San Jose leaders look to speed up housing in North San Jose
Photo courtesy of San Jose's Office of Economic Development

    In an effort to fast track 8,000 new apartments in the burgeoning North San Jose area, city officials on Tuesday will propose consolidating four development phases into two – a bold move to quickly get more shovels in the ground.

    San Jose in 2018 adopted a “Housing Crisis Workplan” to lay out the city’s goal of tackling the devastating housing shortage by building 15,000 market-rate and 10,000 affordable units by 2022.

    Now, city officials are pushing to build 8,000 new housing units in one of the city’s hottest development areas, North San Jose, with 20 percent of them being affordable. North San Jose has long been eyed as a development hotbed, and city officials in 2005 adopted a plan that calls for developing 26.7 million square feet of office or industrial space, 32,000 housing units, 2.7 million square feet of commercial space and 1,000 hotel rooms in the area.

    As the housing crisis rages on, city officials are now looking to get some of those housing units built faster.

    “To accelerate housing development within the timeframe necessary to meet (the) City’s housing goals, staff is developing a focused proposal that takes the simplest path to advance housing entitlement and generate funding for supportive regional transportation infrastructure,” Economic Development Director Kim Walesh, Planning Director Rosalynn Hughey and Transportation Director John Ristow wrote in a joint memo.

    Merging the four housing development stages into two phases will fast-track housing development hindered by transportation improvements, city officials said. Some required transit enhancements stalled due to lack of funding, and without ample progress, the city cannot move forward with building additional housing.

    As housing production in North San Jose ramps up, officials also want to fast track-transit improvements based on observed travel patterns, funding availability and project readiness. According to the memo from Walesh, Hughey and Ristow, the city has already collected $55 million for North San Jose transportation improvements.

    Changes in the plan, however, have reignited concern from one neighboring city.

    In 2006, the county and the cities of Santa Clara and Milpitas filed legal action over the plan, citing concern about the lack of traffic congestion relief measures for county expressways and neighboring cities. The cities and county settled by requiring San Jose and Santa Clara County to contribute funds for transportation improvements.

    Now, the city of Santa Clara fears that settlement may be in jeopardy.

    “On March 22, 2019, the City received a letter from the City of Santa Clara asking for clarification of the proposed amendments and concern with the scope and timing of improvements included in the settlement agreement, and raised the issue that the 2006 settlement agreement may need to be updated based on proposed changes,” Walesh, Hughey and Ristow wrote in the memo.

    City officials plan to meet with Santa Clara city officials in the following weeks.

    Spending grant funding from HUD

    Housing officials on Tuesday are slated to present to the City Council their plan for spending $14 million in funds from the federal government to help fight the city’s housing crisis.

    Every year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires cities to submit an action plan for how officials will continue to implement a broad five-year plan on the city’s housing needs.

    In 2015, the San Jose City Council prioritized four goals: increasing and preserving affordable housing opportunities, responding to homelessness and its impacts on the community, strengthening neighborhoods and promoting fair housing.

    The plan for 2019-2020 – which will be adopted in June after including input from the council – allocates the $14 million in the following way:

    • $1.65 million for programs that provide emergency housing repair services for low-income individuals.
    • $8 million for programs to construct and rehabilitate “community-serving infrastructure and buildings.”
    • $1.4 million to fund agencies that provide services to the homeless and seniors, among other vulnerable populations.
    • $10 million to help create new affordable housing projects. Some of these apartments will be for formerly homeless residents.
    • $2.25 million for rent subsidies to assist formerly homeless individuals in affording market-rate apartments.
    • $1.1 million in Housing for Persons with AIDS funds for rent subsides and supportive services.
    • $755,000 to fund homelessness prevention programs and to conduct outreach to homeless individuals.

    The City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday inside the council chambers inside City Hall, 200 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose.

    Contact Grace Hase at [email protected] or follow @grace_hase on Twitter.

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