By Tim Hunt
The Spotorno land saga drags onUploaded: Jun 13, 2017
The seemingly endless saga of the Spotorno Ranch continued last month when the Planning Commission reviewed the latest plans.
The family has owned the parcel in the Happy Valley area off Alisal Road for more than 150 years. The Spotorno’s have run cattle and sheep for decades and has been striving to develop a portion of it for nearly 20 years.
I have known the family since our days in the 4-H program together many years ago when Sycamore Road was known as “Chicken Alley” and families in the semi-rural area routinely raised livestock and chickens. There are still some lots where that lifestyle continues, but there also are plenty of custom homes on large, landscaped lots. That’s particularly true on Sycamore with a mish-mash of relatively new construction with older homes.
The current proposal by Tim Lewis Community would develop 31 acres on the flat portion of the Spotorno site near the access road to the Callippe golf course and dedicate the remaining 123 acres as permanent open space. The Happy Valley Specific Plan identified as many as 97 homes if all of the developable land were used. The specific plan was approved in 1998 and since has been modified by Measure PP (the hillside initiative).
That predated the city’s building of the Callippe Preserve Golf Course and surrounding trail and open space and building sites. Developers gave the land to the city in exchange for the entitled lots that surround it as well as city water and sewer services.
A key part of that plan was developing the Spotorno property so a north-south bypass road could be constructed connecting the golf course and its homes with a new east-west road (now Sycamore Creek Way serving the Bridle Creek neighborhood and Sycamore Heights) so the rural traffic patterns on Happy Valley, Alisal and Sycamore could be maintained.
At that time, Greenbriar Homes had submitted a plan to develop the Spotorno parcel. Various plans, calling for 75 to 79 homes, have been submitted since 1999. Greenbriar subsequently withdrew its application.
After the golf course opened, the city organized committee of stakeholders to consider the bypass road and it recommended relocating the route from the hills to along the flat portion of the ranch.
Lewis proposed two key changes its plan:
1. Eliminating the bypass road.
2. Increasing the density in the specific plan from 0.67 units per acre to 1.25 per acre for the flat portion.
In the study session, Planning Commissioners seemed inclined to eliminate the bypass road. The golf course traffic, which has been routed north on Alisal to Sycamore since the course opened has not been a burden.
And residents living along the golf course have worked with county Supervisor Nate Miley and the city to lift the no left turn restriction onto Happy Valley Road during morning commute hours. It was crazy to go back north into traffic if residents were headed south on I-680 or wanted to drop their kids at Foothill High. The original plan would have closed Westbridge to all traffic other than emergency vehicles.
The second key request, which city staff members opposed, also was met with skeptism from commissioners who seemed to prefer the 22-lot option. Just what the potential loss of 17 units would mean is what the developer now is considering. Given the hodge-podge of housing along Alisal, the new neighborhood would be a sharp contrast—just like the golf course homes are to the south and Bridle Creek and the mixture of homes along Sycamore are to the north.
The initial plans call for homes to range from 3,350 to 4,000 square feet on lots that range from one-half acre to two-third acre so it certainly would be upscale housing. Reducing the number of sites likely would transform the development from stick-built homes to custom lots to make it pencil.
Stay tuned and think good thoughts about the long suffering Spotorno family who have been hung out to dry way too long. They are the antithesis of real estate speculators—they’re looking for some payoffs for land they have stewarded for 150 years.