CUPERTINO (KPIX 5) — Tensions are running high in Cupertino over a developer’s plans for hundreds of new homes as some neighbors are saying, “not so fast.”

The homes would be built on what was the old Vallco Shopping Mall on North Wolfe Road. The defunct mall is the testing ground for a new state law – SB 35 – and the outcome could determine not only the future of this vacant retail center, but the direction of cities like Cupertino.

“On a scale of one to ten, this opportunity is an eleven,” said Silicon Valley Leadership Group President Carl Guardino,

The group is backing a developer’s plans to build 2,400 homes on the Vallco site, which is just south of Apple’s recently-completed “spaceship” headquarters. Half of the homes would be considered affordable for low-income or very low-income people.

“it provides for a spectrum of housing,” said Guardino. “It provides market rate homes, but it also provides homes for the people who wait on us at restaurants and retail and dry cleaners.”

The Cupertino City Council is trying to decide if SB 35 applies to the Vallco redevelopment plan. The law, which took effect this year, is designed to make it easier for developers to build affordable housing more quickly and harder for cities that have historically resisted low income housing to block it.

Residents have voiced concerns about the effects of such a large and diverse housing plan in an upscale community like Cupertino, where the average home price exceeds $2 million.

“It’s just going to cause more congestion, overcrowding in the streets and the schools and is just going to have a trickle-down effect from there,” said resident John Rohde.

“I’m concerned about the traffic and its effect on the schools, if it’s a very low-income group feeding into the schools,” said resident Shaheen Husain.

If Cupertino moves ahead with plans, a citizens group called A Better Cupertino is threatening to file a lawsuit to stop it.

“Isn’t it funny that a decent, safe, affordable home for a working person and family has become a controversy?” said Guardino.

The redevelopment plan by Vallco owner Sand Hill Property Co. has generated so much attention in Cupertino, the city council has noted in its agenda for Tuesday evening that if the speakers go beyond 11 p.m., the debate would be cut off at that time and the issue would be taken up again on Wednesday.

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