Staedler: Looking ahead to 2020
Downtown San Jose is pictured in this file photo.

    As we welcome in 2020, there is a lot to keep track of and look forward to.

    Local control of housing development will continue to make headlines. But how far will the California Legislature go to change housing development? The chances of achieving the staggering 3.5 million homes the governor wants to build by 2025 look bleak. We need to build our way out of this dire situation and we can start by taking away previously accepted barriers that have restricted housing development.

    In San Jose, we need to take away antiquated retail requirements in new housing projects, remove draconian commercial requirements in urban villages, let the market determine the number of parking spaces and stop using the housing-to-jobs ratio as an excuse to not build housing.

    On the upside, the jobs-housing ratio picture future is bright.

    Jobs have been showing up in huge numbers as Google, Jay Paul Co. and developer Peery Arrillaga have set the stage for the future. Tech companies such as Adobe have been renovating in place for years. Coleman Highline and Santana Row have been adding office workers in big numbers. Verizon Wireless, for example, has said it will co-develop and lease to purchase a portion of Coleman Highline and employ 3,400 people in about 640,000 square feet.

    Another issue to track is Google’s downtown west project, which will be considered for approval this fall.

    We don’t have a full transportation plan yet for how this site will work for people, cars, buses, transit and micro-mobility scooters, but hopefully we will see something soon. A key ingredient for this area’s long-term success is a cohesive plan for the greater Diridon Station area.

    Google has been presenting the same information over and over again the last several months. Let’s see what the company discloses next.

    Unfortunately, 2019 was the deadliest year for San Jose pedestrians in decades. Fifty-nine pedestrian deaths in San Jose is unacceptable; we need to look hard at the Vision Zero plan. Spending $20 million over 4 to 6 years with the current thinking needs to be carefully evaluated and maybe we need to get other opinions on what works best.

    Finally, 2020 will have local measures worth close scrutiny. San Jose’s Measure E, which will be voted on in the March 3 primary election, would create a new real property transfer tax, taxing real estate transfers over $2 million generating approximately $70 million annually to build affordable housing.

    Will there be tax fatigue with voters or will they continue to have faith in their elected officials in how they spend their tax dollars?

    Another contentious item is the fair elections initiative, which proposes to move San Jose mayoral elections to the same cycle as presidential elections and prohibit mayoral and City Council candidates from accepting campaign contributions from lobbyists, anyone who’s received city contracts equaling more than $250,000 and large residential or for-profit developers. This will be hotly contested and the amount of money that will be spent on both sides of this issue will be shocking.

    My hope for 2020 is that we can continue to work together to improve our communities with hope and empathy for all. Also, don’t forget to support San José Spotlight, which is celebrating its first full year in operation. This milestone shows the will and determination of Ramona, Josh and the whole team.

    Also check out The Podlight, a new podcast collaboration by San José Spotlight and Silicon Valley Synergy. It can be found on SoundCloud:

    San José Spotlight columnist Bob Staedler is a principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consulting firm. His columns appear every first Monday of the month. Contact Bob at [email protected] or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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