Policy change paves way for San Jose golf course redevelopment
A portion of the former Pleasant Hills Golf Course in East San Jose. Some residents are concerned about potential development of the 114-acre site. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    San Jose officials are considering changing an obscure policy that could kick open the door for development of a massive plot of land on the city’s east side.

    The 114-acre former Pleasant Hills Golf Course has been closed for nearly two decades, and can’t be permitted for development without a special exception under current city rules.

    But a tweak to the city’s transportation analysis policy could lay the foundation to accelerate conversion of the privately-owned vacant property into housing, retail or commercial space. The San Jose City Council planned to consider the policy change at its Tuesday meeting, but deferred the decision to Dec. 6.

    Some open space preservation advocates oppose the proposed change, which is being pushed by Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Dev Davis.

    “It would facilitate the development of huge parcels of open space without a preceding community visioning process,” Juan Estrada, an advocate with preservation group Green Foothills, told San José Spotlight.

    City planning staff don’t support the proposed change from Davis and Peralez, which could create a roadmap for the council to allow more housing and businesses in outlying portions of the city, such as the golf course.

    Developing homes farther afield conflicts with the city’s “focused growth” strategy, and goes against the general plan climate goals because of the heavy traffic impacts they would create. The San Jose Planning Commission also rejected the proposed change by a 7-2 vote on Nov. 16, with one commissioner absent.

    While Davis acknowledges the golf course is the most immediate and obvious property that could be developed as a result of the proposed change, she said the larger issue goes beyond those 114 acres.

    She supports the change in large part because of the housing crisis, and the need for San Jose policymakers to be able to meet state housing goals in the coming decade. She wants new councilmembers to have a policy to guide them if they need to make a tough call on development.

    “We want all future councils to be able to weigh what is most necessary at that moment for the community, which is frankly what our job is,” Davis told San José Spotlight.

    Davis said private developers are more responsive to the market than the government, and could spot potential beneficial development sites that might get passed over with the current traffic analysis policy.

    City reports focus on the golf course, however, and show if the council wants to pursue a development there, it has the authority to do so without making changes to current policies—though an environmental review and general plan amendment would be needed.

    “One developer’s interest in one potential redevelopment project should not drive the direction of citywide policy,” a staff report reads.

    The golf course, which closed in 2004, is located at the corner of Tully and White roads. Though it’s in District 8 near the border of District 5, the land is part of the county.

    City staff also said any development on the former golf course site should start with a “transparent community engagement process, similar to an Urban Village process, to determine how the development of the site could meet the needs of its future residents, the larger community, and the city.”

    The city report said the engagement process could help determine what kind of development could go there, and what community amenities and improvements to transportation infrastructure may be needed.

    Estrada said Green Foothills’ main objective is to see community engagement happen before any development proposal is considered.

    “Green Foothills would certainly appreciate it if a significant portion of the site, given it is 114 acres, was set aside as open space or became urban green space,” Estrada said.

    The San Jose City Council meets Dec. 6 at 1:30 p.m. Learn how to watch and participate.

    This story will be updated.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 11/1/2021): We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by administrators.

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.