More than 200 apartments could be coming to San Jose’s Buena Vista neighborhood as city planning officials consider a proposal that would require demolition of several buildings.
Cupertino-based Urban Villas LLC is pitching a slightly bigger version of a previously approved project just outside of downtown San Jose that includes 237 apartments and nearly 17,000 square feet of retail in an eight-story building.
The plans call for demolishing eight historic homes, including a century-old Craftsman-style home and seven Spanish Revival-style bungalows, as well as three vacant commercial buildings, to make way for the complex.
The entire project would be built on a 1.3-acre site located at 1530-1544 W. San Carlos St. on the southeast corner near Buena Vista Avenue, city reports said. The proposal goes before the city planning director on Wednesday.
Urban Villas LLC, an investment group managed by Viji Mani, wants to sell the land and rights to build the project, if approved by the city.
Mani told San José Spotlight the project was listed on the market for $41 million earlier this year, but her organization recently reduced the price to $36 million.
The investment group prefers to sell the project because of currently high interest rates, making it more difficult to finance development projects, and because of the high cost of construction.
The group took ownership of the land in 2019 and evicted the low-income residents in the homes, who were using Section 8 housing vouchers and relocated, Mani said. A car sales business, car rental business and a Salvadoran restaurant were also on site previously.
In 2021, the San Jose City Council approved a smaller version of the project with two seven-story buildings and 173 condominiums. After some revisions to city building standards, the developer shifted the project to a single eight-story building, Mani said. The updated project only requires an approval by the city planning director to move forward.
The council noted in its approval that losing the historic homes, which were eligible for city landmark status, would be a “significant unavoidable impact,” because they are “associated with the city’s agricultural past and the advent of the automobile prior to World War II.” A consultant’s report in 2019 noted the Craftsman-style home was built circa 1925, and the seven identical floor plan bungalows in a “bungalow court” neighborhood were built around 1932.
However, the council decided the benefits of the proposed project in an urban village outweighs the downside of demolishing the homes. Urban villages are areas of San Jose where officials envision focused growth with dense housing and commercial spaces near transit lines.
The project will include at least eight apartments priced below-market rate, to account for the loss of eight affordable homes, Mani said. Whether the developer will ultimately choose to include more affordable apartments to satisfy the city’s requirements, or choose to pay in-lieu fees instead, is still unclear.
While city standards in place when the project was proposed required 386 parking spaces, the city is considering granting the developer a 48% reduction in required spaces, to 199, because the project is in an urban village focused growth area, city reports said.
The project will also provide bicycle parking and a transit-use incentive program, as well as unbundled parking, meaning the cost to rent an apartment at the complex will not include cost for a parking space.
Mani said the project also includes a 30-foot-wide landscaped paseo, which will connect Buena Vista and Willard avenues. Mani manages another investment group that will be pursuing a 256-apartment project on the lot immediately east of the current project, which will also make use of the paseo, she said.
The San Jose Planning Director’s Hearing takes place Wednesday at 9 a.m. You can watch or participate in the city’s Zoom meeting at this link.
This story will be updated.