produce 50 percent of the development’s food supply,” says Middlebrook, who converted a San Jose parking lot into Middlebrook Gardens, which she views as a working model for the former BAREC site. “That’s not far-fetched. If anything, that’s the future: to provide services to people close to where they live."

Jennifer Wadsworth is a staff writer for San Jose Inside and Metro Newspaper. Email tips to jenniferw@metronews.com or follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

22 Comments

  1. > In just a few years, he says, those six acres could become a bustling urban village with low-income senior housing, a community farm, rooftop, aquaponic and vertical gardens, artisan shops, studios and an open-air market.

    Write a business plan, go to a banker or a sugar daddy, get it funded, and build it.

    • Progress in this valley is a merry go round my friend.

      We used to have mass transit rail that was amazing, even went up to Alum Rock Park. We tore that out. 40 years later we decide “We need mass transit rail!” so we build it again.

      We used to have farms everywhere. Then someone decided “We need more houses!” Now they’re screaming, “We need more farms!”

      Silly isn’t it.

    • SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE,

      Exactly. As usual, these ‘activists’ want other taxpayers to pay the freight. Being an ‘activist’ means you have no skin in the game; you want other people to pay for your idea. But if an ‘urban farm’ is such a great idea, there will be funding available to buy the land. Get a bank loan if it’s such a good idea.

      But we know this is just someone’s personal crusade to promote something completely unneeded. There are already ‘urban farms’ within a three minute drive of that property, and the one I’m referring to never gets enough ‘farmers’ as it is. (They aren’t ‘farmers’, they are just hobbysists who like the free land and water).

      Six acres in that location is probably worth more than $10 million. It seems a ridiculous waste of scarce resources to turn it into an ‘urban farm’. Any activist can make something look very fancy with a computer. But what this valley needs more than anything is more housing. That should take priority, far ahead of any ‘urban farm’ for the neighborhood elite.

      • Smokey and SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE

        Which of the alternatives that are being proposed are you in favor of and why? Do you feel that the proposed 900+ units residential and addition business bldg that will be on top of and across from the movie theaters will be affordable? BTW gotta love the western face glass facade of the proposed business bldg. PG&E will love that AC bill.

        A number of the neighbors and Winchester commuters have some concerns regarding the proposed density being added between Forest and 280 along Winchester. Especially with the proposed road diet for Winchester. I think most folks would be happy to entertain other proposals for land use without affecting the existing traffic problems and or the elimination of the housing that has been proposed by the developers.

        Let’s get you guys to speak at a city council meeting.

  2. The Win-6 proposal is great. It provides benefits for all involved including the neighborhood, seniors and businesses. It would be great to see the city work with the folks who currently live in the area as opposed to a developer run initiative.

    Or worse yet a grab for a solution the yields the highest tax dollars; valued above all else. If left to the highest bidder we would be left with nothing but continued urban sprawl and increased traffic congestion. The plan is “out of the box” and not something a traditional developer would propose.

    Great job and let’s keep up the good work.

  3. Just as a longer than a passing note.

    I do aquaponics too. Here’s a picture of last year’s rig built from an IBC tote with various veggies planted.
    http://imgur.com/IGIW1Mc

    If other readers are wondering what aquaponics is, basicallly you’re feeding plants with water fish pooped in. Because you’re continuously recycling the same water, you end up using 90% less water than traditional gardening.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aquaponics

    Unfortunately my system was missing a few components, while seeds did manage to sprout, the amount of solid waste in the system caused my PH to go out of whack so everything died. This weekend I’m going to expand my system out a bit more with some barrels. One barrel will become my radial solid waste filter. Will look like this.

    http://i.ytimg.com/vi/G5w-6pnjwIc/maxresdefault.jpg

    The water moves in a circular fashion, and solid waste is pushed to the outside via centrifugal force. Then you can use a valve at the bottom to drain out the poop.

    Past that stage is a biofilter. Biofilter is a fancy name for “tons of surface area for anaerobic microbes to grow on” About a barrel full of cut up plastic straws makes a perfect medium. These microbes convert the ammonia in fish urine to something less nasty.

    • I had a brainstorm once about building a completely computer controlled cell the size of a telephone booth to grow tomatoes in my basement or garage year around.

      Computers can control light cycles, temperature, watering.

      Using sterile soil (or hydropoinics) and nutrients can prevent weeds.

      But plants need sex. I never figured out how to automate plant sex.

      Whoever does might be the next Bill Gates.

  4. Robert Cortese says:

    “Silly isn’t it.”

    Yes, it’s silly. Twenty five years ago they told us to “save a tree” by using plastic bags. Now it’s all reversed, and we’re back to paper bags that we have to pay for. I am very tired of these ‘do-gooder’ social engineers who want to inflict their ideas on everyone else.

    This “activist” guy is a major pain in the butt. He has no skin in the game, but he wants taxpayers and cities to do without the revenue — just so we can have “urban farms” that no one really wants, besides a handful of self-serving do-gooders like him.

    Can you imagine the problems? An ‘urban farm’ will be a magnet for problems. I am aware of another ‘urban farm’ that is regularly broken into. It costs money to police these areas, and to provide free water, etc. It won’t bring in one dime of revenue, but it will cost plenty. And for what? There are Farmers Markets within walking distance or a short drive. Most local residents have yards, thus no need for ‘urban farms’. The idea itself is preposterous. And of course, there are already city parks with walking distance of everyone.

    Just because some self-appointed “activist” has decided this is his great new idea, it is no reason for our local governments to do without the hefty tax revenue that land would bring if it is brought to its ‘highest and best’ use. Highest and best use is certainly not an ‘urban farm’. That “activist” has his own house and yard. Why is he inflicting his unwanted ideas on everyone else?

    • There’s a few benefits to urban farms using aquaponics. Like I said, 90% savings on traditional watering. No fertilizer, no pesticides. No transporting loads of vegetables from the central valley via truck. I thought everything had died on my system but just did a drain of the fish tank to find a lone surviving Koi (sucker got BIG too)

      In other markets, urban farms are viable. Detroit is slowly starting to transform some of its abandoned buildings into indoor aquaponic centers that are producing from seed to market lettuce in 6 weeks. Japan has built a fairly large facility as well. These are multi-floor units.

      But in both cases the property values, and the desirability to live there are low. The property just isn’t in demand for residential.

      There are better places for it though. All along the bay coast there is a lot of underutilized land that could have aquaculture, that isn’t suitable for anything else. Alviso has a few shells of old buildings that would make nice farms.

  5. SJOUTSIDETHEBUBBLE and SMOKEY (or should I say Dave),

    I am not sure you are reading the article (or hearing the message). I don’t think anyone was suggesting that the tax payer “pick up the bill.” Where does the article or anything else the “activist” says imply this? Do you actually think housing brings in $ to the City? We need lots of housing and we also need to preserve Quality of Life…to be able to scale our communities to grow in a way that will not crush the existing areas.

    Let me paint a little picture of what is happening already (this in not a maybe, it is a when):

    – By 2017, Valley Fair will increase by 30%, is investing over $600Million, have close to 10,000 parking spaces, 2.1Million sqft of retail space, a luxury movie theater, a 150,000sqft Bloomingdales, and a new outdoor food court.
    – In the next 2-5 years, Santana Row will add about 750,000 sqft of Class-A office space, 1,800 new parking spaces, and 60,000 sqft of retail.
    – In the next 3-5 years, Santana Row will be working on a solution for the 13-acre Century property, but it currently targeting about 1,000 market rate apartments, roughly 2,000 parking spaces, and 170,000-350,000 sqft of Class-A office space.

    And that is just what is currently on the books. Santana Row already gets an average of 30,000 visitors a day and Valley Fair gets and average of 40,000 visitors a day. Those are *averages*. Let’s say there is some cross-pollination of visitors at both places, making the average in the area 60,000 visitors a day. On slow days there might be only 30,000, while on weekends, it may jump to over 100,000. Holidays…more than that.

    These numbers are based on existing data…no expansion. Add the increase of 30-40% in the area, and you can do the math.

    But wait, let’s not forget the Apple spaceship holding 20,000 people that is like 4-miles away. Where are they going to live? I think they will want to live in the area too. What does that mean for available housing? Well, it might mean that whatever housing is here will be in high demand, putting a pretty big squeeze on the supply.

    You may think housing is a money maker for cities…it is not. Don’t believe me? Just ask them.

    The “urban farm” concept provides multiple levels of benefit. Not only will it provide fresh food for the seniors, veterans, neighbors, restaurants, and visitors, but it will provide open space for the general community to enjoy. It will also help set an example for how the pedestrian needs in the area can being to be met with amenities like this.

    I hope we can have very open and candid dialogs with people that like this approach, people that don’t understand this kind of approach, people that don’t like this approach, people that just want to help figure it out, and anyone else that wants to positively affect outcomes in this area. I want to push all of us to look at what has happened, what is already planned and under way, and what we can do with existing resources. We can partner with the local corporate groups and really make the area a special and unique space, something not only are we all proud of, but something we will embrace and will attract pedestrians from Valley Fair and Santana Row, creating a better experience for everyone.

    I appreciate the candor and skepticism. I encourage it. Skeptics make things better by always challenging assumptions. My primary assumption is this: we can positively influence and affect the outcomes around us if we get involved and work on collaborative solutions. I hope all of you will engage and join me in future public sessions, charrettes, discussions, etc. as they come up.

    When you say this “activist” has no skin in the game, what do you mean? I don’t think I understand your comment. We are all in the game if we live here. If a city is growing, it needs more people. People need housing. People need cars. Cars create traffic. Streets are at capacity. No one wants traffic. Housing does not generate any money for a city. Where are the open spaces? What does quality of life look like? These are not simple questions with simple answers. There are trade-offs; and we need to make these decision as a community.

    I look forward to joining you and others as we figure out how we can balance these issues. We can wait for the elected officials to figure it out, but I don’t think we have that kind of time. I believe we have limited opportunities to influence the direction…otherwise, we will be simply picking up the pieces and trying to “make the best of it” given what is already done.

    Kind regards,

    Kirk Vartan

    • > Not only will it provide fresh food for the seniors, veterans, neighbors, restaurants, and visitors, but it will provide open space for the general community to enjoy.

      And the produce from this urban “agrihood” will be provided gratis to veterans and seniors? Will you deliver? Will you have a complaint department if the the produce is not of acceptable quality. What if I don’t like zucchini, parsely, or jalapenos?

      I am both a veteran and a senior as well as a member of the “general community”, and this looks and smells like “community organizer” eyewash. I really resent the patronizing, condescending suggestion that somehow smart, big hearted activists are going to feed me and entertain me gratis.

      Right now, as a veteran, a senior, and member of the general community, I get much of my fresh food from serious, professional food producers in Gilroy, Salinas, the central valley, and other places where the art of producing quality fresh food has been practiced and perfect over decades. These producers do a fine job. I’m happy.

      Why am I supposed to be impressed that some dilettante activist using water transported hundreds of miles and million dollar an acre land and disrupting urban commerce is going to somehow advance civilization?

      Aren’t there any real problems for you to work on?

  6. Thanks for the additional insight. So this development might be a good fit for you, but maybe it would. To be clear about expectations of what I have suggested, I am not saying a senior living there will get free food, nor the veterans or anyone else for that matter. It would be available for people to access and pay for. However, I do think there is a great opportunity for seniors, veterans or anyone else to volunteer and maybe get a discount on their rent or a discount on the produce that is created.

    No is suggesting that this would replace the pros that do this for the State, our country, and the rest of the world. Localizing agriculture production and bringing it closer to the people that consume it is a focus for many (are you familiar with the Farm to Table movement or corporations trying to source their food within a 50-mile radius of their buildings?). Fuel charges and transport costs add to the cost of food and localizing it will help keep those costs down. Having locally grown food is desired by many people (maybe not you), but having a daily farmers market would allow the local community and visitors to this community to pick up fresh, locally grown produce daily. When I say farmers market, don’t think of the weekly Campbell one where you spend hours roaming, think more along the lines of a large produce stand with lots of local food options. More like Europe…buy what you need for a few days and come back and get more fresh food when you need it.

    Also focusing on ways to grow food with limited water use (aquaponics is a great solution) and using native, drought resistant plants is also very much needed.

    The last thing I would like to point out would be the assessment on the land value. That land is valued at somewhere between $4-7Million/acre. Values like that usually mean putting a bunch of housing only there. But being this is the last large parcel of land in the area that has not been developed and there is a requirement for 165 units of affordable (moderate to low income) senior housing…and the City is not trying to make a profit on the land, it really gives us an opportunity to look at what is needed in this area to really make a long term impact on the area. One of the biggest opportunities is to create an extraordinary place for our seniors…one that will keep them active, engaged, and independent as long as possible. A lively and dynamic community can provide the diversity and excitement to do this.

    To your last question, I see how we build our communities and the tone that is set for how quality of life is demonstrated is a real problem. What projects are you aware of in San Jose or Santa Clara that get you excited or engaged? The new Rotary PlayGarden at the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy is very exciting and creates wonderful public places for kids and the public and is open daily. Valley Fair and Santana Row have created a special place in this area. Whether you shop at Valley Fair or Santana Row or visit it, I think it has critical mass and is continuing to grow. Valley Fair had its biggest year with over $900Million in gross revenue sales….and they are expanding. With this kind of growth existing here already, what can we do as a community to embrace that and improve upon it? Public spaces and housing densities are the solution I have put forward.

    I hope you will be an active part of the discussions that take place.

    • Kirk I think the one thing SJO and I agree on is, is it the right location? The land where you would like to see it is way too valuable… If you wanted to do this at scale, you need to look at other places. While putting these farms on top of roof structures (which is what I think you were getting at) can be done, we’re talking TONS of weight. Retrofitting rooftops or creating new code to build rooftops to withstand the pressure would be costly. So much so that it’s just more cost and energy effective to move these facilities to cheaper land.

      Not to mention, who would want a grow tray filled with water and grow medium falling on their head while filing a TPS report?

      With my aquaponics bug in full swing again, I’ve been putting a lot of thought into this. What needs to happen is “Aquaponics on a pallete.” There are a lot of high tech companies that have kitchens and empty sections of parking lots. I see a business model where trucks roll up, unload autonomous systems, fill them with water, and charge a monthly fee for maintenance. Kitchen staff could harvest fresh lettuce, fish, etc.

      Looking forward to my weekend. Just discovered a new, low power design for a slow water pump I want to build. Something that could be powered by a small solar panel.

  7. Posted on my facebook, but sort of belongs here :)

    So with the aquaponics bug back in full swing I started thinking about the mistakes of my last system. One thing I really need is a biofilter. It’s a fancy name for “A bunch of stuff in a bucket good slime grows on”
    The stuff the good slime grows on is called a “Medium”, just like with other plants. You usually want mediums with the largest amount of surface area, and you want it to be chemically neutral PH to the water. Usually they use cut up plastic straws because they are neutrally buoyant. The stuff is EXPENSIVE though.
    I started racking my brain for a cheap supply of biofilter medium that would be cheap, free. I started thinking how great plastic bags would work. Then I remembered they’re banned. Then I remembered politicians give these new reusable bags out like free candy. I have a stack of them in the house.
    They’re semi permeable.
    HDPE Plastic thread
    I think a tank of these things shredded would be perfect. Time to put myself on the political calendar for a bit and go to events again. I need to fill politician bags with fish poop.

  8. Notwithstanding its heart-warming appeal, “low-income, senior housing” is a bad idea for the area no matter who is pushing it. There is nothing “low-income” about Valley Fair or Santana Row as they stand today (even less in the future), nor is there anything senior-friendly about Winchester or Stevens Creek boulevards, both of which challenge the survival skills of even the most agile and alert of pedestrians.

    The way I see it, property developers (greedy or green) use “low-income seniors” today the way lobbyists once peddled a state lottery as a way “to fund schools” — as a stop-think technique to win approval for an otherwise questionable proposal. But what if we don’t stop thinking, what if we examine exactly how much good is actually contained in this “public good” appeal?

    Imagine your low-income, widowed grandmother announcing she wants to move to Beverly Hills, get an apartment, and fulfill her lifelong dream of living among her favorite stars. If you cared about her at all you might argue against the idea by pointing out the high rents, the isolation (physical and financial), and the fact that all her favorite stars are dead. Well, the situation in this valley — especially in those areas close to high-tech employers, is almost identical. The rents are just as high (if not higher), the isolation just as bad, and the long-held notion — that this valley is a good place to retire regardless of income, just as dead as her movie favorites.

    The City of Santa Clara has done well for itself by attracting the job-providers necessary to pay for good city services, the side-effect being a growing population of high wage earners, a pressing need to house them, and skyrocketing housing costs. So where in this equation is there justification for addressing the housing needs of those the city has (by its policies) priced out of the market, and who, exactly, are these low-income seniors, anyway?

    Since not even the creative bureaucrats in Santa Clara can materialize low-income seniors out of thin air we have to assume the tenants for this proposed development are already living in that city or living somewhere else. Those living in the city may have need due to being priced-out of their apartments (and lacking the help of loved ones), but how does it make sense for the city to artificially price them back in again when these seniors could just as easily move into an affordable place somewhere away from the jobs, dangerous traffic, and pricey shops? (Would it be better for the job-providers, frustrated by housing limitations, to move their companies elsewhere?) As for those seniors now living elsewhere, it is insane for Santa Clara to even consider their housing needs over the desperate needs of the new hires/newcomers who work in their city.

    If housing is to be built on the site it should be housing designed with the needs of young workers in mind. No seniors, rich or poor, are more deserving of the opportunity to live so close to the jobs, shops, and entertainment venues than are the young workers for whom those concerns were built. Erect a development for low-income seniors on that property and, no matter what else you call it, you will have nothing more than a fancy warehouse for people out of their element. It’s an idea so stupid I can’t believe it didn’t come out of San Jose’s city council.

    • The City of San Jose already had the most successful low-income housing project in its history and probably the only one that will ever succeed but they destroyed it when they dismantled “The Jungle”. I doubt the city council will ever come up with any idea that will work any better.

    • Judgmental, but scathingly accurate.
      Unfortunately, the senior housing is mandated by the terms of the original sale.

  9. Hey Kirk,

    I just woke up from a late night binge of googling stuff. Somewhere I came across numbers for how much romaine lettuce fetches per acre from the US farm service.

    At best, $8000@ acre.

    Property taxes for a 1/4 acre residential zoned plot of land with a house on it is $7000. So at best, if I utilized all the land I had at my disposal, I could make about $2000 a harvest.

    Floating raft greenhouse aquaponic with purple LED will get you about 5-6 harvests a year not counting recurring costs or initial capital investment. So at best, my 1/4 acre could net me between $10k,12k @ year giving me a profit between $3 or $5k.

    In your case, 6 acres we’d be looking at about $192k gross with $168,000 in property taxes leaving you with a whopping $24,000 in profits. Doesn’t exactly make it rain does it? If you had a 4 story facility, you still wouldn’t have enough to hire a staff of 2.

    OTOH, if you could get farmland, IIRC the tax rate is really low. For 6 acres it would be about $24k@year. Better yet, ask the county if they would give you some land to use for free.

  10. I think it is great to have opinionated and vibrant discussion. If you want to share that perspective with the City of Santa, I would suggest you do that. The reason for the senior requirement dates back to a decade old proposition made by SummerHill, Charities Housing, and Methodist Retirement. The City supported it and bought the 6-acres for the senior housing. SummerHill built their part, but the senior portion never got built. It even went to a vote.

    That is all historical past. While I do not personally agree with many of the comments from the commentaries above, I do respect their opinions and views. I would further encourage them to come to a City Council meeting and share them. I have been asking for a community based meeting (astutely a series of them), but the City has not embraced that notion. I believe it is because they do not have the time or resources to do this.

    If the community shows interest, maybe they will make the time. This property is too valuable (not just financially, but strategically in this area) to simple “develop it.” We need to make a conscious decision on how we develop this property so that is creates maximum community benefit. I believe that includes housings, public services, and open space.