Evergreen college board pulls out of development talks with Republic Urban
Photo courtesy of San Jose.

The San Jose-Evergreen Community College District has sent a letter to developer Republic Urban Properties LLC saying it doesn’t intend to further extend or modify the exclusive negotiation agreement to develop surplus land.

In a July 11 letter to Michael Van Every, president of the San Jose-based development company, SJECCD  Chancellor Byron D. Clift Breland said the agreement has expired and the district intends to reevaluate the use and possible disposition of the surplus land. The term of the ENA expired after two previous extensions.

Breland asked that Republic discontinue negotiations with prospective tenants as well as efforts to obtain entitlements for the district’s land. Republic had planned to develop an ambitious mixed-use project that included 103,000 square feet of medical office space and a 175-unit senior care facility.

The 27-acre plot of land was designated as “surplus” in 2004. The proposed development would encompass 13.6 acres.

The General Plan designation of Neighborhood Community Commercial that SJECCD requested and received in 2016 does not allow for housing to be built on the 27 acres of surplus district property. Originally the lease revenue from the development to the district was estimated at $1.5 million annually, but the estimate dropped to approximately $500,000 with the reduction of the footprint from 27 acres to 13.6 acres.

What happens now?

“At present time, we are reevaluating and considering all options available to us regarding the development of the surplus land,” said district spokesman Ryan Brown. “Our District remains committed to utilizing our surplus land to generate revenue in support of student success programs and initiatives, like San Jose Promise, throughout our District.

“While the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Republic Urban Properties has expired, SJECCD leadership and our Board of Trustees have renewed interest and attention on the project and are currently exploring and evaluating all possible options to move forward,” he added. “We are fortunate to have this surplus land and want to ensure that we are utilizing it in a way that will best serve our students and the community.”

As SJECCD determines its path forward, San Jose Councilmember Sylvia Arenas said she’ll continue to focus on the key questions that affect the community: Is there an open, transparent and collaborative community process? Will the final outcome positively improve our community?

“I was sworn into office after the General Plan change was already approved on this site in 2016 and so I’ve been working with Republic Urban, the college and the Evergreen community to make sure that the project met those key goals,” Arenas said. “That work was on track before the district chose not to extend their ENA, but whoever the developer is on this project, the goals need to be the same.”

Arenas said she wants to “reassure the Evergreen community that this area is not and will not be eligible to build housing,” which was a point of contention with residents concerned about increased traffic.

SJECCD had agreed to provide a public meeting “charrette” with the Evergreen community and San Jose city officials, however, no date for the meeting was set prior to the termination letter being sent to Republic Urban.

Brown said the public meetings are one aspect of “a wide-ranging community outreach” plan.

“Our efforts to involve more folks will continue as we determine next steps and move forward with development of the land,” he added. “The district remains committed to holding a community workshop to collect input and feedback from the public regarding master planning of our surplus land.”

Robert Reese, who chairs the D8CRT’s land use committee, believes the SJECCD had challenges working with Republic Urban. “We really do not know what not extending the exclusive negotiating agreement with Republic Urban means until the SJECCD clarifies its future plans for the 27 acres,” said Reese. “It’s not clear if or how the SJEECD intends to pursue commercial development of the site or if SJECCD intends to pursue educational uses on the site consistent with their educational mission for which the land was purchased.”

Reese said the proposed commercial development was intended by SJECCD to be a private development without the use of public money, though he said the district has increasingly put public dollars into the proposed private commercial development of this property. Putting public money into the private development is inconsistent with the SJECCD’s stated intent, Reese said.

Brown responded to Reese’s concern with using public money on the development by saying “SJECCD believes this project is important for our students and community and there are certain expenses that have been committed to move this forward.”

SJECCD also owns the land on the corner of San Felipe and Yerba Buena roads. The shopping center with CVS, McDonalds and Starbucks was developed more than 20 years ago on SJECCD land without any public money.

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