San Jose approves seven-story apartment building in Willow Glen
A nearly 30,000 square-foot building at 1050 St. Elizabeth Drive will be demolished to make way for a seven-story apartment complex in Willow Glen, after San Jose's planning director approved a developer's proposal. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    More than 200 apartments are set to be built in San Jose’s Willow Glen neighborhood, after getting the green light during the city’s planning director hearing Wednesday.

    Cupertino-based KCR Development plans to demolish a nearly 30,000 square-foot vacant building that most recently served as a senior assisted living facility, and put up a seven-story apartment building on a 2.2-acre lot at 1050 St. Elizabeth Drive, city reports said.

    While some neighbors are opposed to the dense residential development, the developer’s consultant, Erik Schoennauer, said the 92-foot-high project conforms to city standards and will provide much needed housing.

    “What’s being proposed is exactly consistent with what is called for in the city’s general plan and the city’s zoning code,” Schoennauer told San José Spotlight. “People can have their opinions that they don’t like taller buildings, or denser buildings, but that’s what the city’s adopted plan says should be built.”

    The apartment complex will have five stories of apartments atop two stories of parking, with a total of 311 parking spaces for cars, including 66 tandem spaces, 52 motorcycle parking spaces and 73 spaces for bicycles.

    The site is within about a half-mile of a VTA light rail stop, but Schoennauer noted Willow Glen is an area where many residents rely on cars, so parking is necessary for the project to get financing and be marketable.

    KCR has owned the building slated for demolition since 2013, Schoennauer said. In 2016, KCR leased the building to Somerset Senior Living for a fixed term, which ended in 2022, and the facility shut down.

    A rendering shows what a 206-apartment complex could look like when complete at 1050 St. Elizabeth Drive in San Jose. Image courtesy city of San Jose.

    During a 20-day open comment period for review of the project’s environmental documents, some residents wrote to the city to say they were concerned about a former senior housing facility being replaced by market-rate apartments. Others worried about potential traffic impacts and said the project was too dense, or said that renters would hurt the neighborhood.

    “This building impacts thousands of current residents by bringing in short-term apartment renters who have no vested interest in the area and will have a long term impact on the current look and feel of this quiet neighborhood, and not in a positive way,” Lindsay Geier wrote.

    Geier also said she was concerned about impacts to the special education school for children with autism that’s next to the development site.

    “Way out of character for Willow Glen,” Barbara Black wrote to the city. “Put that building downtown where we can at least walk everywhere or take transit.”

    City planners said the project will not have significant impacts to traffic, and noted the project site is within 2,000 feet of the Fruitdale light rail station at Fruitdale Avenue and Southwest Expressway.

    Several residents said at the planning director’s hearing they wouldn’t oppose a project that was shorter, but thought seven stories was too big.

    “It is going to completely transform, negatively, our neighborhood,” resident Nick Raygoza said. “I purchased my home to live in a quiet community, it’s no longer going to be a quiet community.”

    This two-story building in Willow Glen is set to be demolished to build a seven-story apartment complex. Photo by Joseph Geha.

    Raygoza said he feels the city is ignoring residents’ concerns around traffic calming improvements and their input on the project.

    “We’ve lived here forever, this is our neighborhood, this is our home and we’re not being considered,” he said.

    Schoennauer pushed back against those concerns at the hearing, noting the city’s guidelines allow for up to 120-foot building heights in the neighborhood, and the city and state’s housing goals mean more development is likely on the way.

    “This is the adopted plan of the city. There are going to be many more seven-story buildings in this neighborhood,” he said.

    Schoennauer said the developer will need to get demolition and building permits from the city following Wednesday’s approval. Construction of the new apartment complex could begin as early as the first quarter of 2024, he said, and could last about two years.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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