City leaders have agreed to spend six months hearing from residents about what they want to see happen with land in East San Jose that’s being eyed for a massive potential development.
The San Jose City Council unanimously voted Tuesday night to approve hiring a consultant to conduct a “city-led” outreach and engagement program about the former Pleasant Hills Golf Course property.
A development group led by Gary Dillabough, Tony Arreola and Mark Lazzarini is eyeing the site for nearly 4,000 residences and about 785,000 square feet of commercial space, according to a preliminary filing with the city.
Michael Brilliot, San Jose’s deputy director of citywide planning, said having the city leading the process will allow for deeper community outreach than if a developer led the process.
“And it does give us an opportunity to look at the redevelopment of the Pleasant Hills Golf Course in the context of the larger Evergreen area, including the anticipated closure of the Reid-Hillview Airport and potential other development that could result because of that closure,” Brilliot said.
Brilliot said reaching out to residents will help create a set of guiding principles for the possible redevelopment of the land and identify public improvements and amenities that would be needed in the project area.
The first community meeting could be held by October, and the consultant would present results by June 2024. The council will get an initial progress update in January 2024.
“We all know the lack of housing in our region and the critical need for it. This is an opportunity to do something right,” District 8 Councilmember Domingo Candelas said. “Staff’s recommendation to have the city and community be at the forefront of the process is critical in order for us to get genuine community engagement and community feedback.”
Candelas represents the area surrounding the former golf course, though the parcel itself is county land. It would need to be annexed by the city before any redevelopment could be approved by San Jose leaders, Brilliot said.
The course, located near the corner of Tully and South White roads, closed in 2004 and has largely been used for grazing. In December, the council voted to ease some development-related environmental restrictions, opening the door for housing to be built on large parcels of private recreation space, including the roughly 114-acre former golf course.
Hundreds of residents, many part of San Jose United, a community group tracking the policy changes that could affect the site, wrote emails to the council in support of a city-led process—though some still insisted the property should be preserved as open space.
Alex Shoor, executive director of housing advocacy organization Catalyze SV, said his group supports the city-led process, but hopes it will engage a broad swath of residents.
“Neighbors should be front and center in this process, but neighbors don’t always represent the person working for city parks at Lake Cunningham, or the Raging Waters employee,” Shoor said at the meeting. “So we’ve got to bring in those additional voices that are key stakeholders that may work or play in the city of San Jose, but not live right next door.”
Though the outreach process is city-led, staff reports indicate the developer will still be involved in the process. Each community meeting could allow time for the developer to present its plans and concepts to the community, hear feedback and ultimately help influence the guiding principles.
While an attorney representing the developers asked in a letter last week that the council defer the decision and vote instead for a developer-led process, Lazzarini said this week his team supports the city-led process.
“We well understand that the redevelopment of the Pleasant Hills Golf Course is both an opportunity as well as a responsibility,” Lazzarini said. “We’ve already begun meeting with neighborhood and community leaders and will continue to do so.
The city planning department estimated the consultant and engagement process could cost about $250,000, money the department doesn’t currently have budgeted. The city is contemplating digging into general fund savings later this year to pay for it.
Councilmember Bien Doan asked if the developer would consider taking on part of the cost of the consultant. Lazzarini said his team is open to it.
“We’re here, we’re at the table, we’re ready to get engaged. All you have to do is ask,” he said.
Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.
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