San Jose City Council to consider ‘co-living’ housing in downtown
An aerial view of downtown San Jose (courtesy of Andy Nguyen)

Big cities like San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles have rolled out what some are calling “dorms for adults.”

And now San Jose could be next to approve the trendy new living model that’s all the rage in other cities and is designed to help alleviate the growing housing crisis.

The “co-living” concept revolves around the idea of renting a private bedroom with tenants sharing a kitchen, sometimes bathrooms and other common spaces.

Last month, the city’s Planning Commission recommended an ordinance to allow developers to build co-living communities in downtown San Jose. Commissioners recommended that each co-living community should operate on a six-to-one ratio — that’s six bedrooms for every one common space. Rents in similar spaces run about $800 per month for a bed in a furnished shared unit, though it includes cable, utilities, cleaning services and supplies.

The new housing model provides affordable, high-density living solutions, advocates say, and allows people to live with other like-minded individuals. Adam Neumann, co-founder and CEO of WeWork and WeLive, told the New Yorker that he is convinced that people are meant to live in groups, according to Urbaneer.

The plan has already won support from a handful of San Jose lawmakers.

“We are enthused to support this policy update that will introduce creative and much- needed dense housing units in Downtown San Jose,” read a memo from Mayor Sam Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and Councilmembers Raul Peralez and Magdalena Carrasco. “Cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Boston, and Los Angeles have already ushered in this model of housing which provides “more quality for less.'”

The memo requested parking requirements to encourage residents to use other modes of transportation. In the memo, the councilmembers suggested that co-living projects in downtown San Jose should have transportation measures such as a VTA Smart Pass or bike share to get people out of their cars.

“The sharing economy is transforming our urban landscape and our Bay Area city centers are the test beds for innovation,” wrote Shawn Milligan from developer KT Urban in a support letter. “These innovations are altering our approach to housing and our transportation system at unprecedented rates.”

Raising building heights in downtown

On Tuesday, the City Council is considering raising downtown and Diridon Station Area height limits.

The FAA has regulations in place that limit building heights in the take off path at the Mineta San Jose International Airport. And while San Jose is well under those limits, some critics are concerned about penetrating an engine-failure safety layer, something designed by each airline. That layer is called one-engine inoperative protection, or OEI for short. It’s a path that allows a plane to gain enough altitude, in case an engine loses power, so that it can safely navigate back for an emergency landing.

Photo courtesy of the city of San José
The current proposal recommended by staff would get rid of an engine-failure protection later.

After an extensive study, city staff, along with the Community and Economic Development Committee, recommended a scenario that doesn’t have OEI protection and increases building heights by up to 35 feet downtown and up to 150 feet in the Diridon Station Area.

The change would allow for an additional 8.6 million square feet of construction valued at $4.4 million, city documents show. New annual property tax revenue for the city would be around $5.5 million once construction is completed.

Despite an economic benefit for the city, building taller could come at a cost for the airlines.

The proposed plan would have some impact on American and European flights. The airlines would be forced to reduce weights – possibly bumping passengers – to get off the ground at a steeper angle.

However, the study shows a bigger impact to Asian airlines who could be forced to offload both cargo and passengers in certain weather conditions. To mitigate those costs, city staff recommended creating a fund to support Asian and other transoceanic markets.

Airport commissioners have broken with airport executives and city staff to openly criticize the proposal. Commissioners Ken Pyle, Raymond Greenlee, Cathy Hendrix and Dan Connolly recommend an alternative that suggests no height increases in downtown and in increase up to 55 feet in the Diridon Station Area.

“The Airport Commissioners believe strongly that OEI airspace must be preserved and safeguarded to protect human life,” they wrote in a letter.

The City Council will study the issue Tuesday with a vote expected in early March. The council meets at 1:30 p.m. inside City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose.

Contact Grace Hase at grace@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.

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