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Prelim Design Review and Public Input - 10/2019

Updated: Jan 11, 2020

Thank you for helping us represent our community during this important design review conducted by Morgan Hill Planning Commission. Your comments were outstanding!

Watch Recordings of Preliminary Design Review and Public Comments Planning Commission SESSION1 on 10/15/2019

Planning Commission SESSION2 on 10/22/2019


RECAP - SESSION1 (10/15/2019) The first session of the Preliminary Design Review for the Morgan Hill Technology Park was held October 15 and lasted more than 4 hours! Community attendance was absolutely phenomenal and those who shared comments at the podium were all knowledgeable, articulate, and quite compelling!

Applicant Trammell Crow had several representatives in attendance, along with their PR rep. They started the meeting with a presentation of their design plan. While this version did show some additional details, such as sight lines from the freeway, there were very few deviations from the original design that showed 192 loading docks and 300 spaces for big rig trailer storage. The developer insists their design is very relevant whether it be used for advanced manufacturing or distribution. Much to our disbelief, they also maintain that the distribution aspect is necessary to secure funding for this project.

Next, members of the MH Planning Commission proceeded to get clarification of details on the design. It was obvious they did their homework on this project and asked many discerning questions of the applicant. Trammell Crow seemed ill-prepared for the level of knowledge Planning Commissioners showed regarding design specifications as they relate to distribution centers and advanced manufacturing facilities.

The remainder of the meeting kept us completely captivated as community speakers poured their hearts into every question, comment and concern. Be sure to watch the video so you don’t miss an opportunity to hear what your neighbors from all over Morgan Hill are saying about this misguided project. RECAP - SESSION2 (10/22/2019)

The second session started with more public input, including several community members with unique perspectives on how this project could turn Morgan Hill into an industrial wasteland like what happened in a few other cities around California. The first speaker set the tone, encouraging us to “define what our city is going to be”. He pointed out that if we were in Los Gatos or Saratoga, this would never even come up before city planners because they’ve already defined through precedence what they allow in their city; “This is a beautiful jewel south of Silicon Valley, let's keep it that way”.

Next came developer Trammell Crow’s response. Apparently, feedback heard during the first review session led the project team to discuss a possibility that the largest building could be divided into 2 or 3 smaller buildings and most of the 303 trailer spaces around the perimeter could be eliminated. All buildings would then be more in line with average industrial building size in Morgan Hill. While we appreciate their willingness to revise their plans, we do not yet have verification of these design changes or see any planned reduction in the 192 loading docks (which they now call service doors). Trammel Crow deferred further questions on details from commissioners until their architects could work on the design.

At this juncture, planning commissioners made every effort to form a concept of this project in their minds, confusing as it is: a project that looks like a distribution center, but is not a distribution center, more for advanced manufacturing, according to the developer; and don’t forget, specifications are changing, but those changes are not yet confirmed. We can’t imagine how they could complete a satisfactory review given these vague parameters, but they certainly tried. They also raised a very timely question, “if we don’t really know what the project is, what exactly is being studied for the EIR?”. The draft EIR is scheduled to be released to the public in December.

Each commissioner on the panel had an opportunity to direct questions and comments to Trammel Crow. The newest commissioner drew applause from the audience as she shared her observations. Relating to her own long-time experience in advanced manufacturing, she told Trammell Crow “you need to do your homework,” referring to salary estimates and design specifications. She also requested more transparency and a better understanding of tenants interested in the project. Also insightful, “I took a tour of an Amazon distribution center yesterday. It looks just like your conceptual design. You can only draw so many conclusions.”

During final comments, many of the commissioners suggested a possibility of the city approving the rezoning with some redefinition of "distribution". We are not quite sure when this will be discussed further among the commissioners or city planners. Also, another area of confusion among commissioners related to how the new Trammell Crow design changes would be reviewed. Unfortunately, this Preliminary Design Review is NOT an iterative process where they (and we) get to see the new design from Trammell Crow and provide further comment. Unfortunately, it's a "one and done" for input and discussion like this.


We are very interested in finding out what changes Trammell Crow will implement in their project design after hearing comments during this review. We believe the negative response to the initial site plans were so overwhelming, they had to make an effort to respond with revisions or they could not expect buy-in from the community or the City of Morgan Hill. We do not yet have an estimate on when the developer will give public access to these design changes.

In the meantime, we will continue investigating rezoning implications for this project considering the new commercial/industrial (CI) designation that Trammell Crow is requesting, and share our findings with you. We will also continue to stay engaged in city council and planning commission meetings to voice our concerns about the rezoning.

What we do know is that Trammell Crow still has buildings in the plan designated by design as distribution warehouses and they made it clear to the planning commission they need to maintain FLEXIBILITY in their design to market to all companies and industries represented on their list of possible uses, based on rezoning. We read between the lines to understand this means if they cannot attract buyers representing advanced manufacturing, they can still seek out buyers in the faster-growing eCommerce or logistics industry, namely a fulfillment or distribution center.

As you might imagine, regardless of what results from these possible architectural changes, we still need to move forward on preparing our INITIATIVE to ensure this land can never become a distribution center. While we've observed the community expressing new fears and a sense of urgency with the uncertainty in Trammel Crow's design plans, we can assure you that nothing has changed in our carefully crafted plan to improve the course of this misguided project. If you haven't read our Plan of Action and how you can help, be sure to check out Changing the Outcome of this Project.

Photos from 10/15 Preliminary Design Review Mtg


(earlier announcement) Mark your calendar for this VERY important meeting! What: Preliminary Design Review for Trammell Crow project When: October 15, 7:00 pm Where: City Council Chambers, 17555 Peak Ave, Morgan Hill

We are excited to finally have Trammell Crow provide more information about their Master Plan on the Morgan Hill Technology Park project. We hope you can attend! A copy of the City of Morgan Hill notification letter is included below.

If you haven’t been involved in this process before, you might have some questions. We spent quite a bit of time reading through Morgan Hill Municipal Code and city documents to glean out details of the Planned Development and Preliminary Design Review process to help give you some background info before you attend the meeting:

Q. What happens at the meeting and when does the public get to speak? A. Usually the applicant (Trammell Crow) gives a presentation of their Master Plan and then the Planning Commissioners will ask questions of the applicant. This interaction is only between the applicant and commissioners. The time commissioners allocate for their own questions is usually stated in the agenda but you can expect they will go into great details on the project. When they finish their questions, the public is allowed to ask questions, limited to approximately 2-3 minutes per person.

Q. What is the Purpose of the Preliminary Design Review?

A. The Preliminary Design Review helps to determine the feasibility of a project related to the city’s Planned Development (PD) process. As part of their project application, Trammell Crow is requesting changes to both the long-term Morgan Hill General Plan and the Zoning Code. These guiding documents represent endless hours of work by residents of our city. There are two related processes that must be completed for this project to be approved:

1. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires cities to identify the significant environmental impacts of a project. This process has many complex parts leading to the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). The focus of this review, however, is NOT the EIR.

2. At the city level, the approval process is called a Planned Development (PD). This can allow projects to be approved that would not otherwise be allowed under base zoning regulations. An application for Preliminary Design Review must be completed prior to consideration of project-related General Plan and Zoning Amendments. During this review, the builder presents their Master Plan, with many more details than were available in the conceptual design. This enables the city to ensure that the proposed development exhibits high quality design consistent with the General Plan. It is also intended to ensure that new development and uses are compatible with their surroundings and minimize negative impacts on neighboring properties.

Q. What is covered by the Preliminary Design Review application?

A. The scope of this review is intended to be quite broad. According to city documents on Zoning Code, a Preliminary Review application for a proposed Planned Development project shall be submitted with the Development Services Department in accordance with Chapter 18.104 (Common Permit Requirements). The application shall include, at a minimum, the following information and materials:

a. A statement describing the proposed project and how it complies with the findings required for the approval of a PD project in Section 18.30.050.H.7 (Findings).

Note: This is very important because these findings are the SAME criteria that are eventually used by both Planning Commission and City Council to decide approval or not in the Final Review and Decision.

b. Project plans, diagrams, and graphics, as needed, to illustrate the overall development concept, including proposed land uses, buildings, circulation, open space, and any other significant elements in the project.

Q. What are the Findings, those criteria the applicant MUST prove for the project to be approved?

A. City Council may approve an application for a PD Master Plan if all of the following findings can be made:

a. The proposed development is consistent with the General Plan, Zoning Code and any applicable specific plan or area plan adopted by the City Council.

b. The proposed development is superior to the development that could occur under the standards applicable in the existing zoning districts.

c. The proposed project will provide a substantial public benefit as defined below. The public benefit provided shall be of sufficient value as determined by the Planning Commission to justify deviation from the standards of the zoning district that currently applies to the property.

d. The site for the proposed development is adequate in size and shape to accommodate proposed land uses.

e. Adequate transportation facilities, infrastructure, and public services exist or will be provided to serve the proposed development.

f. The proposed development will not have a substantial adverse effect on surrounding property and will be compatible with the existing and planned land use character of the surrounding area.

g. Findings required for the concurrent approval of a Zoning Map Amendment can be made. Therefore, while this review is only preliminary, WE SHOULD EXPECT the planning commission to make a preliminary assessment about ALL of these Findings which will reveal many details people have been asking about.

Finally, substantial public benefit of Finding 'c' above means this: a project feature not otherwise required by the Zoning Code or any other provision of local, state, or federal law that substantially exceeds the City’s minimum development standards and significantly advances goals of the General Plan.

A project must include one or more substantial public benefits to be rezoned as a Planned Development. The public benefit provided shall be of sufficient value as determined by City Council to justify deviation from the standards of the zoning district that currently apply to this property. Examples of substantial public benefits include but are not limited to:

a. Housing that is affordable to lower-income households.

b. Public plazas, courtyards, open space, and other public gathering places that provide opportunities for people to informally meet and gather.

c. New or improved pedestrian and bicycle pathways that enhance circulation within the property and connectivity to the surrounding neighborhood.

d. Green building and sustainable development features that substantially exceed the city’s minimum requirements.

e. Preservation, restoration, or rehabilitation of a historic resource.

f. Increased transportation options for residents and visitors to walk, bike, and take public transit to destinations and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

g. Publicly accessible parks and open space beyond the minimum required by the city or other public agency.

h. Habitat restoration and or protection of natural resources beyond the minimum required by the city or other public agency. Q. Will the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) be available?

A. No, the focus of the upcoming Preliminary Design Review is NOT the EIR. While the EIR can cast a shadow over many related issues, mitigation of environmental issues are not likely to be discussed at this meeting. The draft EIR is estimated to be available to the public in December 2019.


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