Mixed-use project to ‘realign’ Depot Street

Traffic will be diverted through community center lot to Church Street

Morgan Hill’s General Plan through 2035 calls for a rerouting of Depot Street on the southeast corner of downtown, through the Community and Cultural Center, and connecting Church Street. The rerouting has now been incorporated into a mixed-use development project that will be built neighboring downtown.

The project is owned by the Latala Group LLC, and will build 40 townhouses and nine condominiums along with 3,000 square feet of office space on a 2.29-acre site. The final results of a project will create “a new Depot Street,” according to the staff report presented at the March 20 City Council meeting.

Latala Group’s development was approved by the council in a 3-1 vote, with Councilmember René Spring absent, although he had historically voted against the project. Councilmembers Larry Carr and John McKay voted to approve the project along with Mayor Rich Constantine, with Councilmember Yvonne Martínez-Béltran voting against it.

According to the city staff report, the development includes “realignment and construction of new Depot Street to connect with Church Street, replacement of the parking spaces and parking enhancements for the Community and Cultural Center property with no net loss of parking, development of a 3,116-square-foot mixed-use building to be constructed by the developer and ground floor offices to be sold to the city.”

Maureen Tobin, Morgan Hill’s communication and engagement officer, said the number of parking spaces will be kept the same by rearranging them and changing some spots to compact parking.

During the reconstruction of Depot Street, the parking lot of the Community and Cultural Center will be used to stage equipment and supplies. In the project’s development agreement, Latala Group committed to 10 percent below market rate housing, along with $135,828 paid as an in-lieu fee contribution that will go toward the city’s housing fund.

The reasons the city outlined for rerouting Depot Street had to do with safety concerns and creating more distance between traffic and the Union Pacific Railroad line. The staff report said the reroute would remove “a conflict point through the elimination of an off-set intersection, eliminating an intersection within close proximity to the (railroad) tracks, providing a direct connection to a four-way signalized intersection, creating a bike- and pedestrian-friendly roadway, engineering a curvilinear roadway to prevent speeding, eliminating the existing cut-through traffic within the ( Community and Cultural Center) parking lot.”

Hale Lumber, which currently sits on the site of the planned development, was sold to Latala. The new housing and office space will take the place of the lumberyard.

Rerouting Depot Street is also part of the city’s adoption of the “Vision Zero” traffic safety plan, which aims to get to zero pedestrian deaths. Despite plans to complete the rerouting prior to the development project, the staff report said that both the building and the Depot Street reroute will likely happen simultaneously.

“In an ideal situation, the Depot Street realignment should be completed first. However, the site is too small, and the underground infrastructure and connections may necessitate that all the improvements happen at once,” said the staff report. “Street construction is expected to take approximately four to six months, but it could take up to a year depending upon the coordination and scheduling with outside agencies such as PG&E.”

Sixty-eight parking spaces on the street are likely to be impacted by the construction, according to the staff report.

Spring has been consistently opposed to the project, but was out of the country for the March 20 meeting. He told the Times in an email that he believes the project will create more traffic with less safety for pedestrians.

“I am not in favor of connecting Depot and Church streets as proposed and believe that it will lead to even more traffic on Depot Street, potentially impacting pedestrians’ safety in the parking lot area of our Community Center,” said Spring. “I am concerned that the city is waiving and rushing through yet another project along Depot Street before we understand the full impact of all the additional traffic expected by the other new projects further north along Depot.”

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