Waite and Reese: We need community input on 27 acres near Evergreen college
Photo courtesy of the city of San Jose.

Over the past five years, our District 8 Community Round Table in Evergreen has been engaging with the San Jose Evergreen Community College District (SJECCD) over its land use and lease plans for the 27 acres adjacent to Evergreen Valley College.

In 2015, when the SJECCD Trustees selected Republic Urban as their development partner, the SJECCD Trustees apologized profusely for their inadequate community outreach effort and committed themselves to doing better.

We have a friendly relationship with the SJECCD Trustees and Chancellor Dr. Byron Breland despite ongoing disagreements over land use, the land lease, governance and the lack of more meaningful community involvement in master planning the 27 acres together.

The differences relate to the tendency of SJECCD to say one thing and then do something else and the lack of oversight by the SJECCD Trustees and Administration on their relationship with Republic Urban and in turn with the community.

In 2016, the SJECCD Trustees and Administration requested that the city change the General Plan on the entire 27 acres to Neighborhood Community Commercial. The reason SJECCD gave for doing this was so they could Master Plan the 27 acres.

The SJECCD also clearly told the city that it would not be pursuing housing on the site as part of its and the developer’s hard sell to the City Council so that they could gain the council’s approval for the commercial land use change.

The City Council’s motion granting the land use change to commercial use required a Master Planning process for the 27 acres with significant community involvement and that there would be no housing.

As part of San Jose’s General Plan, Evergreen is also subject to the Evergreen East Hills Development Policy which limits development in Evergreen in response to inadequate transportation capacity to move residential traffic in and out of Evergreen, which is almost entirely a residential community.

In May 2017 the Planning Department wrote to HMH ENGINEERS:

“Based on the scope and size of the project and direction from the City Council from the General Plan Amendment (GP16-007) discussion, a series of community meetings and outreach would be necessary to discuss this project and how it could affect and/or facilitate the development of the adjacent areas that were also changed to the NCC Neighborhood Community/Commercial General Plan land use. Additionally, coordination and discussion with staff and the community would be required.”

Through an enormous and welcomed effort on the part of Councilwoman Sylvia Arenas and Planning Director Rosalynn Hughey, we were able to have the first Master Planning Charrette on the 27 acres of what was supposed to be a series of meetings. The council and city planning staff were required to look at the master planning of the entire 27 acre site.

Instead, we have been left in limbo waiting to discuss alternative plans and for the additional meetings to be articulated and executed.

Despite this lack of follow through, SJECCD and Republic Urban just submitted to the city a land use plan for 13.6 acres before the Master Planning meetings for the 27 acres have occurred. Additionally, SJECCD has made a decision that it wants housing on the rest of the 27 acre site after clearly stating there would be no housing. Now they’re on the verge of granting Republic Urban an option in the proposed land lease agreement that would include housing.

Republic Urban keeps saying that the housing has been dropped, yet their actions are that they want an option for housing and do not want to master plan the site with the community, as required.

The proposed development submittal on the 13.6 acres is considerably more dense than the existing development in Evergreen and would be better suited on a larger site which has the ability to properly mitigate the negative impacts of the proposed development and establish an effective traffic circulation for the entire 27 acres as the first portion of the development proceeds.

Because follow-up meetings were never scheduled, the community has not been able  to work collaboratively on plans with Republic Urban and SJECCD through a series of Master Planning Land Use Charrettes which the District 8 Community Round Table requested from Councilwoman Arenas and Planning Director Hughey two years ago.

Community members have made at least three public records requests for information on the revised land lease and each time no new information has been provided since the draft land lease was made available over a year ago.

When selecting Republic Urban in 2015 as its development partner, SJECCD established that the developer would pay all the costs of getting city approvals and for the demolition and removal of the existing improvements on the site. Instead, the SJECCD has decided that it will incur these costs which are approximately $3 million to $4 million.

The SJECCD established a budget of $100,000 for Republic Urban to spend on community outreach and not much of these funds have been spent on engaging the Evergreen community in the master planning.  We continue to request the master planning required, yet SJECCD is attempting to move forward with its submittal to the city without the required community outreach related to master planning.

In 2016, the SJECCD asked San Jose residents to support a $748 million School Facilities Construction Bond and now without going back for a vote of San Jose residents the SJECCD Trustees are attempting to use the bond money for housing.

The District 8 Community Round Table supported San Jose’s Measure V Affording Housing Bond which clearly stated its intent to San Jose residents.

The SJECCD Trustees are not even requiring Republic Urban to build affordable housing in the option for housing the in the land lease option agreement. Also, the trustees aren’t requiring that the $3 million to $4 million SJECCD now wants to contribute to commercial development be repaid by Republic Urban.

These contradictory actions on the part of the SJECCD are very concerning and do not foster the necessary conditions for good neighbor relations between the SJECCD and the Evergreen community.

We request that SJECCD resume and conclude the Master Planning Charrette series on the 27 aces, which started in Feb. 2018 and resume community meetings, as required by the City Council in Dec. 2016.

The promise and potential of completing the Master Planning Charrettes on the 27 acres is to have exceptional developments which benefit the community and SJECCD.

Pat Waite is the president of the District 8 Community Round Table and Robert Reese chairs the organization’s land use committee.

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