A woman in her front yard looks at a six-story apartment tower being constructed behind her house in San Jose.
Campbell resident Stacia Lumley, who lives on Moneta Way, looks at the massive housing development going up on Bascom Avenue in San Jose that overlooks her home. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

Campbell resident Stacia Lumley should hear birds chirping in her backyard and feel the warm sun on her face. Instead, the songbirds are drowned out by construction noise, and the sun is partially blocked by a six-story apartment development looming over her home.

Lumley has lived in her red two-story house on Moneta Way for more than 20 years. Although she and her neighbors are not opposed to a 100% affordable housing development, they fought to change the design that now towers over their properties on the quiet cul-de-sac. Their efforts to alter the project were futile since the development was fast-tracked under Senate Bill 35, leaving city officials and neighbors powerless to stop it. The law streamlines approvals for housing projects that fit within city zoning and planning rules.

The roughly one-acre, 123-apartment development at 2350 S. Bascom Ave. is expected to be completed by next spring.

“It really would have been nice if they had maybe listened to us or heard us,” Lumley told San José Spotlight. “It just felt as if we didn’t matter at all.”

City Manager Brian Loventhal said there’s not much Campbell can do to prevent larger developments on its border, especially since SB 35 fast-tracks the process and adheres to a state law mandating objective design standards, which lessens an official’s power to deny the project.

“We want to help, but the law is such now that we have very limited tools to do that. I think we just have to use those tools more efficiently and do our best and help work with those expectations of residents so they realize those limitations are real,” Loventhal told San José Spotlight.

San Jose — which borders Campbell, Cupertino, Los Gatos, Saratoga, Milpitas, Santa Clara and Sunnyvale — is beginning to build more affordable housing following state approval of its comprehensive housing plan in January, a year after deadline. The city aims to add 62,200 homes by 2031 and John Tu, planning division manager, said that means San Jose is looking for building sites throughout the city.

A six-story tall building under construction that will be 100% affordable housing that sits at 2350 S. Bascom Ave in San Jose along the city's border with Campbell.
A 100% affordable housing development is being built at 2350 S. Bascom Ave. in San Jose, along Campbell’s border. Photo by Annalise Freimarck.

San Jose has roughly 20 affordable housing projects near its borders, according to the planning department’s affordable rental housing map. Future projects could mean residents like those in Campbell could find their surroundings and privacy dramatically changed.

Tu said building more housing throughout the city affects all San Jose residents because the city is mainly single-family homes. He said the planning department aims to build housing where it makes sense: closer to public transit on the edges of neighborhoods.

“We are trying as best we can that if we do these projects, they are lined along with major corridors or major streets,” he told San José Spotlight. “Unfortunately, (along) those major corridors, major streets, three or four, five units or parcels in are single-family homes. So we had to make a conscious decision.”

South Bascom Avenue, just south of Santa Clara Valley Medical Center past Dry Creek Road, is a construction alley, filled with massive housing projects. The construction is part of the San Jose Urban Village strategy. South Bascom Avenue is one of 60 urban villages in the city’s Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan.

Building on the border

San Jose’s planning department follows communication procedures to inform residents of developments in the city.

For projects that require a public hearing, postcards are sent to residents living within a 300- to 1,000-foot radius of the site, depending on the development’s size and type. SB 35 projects do not require a public hearing, but the city’s planning department recommends developers notify homes near the site and contact the neighboring cities for bordering projects.

Tu said San Jose can’t dictate how a project should be built based off resident feedback due to the design standards the city is obliged to follow for SB 35 projects.

Campbell residents on Moneta Way had to no say in the 123-apartment project being constructed on Bascom Avenue in San Jose. Photo by Moryt Milo.

Despite the limitations SB 35 imposes, residents across city lines still want to feel like their voices are heard.

Rita Williams lives across the street from Lumley and attended community meetings with Maracor Development and San Jose officials, orchestrated by District 9 San Jose Councilmember Pam Foley, who represents where the project is located.

“As a San Jose councilmember, I represent the residents of San Jose and more specifically the residents in District 9,” Foley told San José Spotlight. “That being said, I am always open to listening to all perspectives. Community members from Campbell were welcome at the community meetings held for this project. In fact, Campbell city councilmembers participated in these Zoom meetings.”

Williams said she felt ignored by the developer and San Jose because she is a Campbell resident.

“I want something a little smarter than (that),” she told San Jose Spotlight. “It’s not attractive at all.”

The developer considered residents’ concerns after the meetings and set the building farther back from the property line at the rear and back corner, which Maracor Principal Brad Dickason said cost the site a few apartments. The developer also added more trees around the building.

“It’s always a balance between trying to deliver as much affordable housing as you can, versus trying to make the neighbors happy,” Dickason told San José Spotlight.

Loventhal, Campbell’s city manager, said he encourages residents to voice their concerns on projects they are unhappy with, especially to elected state officials who help enact statewide building laws.

“There’s two ways to look at it: one is to complain about the situation and the second one is to complain about the situation (to elected officials) so that we can do better next time and understand how things impact (the community),” he said.

Despite speaking up, Lumley and her neighbors are stuck with the six-story building overshadowing their homes, forever changing the look of their neighborhood.

“What I would have appreciated was a sense of sensitivity for the people who already live here,” she said.

Contact Annalise Freimarck at [email protected] or follow @annalise_ellen on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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