Plans for San Jose’s El Paseo de Saratoga shift as residents weigh in
A rendering shows some of the public open space envisioned at San Jose's El Paseo de Saratoga. Image courtesy of San Jose public records

Plans for a major redevelopment of San Jose’s El Paseo de Saratoga retail center are evolving as local leaders and residents gear up for a major feedback session on the future of the site this weekend.

The most recent plans submitted by developer Sand Hill Property Co. includes the hundreds of homes, amenity space and retail that were in earlier visions, but has dropped the office space in favor of a proposed educational facility with related residential space on the approximately 10 acres that Sand Hill is seeking to redevelop.

San Jose Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, who represents the district where the shopping center sits, confirmed Sand Hill is envisioning a private school that would be part boarding school, where some students would live on site.

“I’ve had several conversations with some of the community members who are aware of the school proposal,” he said. “But that wasn’t their primary focus; their primary focus was on the height and density of the project.”

Indeed, some community members have balked at the proposed seven- to 12-story buildings. One group, which calls itself Protecting Citizens with Citizen-Centric Policies Group, started a Change.org site to protest the proposed heights.

But Jones said most residents agree change is needed as traditional big-box retail models fail across the country, leaving centers like El Paseo de Saratoga only partially full.

“Residents realize … the fact that a lot of the amenities and stores and shops they want to frequent aren’t available to them in walking distance,” Jones said.

Many residents are open to a plan that includes plenty of affordable housing, pedestrian-friendly main streets with paseos and new storefronts — a vision for which he’s been advocating, Jones said.

Plans submitted in December show the latest vision by developer Sand Hill Property Co. for shopping center El Paseo de Saratoga. Image courtesy of San Jose public records

Now community members will have a chance to show up and share their thoughts directly with Sand Hill and local leaders.

Nonprofit Catalyze SV, which focuses on community engagement around development, will host a community workshop on the potential development Saturday. The event will also be broadcast via Facebook, said Alex Shoor, executive director of Catalyze SV.

“The way we think about this is less ‘What do you think of this development?’ and more ‘How do you want this development to help your neighborhood?’” Shoor said.

The meeting will be held Feb. 29 from 10 a.m. to noon at the westside shopping center in a former mattress store that’s now vacant. Residents will hear from Sand Hill leaders and city officials before splitting into small groups to walk the property at Quito Road and Saratoga Avenue.

Residents will then reconvene to offer feedback and eat pizza. A recap will later be emailed out, Shoor said.

“This way, we think the developer will have some extra community input that is hopefully facilitated well and teases out some new ideas from the community about how to make this development the best it can be,” he said.

The current plan submitted by Sand Hill includes up to 731 homes and 371,000 square feet of “educational uses.” Across the full 30-acre site, about 246,000 square feet of retail space would remain untouched and another 48,000 square feet of retail could rise.

Palo Alto-based Sand Hill says that plan was submitted to the city so the impacts of the development could be studied, but it is not the final iteration.

“We are still in the listening stage and are actively taking feedback from the community and the city officials,” Matt Larson, Sand Hill’s director of public affairs, said. “We look forward to incorporating that feedback into our project plans in the upcoming weeks.”

Contact Janice Bitters at janice@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @JaniceBitters on Twitter.

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