A study session by the San Jose Planning Commission on the Diridon Station Area Plan this week offered a peek into tonight’s much anticipated public discussion about the high-profile development.
Commissioners held a study session Dec. 2 to discuss San Jose’s development plan for the 250-acre area, including Google’s proposed 80-acre campus project.
Planning Division Manager Tim Rood detailed some of the major changes to the plan, most notably the change in building heights.
The height changes have drawn criticism, with city staff having pushed the tops of the area’s highest buildings up to the Federal Aviation Administration height limits — roughly 295 feet, or about 28 stories high. Rood noted the heights had been reduced and then increased following feedback from current residents.
Nicolle Burnham, deputy director of the Parks and Recreation Department, described the open space features and said if the plan is approved, the city would try to acquire land along Los Gatos Creek between Park Avenue and San Fernando Avenue to complete the Los Gatos Creek Trail.
Eric Eidlin, the city’s Station Planning Manager, told commissioners that parking privileges for new residents would be “unbundled” from their rental payments — meaning residents would need to buy or lease their own parking spaces rather than have a space provided through their housing agreement.
The plan includes a 25% affordable housing goal for the area aimed at building extremely low-income, low-income and moderate-income homes.
Kristen Clements, division manager for the Housing Department’s policy group, said the city wants to establish a preservation program to acquire existing apartments and convert them into affordable housing for low-income tenants. The city has not yet identified a source of funding for this program.
Commissioner Deborah Torrens asked how to address concerns raised by the San Jose Sharks about the construction of new developments, including Google’s Downtown West project, the Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel through downtown and preparations for California’s High-Speed Rail.
Google’s 80-acre plan includes 4,000 housing units, 7.3 million square feet of office space, 10 parks and a 30,000-50,000 square foot community center. It is expected to bring some 30,000 new employees to downtown San Jose.
The hockey team said it could be forced out of San Jose because ongoing development, street closures and lack of parking could threaten access to SAP Center. Jessica Zenk, deputy director of the transportation department, said the city is working with the Sharks to manage construction and traffic impacts.
Commissioner Pierluigi Oliverio voiced concern over excluding Asian residents from the racial equity portion of the city’s affordable housing plan. Commission Chair Mariel Caballero also asked about racial equity and suggested the city monitor the percentage — rather than the number — of Black and Latino residents in the area.
“Given the increased capacity of housing, I would suggest we go with a percentage instead of a number,” Caballero said. “If not, we’re going to lose equity in that area.”
Clements said racial equity is not one of the city’s goals for the Diridon area plan. The city is not looking to maintain the number or Black and Latino residents in the area, she said, adding they simply want to track how the number of those residents changes over time.
Caballero also asked if the affordable housing goals for the area could be raised to 50%, doubling the city’s current goal. Clements said the city is determining how best to meet the 25% affordable housing goal, and that achieving 50% affordable housing would be “financially difficult.”
The meeting did not include a discussion on Google’s Downtown West project, which will occupy a significant portion of the Diridon area. The planning commission will host a meeting dedicated to that project at 4:30 p.m. Dec. 9.
San Jose Planning Director Rosalynn Hughey said the city plans to have a final draft of the plan ready for the Planning Commission and the City Council to approve in the spring.
The Diridon plan community meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.