West San Jose condo development to reflect historic roots
A development on Mitzi Drive in San Jose will replace the remnants of a burned home with 14 condominiums. Photo by Moryt Milo.

    A vacant West San Jose lot littered with broken-down cars and tagged fences will be the future site of more than a dozen condominiums, after city leaders gave a developer’s proposal a thumbs-up.

    The San Jose City Council last week unanimously approved the vision of Los Altos-based Edge Development Group to build 14 “townhome-style” condos at 4146 Mitzi Drive, at the corner of Mitzi Drive and Ranchero Way.

    The plans call for 12 condos to be built across four three-story buildings on the 0.63-acre lot. The other two will be built into a reconstructed replica of the Graves House, a historic farmhouse built in 1868 that was wrecked by fire in November and demolished by the developer in May.

    Though councilmembers supported the project because they want to see the lot developed and the historic home rebuilt, some raised concerns about the removal of trees that won’t be replaced and the low density.

    “I would’ve liked to have seen higher density, but it’s wonderful. What you’ve been able to do with trying to preserve our history has been good,” Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei said at the Aug. 29 council meeting. Kamei represents District 1, where the project is located.

    District 4 Councilmember David Cohen said he hopes the city will see more developers preserve and build around historic structures instead of tearing them down. But he expressed disappointment that 33 trees will be removed to make way for the project and only seven will be replaced.

    “I know these are unavoidable consequences of developing sites like this, but I’m always uncomfortable when I see the removal of nice big mature trees,” Cohen said. “When we do these developments, in addition to preserving historic elements, let’s preserve historic trees, as well.”

    The developer will pay about $59,000 to the city for the trees that will be removed and not replaced per city requirements. Cohen has made tree replacement a priority as the city struggles to properly manage its shrinking urban forest.

    Mike Sodergren, head of advocacy for the Preservation Action Council of San Jose, said the organization supports the project and is glad the historic home is being rebuilt.

    “The developer has also agreed to retain some materials that were salvaged. The portico and various elements of the building that are very important and will bring a genuine fabric to the rebuild,” Sodergren said at the meeting.

    While the organization supports the rebuild, its leaders previously expressed frustration over the historic home being burnt down, especially after advocating for stronger protections and security measures.

    The Graves House was eligible to be listed in the California Register of Historical Resources and for city landmark status.

    Edge’s plans for the site, before the fire, called for the home to be relocated on the lot, rehabilitated and converted into two condominiums.

    Sodergren said he hopes the city will take several steps to better protect historic buildings from damage when redevelopment is proposed. He suggested the city incentivize developers to keep historic buildings occupied with tenants until the development entitlement process is complete.

    He also asked city leaders to amend preservation rules to prevent developers from letting historic buildings fall victim to “demolition by neglect,” among other changes.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

    Comment Policy (updated 5/10/2023): Readers are required to log in through a social media or email platform to confirm authenticity. We reserve the right to delete comments or ban users who engage in personal attacks, hate speech, excess profanity or make verifiably false statements. Comments are moderated and approved by admin.

    Leave a Reply