North San Jose: Elected leaders advance plan to build more housing
The San Jose City Council, as seen in this file photo, voted Tuesday to fast track development in North San Jose.

    As housing production in North San Jose stalled over transportation improvements, councilmembers on Tuesday discussed fast-tracking the development of 8,000 apartments in an effort to alleviate the city’s housing shortage and incentivize affordable housing in the area.

    In a proposal chartered by Mayor Sam Liccardo, the council asked officials to assess the feasibility of allowing housing projects to move forward on a case-by-case basis, as long as they’ve completed an environmental review, and using a state transit policy that measure vehicle miles traveled per capita to help guide development.

    “The challenge is a simple one now,” said Liccardo, referring to his proposal. “The last four-and-a-half years, we’ve been struggling to find a way forward in North San Jose and we have not yet found a path.”

    City officials have long eyed the northern pocket of San Jose as a future development hub. In 2005, the City Council adopted the North San Jose Plan that called for developing 26.7 million square feet of office or industrial space, 32,000 housing units, 2.7 million square feet of commercial space and 1,000 hotel rooms.

    But development in that area has been far from what was envisioned. The plan allowed for development in four phases, but the city was stuck waiting for development and transit improvements from one phase to finish before starting another –- stalling the construction of new housing. Tuesday’s decision from councilors would combine the plan’s phases into two in an effort to speed up housing development.

    Councilmember Lan Diep, whose district includes North San Jose – or “Uptown” as he calls it – also proposed that the city take suggestions from the Daniel Rose Fellowship and incorporate them into the North San Jose Neighborhood Plan.

    Housing advocates, however, were concerned that as city leaders push to build at a faster rate that affordability would get lost in the rush. The plan for each phase of the North San Jose Development Policy is to build 8,000 units with 20 percent of them being affordable. To date, 7,937 units have been built with only 390 deemed affordable.

    “While development of market-rate housing in North San Jose is critical, this priority should not be placed in further conflict with the pressing need for affordable housing in response to the housing crisis,” Silicon Valley at Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia wrote in a letter to the council. “We recommend that staff be directed to develop proactive policies… to ensure that the area does not fall further behind on the 20 percent affordability requirements.”

    Responding to criticism that the city is more focused on building market-rate housing, Liccardo said City Hall is in the midst of balancing market rate housing development with affordable housing built.

    “I want to build affordable housing too,” Liccardo said, referring to his initiative. “But I think it’s premature to decide this issue before we get to the starting line.”

    City officials are slated to return to the council in August with a feasibility assessment of tactics to help fast track development in North San Jose.

    Contact Grace Hase at [email protected] or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.

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