San Jose mayoral candidate opposes state housing legislation
A house on Third Street near Japantown in San Jose was built as a duplex in 1939, according to the property owner. Photo by Sonya Herrera.

San Jose Councilmember and mayoral candidate Dev Davis is taking a stance against two controversial state housing bills.

“Adding density in an area of the city where infrastructure improvements are not made is a recipe for disaster,” Davis wrote in a memo. “These bills could dramatically affect our neighborhoods and our ability to deliver critical services to our residents.”

Davis published the memo ahead of the Rules and Open Government Committee meeting on Wednesday, calling for the City Council to formally oppose a pair of state housing bills—SB 9 and SB 10—that would increase residential density in certain areas. Her effort failed after committee members declined to second her motion to pass the memo to the full council.

This is not the first time Davis has taken a stance against measures to increase housing density. She also opposes Opportunity Housing, an initiative to allow for increased density in single-family neighborhoods in San Jose. The city’s General Plan Task Force approved the initiative last summer, with task force members Davis and Councilmember Pam Foley opposing. Councilmember Matt Mahan also opposes the initiative, while task force member and Councilmember Sylvia Arenas supports it.

San Jose is still far behind in its housing goals. The city promised to build 25,000 new units of housing by 2023, out of which 3,348 have been completed so far. Of the 10,000 affordable units promised, only 506 have been built.

SB 9 would quadruple the number of homes that could be built on single-family lots. The bill would require local agencies to adopt objective zoning and design standards for this new construction and allow these projects to be processed “ministerially,” or without a review or hearing where judgment or deliberation is required. Permits would be issued as long as a project meets the agency’s objective standards.

SB 10 would let local governments adopt an ordinance allowing up to 10 housing units on parcels of land near transit or in an “urban infill site.” The bill defines an urban infill site as one zoned for residential use and next to other parcels developed for “urban” uses.

Both bills are currently in the Assembly Appropriations committee. The committee will review the bills before Aug. 26, and if they pass review they will go to the Assembly floor. If the bills pass the Assembly by Sept. 11, the governor has until Oct. 11 to sign them.

Davis said the bills will not result in more affordable housing units, and that leaving housing policy in the hands of state legislators takes away the community’s voice.

“I really do have a concern about upzoning being irreversible,” Davis said. “It takes away our local control if the impact is not what we thought it would be. For example, if there’s infrastructure pressure that we’re not anticipating, or if the negatives end up outweighing the positives. You get more housing, but it doesn’t lower the per-square-foot cost… (and) it takes away the community voice in the process.”

Vice Mayor Chappie Jones said he preferred not to second Davis’ motion, since the issue was not pressing and he wanted a more formal process for the council to review the legislation.

“It’s not a situation where there’s an emergency and we have to make an immediate decision,” Jones said.

Councilmember and mayoral candidate Raul Peralez said the bills don’t assure affordable housing, but that the addition of space for new homes would be a welcome change. He added that SB 9 was co-authored by state Sen. Dave Cortese, who represents many communities in San Jose.

“We’re never going to take single-family properties like this and create, somehow, affordable housing out of another single-family home or duplex,” Peralez said. “The best that we can honestly get out of some of these single-family properties or single-family lots is more homes, which we know we need as well… we need more housing in general.”

Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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