Massive $6.7 billion mixed use development on Santa Clara landfill clears environmental, regulatory hurdles

santa clara city place
Rendering of the multi-billion dollar City Place development in Santa Clara, on top of an old landfill

The Related Companies’ have proposed building a $6.7 billion mixed-use complex with as many as 1,680 housing units on a former Santa Clara landfill.

The site, with an estimated 5.5 million tons of municipal waste dumped over 25 years in the heart of the city, will be the largest housing project ever proposed atop a landfill in the Bay Area, and possibly the entire state, the San Jose Mercury-News reports.

Environmental overseers have accepted Related’s massive technical document, which includes elaborate safety systems to block the escape of combustible methane gas and other dangerous vapors, and to prevent groundwater contamination.

“The regulators were pretty skeptical at the start, I have to say,” said Stephen Eimer, an executive vice-president with Related and co-managing partner of the 9.2 million-sq. ft. City Place project. “But we kept at it, working and working, and they came around.”

Set on 240 acres atop what was once the Santa Clara All Purpose Landfill — a golf course and BMX track now occupy the site — the project also would include 5.7 million sq. ft. of offices, 1.1 million sq. ft. of retail space and 700 hotel rooms. The planning document for the development, which calls for a foot-thick concrete barrier covering more than 30 central acres of landfill where the housing would be built, spells out “multiple layers and multiple means of protecting” residents, shoppers and workers “from any kind of problem,” Eimer said.

The site will be covered with a foot-thick clay cap topped by the foot-thick concrete slab. Hundreds of piers would be driven up to 150 feet into the ground to anchor the entire inter-connected platform for the project’s center, which the city envisions as its new “uptown” district.

Related’s post-closure land use plan has been accepted by the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (also known as CalRecycle) and the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board.

Santa Clara City Council approved City Place last summer after the city conducted its own environmental review. According to Related’s projections, the city, schools and other local agencies would receive millions of dollars in revenue, scaling up to about $114 million each year once the project is completed.

However, construction of City Place’s core elements, including housing, could take five to seven years, and the whole project could stretch out over two decades.

There have been litigation challenges. Last year, the city of San Jose sued the city of Santa Clara, charging that the imbalance between the project’s jobs and housing — 23,000 jobs and 1,680 housing units — will increase housing demand in San Jose and tax its overstretched services and infrastructure. The next court date is set for late August, but both sides said they hope for an out-of-court resolution.

Even as Related moves toward an 18-month final planning stage prior to groundbreaking, the regional water board remains skeptical: “The concerns that we had about putting housing on a landfill still exist,” Roberson said.

The “big message is that whenever you build on any landfill, there are concerns,” saud  Michael Balliet, director of the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health. He added that Related “has cleared major hurdles. They have identified some ways to mitigate the issues.”

Ruth Shikada, Santa Clara’s assistant city manager, said: “The green light to build never really happens until you get the last permit,” she said. “But as long as we stay the course and continue to do the research and prepare the documents … then we’re going to see housing on that site.”


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