The fallout from San Jose’s failed housing plan
An aerial view of San Jose. Photo courtesy of San Jose.

    San Jose has failed to get state approval on its housing plan, leaving the door open for developers to bypass city housing rules.

    This is the second time the city has failed to fulfill its obligation to the state in providing a detailed plan for how it intends to add 62,000 homes by 2031. The pitfalls could allow the state to force San Jose to approve housing projects that don’t meet the city’s general plan. Known as builder’s remedy, it’s already playing out in at least one local development.

    San Jose’s Housing Element plan was initially due on Jan. 31, but the submission was six months late and failed to meet state requirements. The proposed outline was reworked and fell short again in August.

    Bob Staedler, principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consulting firm, said the city is still far off the mark.

    “The scope and breadth of what (the state) is asking for, I just don’t see San Jose doing the analysis required,” Staedler told San José Spotlight.

    Jeff Scott, a spokesperson from San Jose’s housing department, said the plan has been an “iterative” process. The city is working out how to respond to the plethora of revisions required by the state — soliciting additional community input, providing a more succinct housing policy and information about development projects, among others.

    “While this is not the response city staff anticipated from (California Department of Housing and Community Development), staff is developing answers to these additional comments,” Scott told San José Spotlight. “We will adhere to HCD’s requirement of posting the responses on the city’s website at least seven days prior to submitting them to HCD.”

    Staedler said the builder’s remedy now poses a real risk, and he thinks council should immediately have a public study session with residents and talk to the state’s housing and community development department directly.

    “We’re at the point now where if council keeps burying their heads in the sand, then all of these projects are going to start getting approved, and there could be a run,” Staedler said. “I think this is really bad news for San Jose, they’re just not close.”

    Mayor Matt Mahan said no city in California has done more outreach to meet its state-mandated housing goals than San Jose. The state said it has received several third-party complaints that San Jose didn’t provide enough opportunity for pubic input.

    Mahan said the city has done plenty to move its housing goals forward — like fast-tracking development downtown — and criticized the state for not supporting its own housing mandates.

    “(We) just came to a deal with the county last year that will allow us to permit 24,000 new homes in North San Jose,” Mahan told San José Spotlight. “But we need help. The state mandates our city build 62,000 homes but doesn’t give us the resources or tools to do so.”

    Contact Ben at [email protected] or follow @B1rwin on Twitter.

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