Staedler: Reflection, recalibration and housing for the missing middle

As we rise to the moment and shelter in place, it is a time for reflection and recalibration of what is truly important moving forward.

We should take inventory of what we are thankful for and consider why NIMBY thinking has permeated throughout the Bay Area. I’m frustrated by how little attention the Bay Area has paid to housing for the missing middle. As families across Silicon Valley are home-schooling their kids, I would hope that they change their attitude toward teacher housing.

Instead of railing against teacher housing in their neighborhoods, maybe they should say thank you for their invaluable service to our community and build teacher housing closer to where teachers work. The patience and value of teachers has never been more evident. They aren’t the only group that fits into the category of missing middle. The list is too long to encapsulate everyone, but the health care workers, truck drivers, grocery store workers deserve to live in our immediate community as well.

As I have stated previously, all levels of housing are necessary for our region, not just market rate, affordable — all levels. San Jose officials have said for years they have not produced any units for the missing middle. There was an item on the Jan. 14 agenda about Public Purpose Bonds, but was dropped. What is the city of San Jose’s plan for this type of housing?

The Teacher Housing Act of 2016 allows for schools to build housing in joint venture models and restrict renting to only school staff. The legislation is a good start but flawed in the way it is implemented.

Schools are as equipped to build housing as parents are in teaching their kids at home. Schools should be allowed to issue bonds and put out a Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) and have developers compete for delivering their housing projects. Take politics out of the equation and have the State of California Department of Housing and Community Development create an oversight panel to review the proposals. This will allow for a thoughtful and depoliticized process to actually deliver units in a timely manner.

We could take this model a step further (minus the state oversight) and let health care organizations build housing for their staff. Kaiser Permanente, for example, could build housing at its Santa Clara location on top of existing parking garages off Lawrence Expressway. This would have the added benefit of reducing traffic and use existing parking spaces that might be empty at night.

I’m not suggesting building housing for the entire staff, just the entry level to mid-level workers. Take a look at hospitals throughout the region on Google Earth and you will see the plethora of opportunities for housing. This model could also be applied for grocery store workers, first responders and more.

Another example: The parking lot at North San Pedro and Taylor Street adjacent to Highway 87 on Google Earth would be an excellent location for first responder housing. It’s near the San Jose Police Department headquarters and would be a great way to recruit and retain police officers.

I’m suggesting that we take this time to recalibrate our thinking and start to deliver the housing that the missing middle deserves. It’s going to be an uphill battle to get this done, but all great endeavors generally have this in common.

We are dealing with unprecedented times and I appreciate it immensely that you took the time to read my column. If you can, please donate to San José Spotlight. The need for independent journalism has never been greater and San José Spotlight needs additional support to deliver high quality journalism in these dark times.

We will great through this, just got to bend the curve for the greater good by sheltering in place.

Onward and upward.

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 bob@svsynergy.com or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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