UPDATE: San Jose commissioners approve Cambrian Park Plaza redesign
Cambrian Park Plaza inches closer toward becoming Cambrian Village. File photo.

    A mixed-use development five years in the making is moving forward in San Jose following a recent Planning Commission vote.

    On Tuesday, commissioners voted unanimously to recommend the City Council proceed with Cambrian Village, a development that will redesign a 1950s-era shopping center at Camden and Union avenues in San Jose. The parcel is being reimagined as an 18-acre urban village combining residential and commercial uses with open space. Commissioner Michael Young was absent.

    Commissioner Justin Lardinois said he sees the project as a valuable addition to the area that will create a gathering place for people. He said the Cambrian Park Plaza shopping center was built in a different time and has outgrown its use. 

    “I see this as an exciting use and adaptation of that land,” he said.

    The urban village design includes 305 apartments, 48 single-family homes with 27 attached accessory dwelling units and 25 townhomes. The village will also offer a 229-room hotel, 50 apartments in the senior living center and four acres of open space.

    Developer Kimco Realty has pledged to increase affordable housing in Cambrian Village from 5% to 10% following efforts by Councilmember Pam Foley and Catalyze SV, which advocates for sustainable, equitable and vibrant places. Affordable housing now includes 30 rental apartments rather than 15, plus the accessory dwelling units.  

    Sean Morley, founder of the Morley Bros. real estate firm which is coordinating the land use entitlements, said the development team took Foley’s challenge to increase affordable housing seriously. Almost 25% of the site is open space and includes underground parking, making each unit more expensive to construct than other projects, he said.

    “Cambrian Village has met most community goals for the project, but it cannot achieve all of them and remain economically feasible,” Morley said.

    Lalo Mendez, project development specialist with Catalyze SV, said its members are happy about the increased number of affordable homes.

    “We applaud the affordability, but 100% (area median income) is too high,” he said. The area median income is approximately $105,000. “Lower the affordability to 60% to make it affordable for the people who will be working there.”

    The housing market is hot in Silicon Valley, with the average mortgage in San Jose at approximately $9,136 a month with homeowners insurance and taxes—a 51% increase from June 2021 and a jump from $8,664 two months ago. In May, homes were valued slightly above $1.7 million, up 22.4% from last year with interest rates that have nearly doubled since January. The situation is no better for local renters, as the region is one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.

    Will Smith, a member of Silicon Valley Residents for Responsible Development, questioned the project’s environmental impacts, and said it would significantly affect air quality and public health. 

    “Greenhouse gas emissions, noise and transportation were not adequately disclosed or mitigated,” he said. “The city failed to analyze the significance of energy impacts and water supply impacts.”

    The iconic carousel sign will be placed on Union Avenue between apartments and a senior residence. Rendering courtesy of the Cambrian Village Development Team.

    Next steps

    The Cambrian Village project still requires City Council approval, and the parcel—which sits in an unincorporated portion of Santa Clara County—will need to be annexed into San Jose. Foley said councilmembers will consider approving the environmental impact report and initiating annexation on Aug. 9. A vote on annexing the parcel could take place as early as Sept. 13.

    Commissioner Sylvia Ornealas-Wise said it’s about time the city annexes the parcel and redevelops it. 

    “Approving projects this size also allows us the ability to create a lot of jobs and improve the quality of life for the city of San Jose and its residents,” she said. 

    Retail, housing and open space is planned for the reimagined Cambrian Park Plaza in San Jose. Rendering courtesy of the Cambrian Village Development Team.

    Foley worked with the developer to re-envision its initial plan to create a walkable, bikeable community.

    “I wish they’d go to 15% (affordable housing),” she told San José Spotlight, “but I know it doesn’t work for them financially.”

    The city requires developers to provide 15% affordable housing in projects or pay in-lieu fees toward affordable homes built elsewhere. Since Kimco has not met the requirement at Cambrian Village, it has to pay about $7.88 million into a fund for other affordable housing projects, Foley said. She appreciates having affordable housing fully integrated into the project with market rate housing.

    Alexander Melendrez, peninsula and south bay organizing manager at YIMBY, said housing is desperately needed, and Cambrian Village will improve the underutilized strip mall and parking lot.

    “This particular area could benefit from the variety of housing options that are solely needed in the Bay Area,” he said.

    Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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