Numerous housing ideas have been bandied about on state and local levels over the last nine months in an effort to accelerate home construction.
This aggressive push follows decades of insufficient supply and the state’s belated effort to make sure people can afford to live where they work. If the state succeeds, more homes will bring down sky-high rents and reduce evictions. It will help get more homeless residents off the streets and provide greater security for seniors from being priced out of their homes.
While newer and faster processes are weaving their way through the housing system, one recently opened development in Santa Clara might be a worthy blueprint for other builders to consider.
Agrihood is a 5.8-acre senior housing development that harkens back to Santa Clara County’s agricultural roots. The multifaceted development with 160 mixed-income apartments, 165 homes for low-income seniors and veterans and 36 townhomes broke ground in 2021 and is now welcoming residents. The property includes a 1.5-acre community garden where residents can grow their own produce. The concept is a natural fit for a region once known as the Valley of Heart’s Delight, where endless acres of fruit trees stretched to the horizon.
Imagine what communities could look like if we tore down abandoned buildings or repurposed dilapidated properties with sustainable developments that improve the environment and quality of life and reduce the carbon footprint. We’d regain land lost to cement, steel and glass.
Why can’t part of the housing goal be to add more green and less pavement? Agrihood proves it can be done.
San Jose has 60 urban villages mapped out over 180 square miles, all part of its Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan. That’s more than 115,000 acres, and an opportunity for more urban farm centered developments to sprout throughout the city and beyond. Theoretically, at roughly five acres per Agrihood the city could create 23,000 and still have 92,000 acres for urban village development. Of course, that’s overly ambitious, but there is room for projects that marry agriculture and housing.
One location ripe for consideration is Google’s Downtown West development. The project is at a crossroads post-pandemic, making it a perfect time to reexamine plans for the 80-acre campus. The tech giant has the financial heft to convert a couple of acres into an Agrihood.
Google is known for its ambitious sustainability plans and carbon neutral tech campus goals. That mindset will most likely be applied to this mega project when the tech giant picks up the shovels again. So why not include an Agrihood-like component?
Google could build out an incredible communal garden next to its proposed housing, symbiotically bringing together people, farming and homes for a better environment. It’s everything the company already preaches.
If Google needs proof of concept, management need only drive a few miles east to Winchester Boulevard where after years of planning they’ll discover a novel housing approach eager to be replicated. A rare chance to copy an idea that brings no threat of infringement. How can they pass up that kind of a deal?