The North San Jose site of a proposed 1,472-home residential and retail space.
A developer wants to transform a 23-acre North San Jose property, once home to the late Japanese farmer and community leader Eiichi “Ed” Sakauye, into multi-family housing and commercial space. Photo by Vicente Vera.

A former North San Jose Japanese farming area found to have historical significance, especially during World War II, could become home to more than 1,000 multi-family residences and commercial space.

The San Jose Planning Commission is recommending city officials approve the nearly 23-acre development and demolish the Japanese farming structures, including barns, sheds and the historic Sakauye House. The developer plans to subdivides three lots into 48 parcels and build up to 154 residential condominiums, up to six commercial condominiums and a mixed-use development consisting of 1,472 multi-family residences with approximately 18,965 square feet of commercial space. Construction and demolition could start as early as the beginning of 2025 if the City Council accepts the planning commission’s recommendation.

Preservation experts and advocates say late Japanese farmer and community leader Eiichi “Ed” Sakauye kept the farm intact even during his family’s internment during World War II — giving historical significance to the property.

“This home is one of the last, if not the last chance for the city to have a physical reminder of what happened in World War II,” Lynne Stephenson, spokesperson for the San Jose Preservation Action Council, said last week during the meeting. “Saving this house gives us a physical place to tell this story.”

A recent historical evaluation of the property by Evans & De Shazo, Inc. shows the Sakauye House is eligible to be included in the California Register of Historical Resources.

Erik Schoennauer, a representative for the developers, said they plan to honor Sakauye with a 2.5-acre commemorative park. This would include large and small dog parks, a playground for children and the historical commemoration area. Developers are still set on demolishing about 19,820 square feet of structures on the farm, pending approval. This includes at least 19 structures identified by preservation experts.

“The concept park includes a range of activities from the great lawn in the middle, along with an urban sitting plaza,” Schoennauer said at the meeting.

It’s one of the largest projects Planning Commissioner Anthony Tordillos has seen while on the dais, and he said he’s excited to see it move forward.

“Any time we have an opportunity to produce a large number of new housing units, I’m always going to be excited about that,” he told San José Spotlight. “(I’m) also excited about the new public park, and the incorporation of historic elements to the site itself — including educational elements.”

The property is not listed on the San Jose Historical Resources Inventory or designated as a city landmark and is not within a historic district or conservation area.

Planning Commissioner Chuck Cantrell asked project developer Scott Youdall if the project will make an effort to keep the Sakauye House intact. Youdall said they have been in discussion with the Preservation Action Council over preserving the historical significance of the property.

“Outside of the (commemorative) park and within the project, we don’t deem it feasible,” Youdall said. “We remain open to conversations about the park.”

The North San Jose site of a proposed 1,472-home residential and retail space.
A proposed development in North San Jose has historic significance, according to preservationists. The late Japanese farmer and community leader Eiichi “Ed” Sakauye kept the farm intact while interned during World War II. Photo by Vicente Vera.

Though advocates and the developers are happy with the addition of a commemorative park, Schoennauer told San José Spotlight, the city doesn’t want the Sakauye House within the commemorative park and that leaves the structure with no place within the development.

“The challenge is the Parks Department does not want the house moved to the park, but it’s just the logical place for it,” he said. “So as the developer we have this dilemma that if the city doesn’t want the house in the park, there’s likely nowhere for it to go.”

Cantrell questioned why the house couldn’t be kept within the planned park. City employees said it would take space away from the more than 100,000-square-foot park, which is needed for nesting birds.

“If the house is 2,000 square feet, it would probably fit in that memorial area is my guess,” said Cantrell.

Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow @VicenteJVera on X, formerly known as Twitter.

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