Santa Clara approves first-of-its-kind 'eco-village'

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City leaders on Tuesday in Santa Clara unanimously approved a first-of-its-kind eco-village.

The project will include 350 homes for all income levels and a working farm. It will be located at the intersection of Winchester Boulevard and Worthington Circle across from Valley Fair Mall.

The land used to be an agricultural research station and the plan now is to develop a five-acre parcel of land into an urban environment. A total of 165 homes will be low-income senior housing and the rest would be at market-rate. Instead of amenities like a pool and golf course, the community would have a 1.5-acre working farm.

Alrie Middlebrook is founder of Native Garden Foundation. She is the ecological designer behind the project that’s been in the works since 2014. She said the farm will produce enough fruits and vegetables for the entire village. She’s envisioning not a boutique farm but a teaching, training and research farm for college youth. 

“It’s the first of its kind in the United States,” said Middlebrook. “It would address a lot of the problems we have in Silicon Valley. Santa Clara Valley has the top seven percent of agricultural soil in the world. This place can grow anything.”

At Tuesday night's city council meeting, city leaders touted the residential and agricultural components to the project but wanted to include a cafe or retail space for residents.

The $220 million project is funded by the state of California, city of Santa Clara and a private developer. Million dollar homes in the Midtown Village development surround the land.

An Nguyen lives across from the proposed development and shares parking and privacy concerns of a project this scale. She said her biggest concern is traffic. 

Backers of the project said it's unprecedented.

“This is not just any farm,” said Middlebrook. “This is a farm that is using the intelligence of the earth to grow food and hold carbon in the soil. If we can change our agriculture in growing food this way, we will solve our climate crisis.”

The project could break ground sometime next year with people living in the homes in 2022.