Closed San Jose golf course may become housing
A portion of the former Pleasant Hills Golf Course in East San Jose. Some residents are concerned about potential development of the 114-acre site. Photo by Joseph Geha.

East San Jose residents are raising alarms over the potential development of a massive former golf course.

An obscure policy change recommended by the city’s Transportation and Environment Committee could lay the foundation for the 114-acre former Pleasant Hills Golf Course to be built out with housing, commercial space or both.

The committee is pushing for changes to the city’s transportation analysis policy to promote greater housing development in parts of the city where it’s not currently allowed. Under current environmental laws, the traffic impacts in certain areas would be too great to permit development without a special exception.

“Exploration of development for this site should be through a city-led process with community engagement instead of developing a policy to make an exception for it,” Green Foothills staff member and District 5 resident Juan Estrada told the committee at a recent meeting. Green Foothills is a nonprofit that focuses on protecting open space in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties.

The golf course, which closed in 2004, is in District 8 near the border of District 5 and is unincorporated county land. It’s designated as private open space and development is not allowed under the city’s current General Plan.

The possible policy change could create a new council roadmap on where and how to override traffic impacts to allow development, even in outlying areas of the city.

Although city staff oppose the idea because it goes against the city’s climate goals and General Plan, Councilmember Raul Peralez pushed for further research in a memo supported by the whole committee.

The intent of the policy change is not to “open the floodgates for cavalier conversions,” the memo said.

Peralez said this is a creative opportunity for the city to analyze ways to convert rare properties for needed housing. Other committee members said they’d only want the council to consider an override for properties that could significantly contribute to solving the housing crisis and the vitality of a neighborhood.

Robert Reese, a member of the District 8 Community Roundtable, said the policy change appears to be aimed directly at the golf course, and city leaders should be clear about that.

“It’s ironic because we hear a lot of discussion about collaboration, inclusivity and equity,” Reese told San José Spotlight. “But here is the Transportation and Environment Committee moving ahead on something that’s essentially urban sprawl.”

Michael Brilliot, San Jose’s deputy director of citywide planning, said while the changes being proposed could apply to other properties in the city, under the guidelines the committee outlined, “the one property that kind of rises to the top is the Pleasant Hills Golf Course.”

The property has been eyed by developers several times in the past, but ultimately no projects have come to fruition there, likely due to a lack of political support, city officials said.

“Pleasant Hills Golf Course has a long and challenging history in our community, and I appreciate the close community attention on any potential development at the site,” District 8 Councilmember Sylvia Arenas told San José Spotlight. She noted there have been several proposals for the land since 2017, but she opposed all of them. “However, each proposal requires close and careful consideration—in the hope that there will one day be a project that lives up to the high expectations of our community.”

Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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