New Plans Revealed for Former Vallco Site

Vallco Cupertino

On December 5, 2023, the property owner of the former Vallco shopping mall, which is located at N. Wolfe Rd. and Stevens Creek Blvd., submitted a new development plan to the City of Cupertino. The plan, called “The Rise,” is posted on the City website. The old shopping site is replaced by a mix of housing, offices, shopping areas, and open spaces, similar to previous plans that have been submitted over the last decade.

“The Rise” Shrinks by 1M Square Feet as Compared with its Previous Application

When completed, the new project will provide:

  • 4.38M sq. ft. of housing: 2,669 for-rent and for-sale homes. 890 homes are “affordable.” 2,603 parking spaces allocated for the homes and the entire project has approximately 9,570 parking spaces, above- and below-ground and along internal roads.
  • 1.95M sq. ft. of office space: Note that current market demand for office space has plummeted, and the developer recently defaulted on a loan on an office building at 590 E. Middlefield Rd., Mountain View1
  • 226K sq. ft. of retail space: This is less than half of what was previously planned.

A Revised Design with a New Architect

The developer recently switched to a different architectural design firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox (KPF). Via the developer’s announcement, “KPF is a world-renowned design firm known for their innovative and community-driven approach to urban design.” The firm has a formidable portfolio, including the headquarters of its major investor, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority2.

Will Cupertino Agree to the Modification?

The developer is requesting modifications from its existing application in four key areas:

  • Major development permit
  • Tentative subdivision map
  • Major architecture and site permit
  • Tree removal (714 trees would be removed and 715 trees would be added).

In spite of the significant changes from the previous plan, the developer claims that this project is a modification of the previous SB35 applications. SB35 is a housing law that allows the developer to streamline residential building applications. If the City agrees that the modifications are minor, then the new buildings can use antiquated building codes from 2016, even if the development is built years from now. This also makes the new buildings less energy-efficient and avoids the City’s 2019 bird-safe development guidelines.

The press release stated that some buildings had been reduced to 85 feet in response to community input. It is possible that financial considerations also contributed to some of the lower heights. A new State law SB423 requires skilled and trained labor for SB35 projects that exceed 85-feet. Nevertheless, the project still contains housing that is up to 200-feet tall and even higher office space that is up to nearly 230-feet tall.

Soil Contamination

The Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health (DEH) will need clarification from the developer as to whether the clean-up of contaminated soil* dictated by a Site Management Plan (SMP) complies with the new plan. The DEH cautioned that it may rescind approval of the SMP and require additional site assessment, risk evaluations, and mitigation measures.

Next Steps

The City has 60 days to respond to the developer as to whether the project is compliant with SB35 or whether it can be considered a modification to a previously-approved SB35 project. Since the developer intends to subdivide the project and build it in phases, it is unknown when it will be completed, if ever.

References

  1. Avalos, George. “Big Mountain View office building at choice site faces loan default.” The Mercury News, 25 Sep. 2023. https://www.mercurynews.com/2023/09/25/mountain-view-real-estate-office-develop-build-loan-tech-economy-covid/. Accessed December 20, 2023.
  2. Li, Roland. “A dying mall near Apple’s headquarters is turning into a fight over Silicon Valley’s soul.” San Francisco Chronicle, 25 Nov. 2018, https://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/A-dying-mall-near-Apple-s-headquarters-is-13417634.php. Accessed December 20, 2023.

Moulds, Reed. The Rise Reveals New Design, Vision Forward. Sand Hill Property Company, 6 December 2023, https://therisecalifornia.com/news/the-rise-reveals-new-design-vision-forward. Accessed December 19, 2023.

City of Cupertino. Vallco Town Center SB35 Project. https://www.cupertino.org/our-city/departments/community-development/planning/major-projects/vallco/vallco-sb-35-project. Accessed December 19, 2023.

*Potential contaminants of concern apparently detected in the soil at the N Wolfe Rd/Stevens Creek Blvd location and recorded by the State Water Resources Control Board website include: benzene, diesel, lead, other chlorinated hydrocarbons, other insecticides/pesticides/fumigants/herbicides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichloroethylene (TCE).[12]
[12] GeoTracker, “Summary” tab. State Water Resources Control Board. 11 November 2022. https://geotracker.waterboards.ca.gov/profile_report?global_id=T10000017167

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