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[whitespace] County craves empty nest; residents won't fly away

Los Gatos--The county's relationship with its unincorporated pockets is not unlike the relationship between exhausted parents who want their 20-something kids out of the house, but don't quite know how to get rid of them.

The bad news for the county is that the kids aren't going anywhere. Residents in all five of the unincorporated county pockets rejected Santa Clara County and Los Gatos' combined efforts to annex them into the town.

While votes in most of the pockets were close, the majority of pocket residents clearly indicated they had no desire to join the town. Annexation efforts were defeated in Blossom Hill Manors No. 7 and 8, Camino Del Cerro No. 10, Robie Lane No. 3 and Marchmont Drive No. 1.

"It was a very heated debate," Cindy Steele, a resident of Blossom Hill No. 8, said, adding that anti-annexation signs had been pulled out of neighborhood yards. "I'm happy that the community came together to fight it." Steele said neighbors of all ages worked together constructing signs and canvassing the neighborhood. Annexation of Blossom Hill No. 8 was voted down 47.6 percent to 52.4 percent, by a 25 vote margin.

Steele said that, while she and her husband "love Los Gatos," they didn't want to deal with their view of a more bureaucratic government. "Our position was that you don't fix what's not broken."

From the county's perspective, however, the pockets are "broken." Located within the urban service areas of South Bay municipalities, the pockets are expensive and difficult for the county to service.

"It is discouraging," Don Weden, annexation director of Santa Clara County's planning department said. "But the elections don't change the underlying fact that pockets are very inefficient." Weden added that the results were relatively close. If just 24 residents had voted yes, rather than no, four of the five pockets would have been annexed.

"It wasn't an overwhelming defeat," Weden said. "The majority of people don't care one way or another, but the most vocal are the ones who voted it down."

The county, in its efforts to encourage annexation, reviewed its development standards to more closely align them with neighboring cities. In the past, lax regulations and permit requirements were an incentive to stay in the county.

The state Legislature also has passed a law, AB 1555, which gives cities the authority to annex pockets of less than 75 acres without an election. Weden predicted the town most likely would use the new law before it expires in 2007, since town residents will tire of paying county taxes that are spent disproportionately on pocket residents.

The town has not indicated whether it plans to use AB 1555. Councilwoman Linda Lubeck previously stated she would like to explore the possibility. In the meantime, the town will consider if it will spend funds already allocated to annex smaller, piecemeal pockets of interested residents.
Nathan R. Huff

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Web extra to the March 16-22, 2000 issue of Metro.

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