San Jose affordable housing project draws concern over limited parking

Homeless advocates and city officials agree that San Jose is in dire need of some housing solutions, but a new project planned for downtown drew the ire of residents who worried about a lack of parking.

Nonprofit housing developer, The Kelsey, unveiled a proposal that could chip away at the housing shortage, but critics are wary of the project’s density — six stories tall — and the demands the project could place on parking. The two sides squared off during a community meeting about the project Thursday night.

Referred to as the Kelsey Ayer Station, the proposed housing project includes affordable and market-rate units located at 447 North First Street in San Jose’s Japantown. It provides a total of 115 apartments — 28 of which are reserved for people with physical and intellectual disabilities who are receiving support services from the San Andreas Regional Center.

“It’s a quite unique tenant mix that’s never been done before,” said Micaela Connery, founder and CEO at The Kelsey.

The affordable housing component is further broken down into different subsets. Of the 89 homes that will be designated as affordable, 33 units will be set aside for individuals making 80 percent of the Area Median Income, 34 units for those earning 60 percent and 20 units for people who earn 20 percent of the Area Median Income — covering a salary range of $20,000 to $83,000 per year.

The project is designed to provide housing to the general population as well as give a boost to disadvantaged groups, whether they are low-income, disabled or both.

Of the 55,000 adults living with physical and intellectual disabilities in the Bay Area, only 12 percent live on their own, said Connery. A majority of them reside with aging parents who are 60 and older, which many argue is not a sustainable solution.

On Thursday, The Kelsey held its fifth public meeting to discuss the project. A passionate group filled the Northside Community Center to voice their support and concerns over the proposal.

San Jose resident Kim Albrecht said Thursday that her 16-year-old daughter has disabilities and is non-verbal.

“She will need round-the-clock-care beyond my time on the earth,” Albrecht said.

When considering her daughter’s future, Albrecht says she’s hopeful when she sees housing projects geared toward that population. In addition to nonprofit leaders, city planning officials also attended the meeting along with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Raul Peralez, whose district includes the project. Both lawmakers spoke in support of the proposal.

“During this housing crisis, I am glad to see that there is interest in providing housing solutions for all populations in need, including those with developmental needs,” Peralez said in a statement. “The Kelsey Ayer Station’s all-ability, mixed-income project is an opportunity to bring forth a quality project that will truly be inclusive.”

Several attendees objected to the project’s limited parking. In a neighborhood where people reportedly move trash cans to secure a spot and neighbors say rideshare drivers pick up passengers in other people’s driveways, they pondered the impacts of a high-density project.

“You’re going to have a homeless situation for all the vehicles,” said one attendee. “As someone who has had people park in her driveway … it’s still a concern for me.”

Liccardo acknowledged the concerns over limited parking and noted that the city is working with an adjacent property owner to possibly bring in more spaces. The nonprofit’s website currently lists 21 spaces for cars and 68 spaces for bikes as part of the project.

“It’s no secret to anyone we’re in a housing crisis,” Liccardo said at the meeting. “It also shouldn’t be a secret that God’s not going to make any more land.”

Connery said the project was designed with few parking spots by design. The idea is to take public transit and with buses and lightrail just 500 feet away, officials hope residents take advantage of these alternatives. Connery added that the project includes drop off and pick up locations for paratransit and plans to provide transit passes to the residents.

“We’re low-parking our site on purpose,” she said.

The nonprofit filed for a site development permit on May 6 which is currently under review by city staff.

A site demolition permit would allow for demolition of the existing office building and construction of the 6-story structure to begin. The city is still taking public comment on the project, which can be submitted by emailing stefanie.farmer@sanjoseca.gov.

Contact Carina Woudenberg at carinaw86@gmail.com or follow @carinaew on Twitter.

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