Housing has dominated every big policy decision in San Jose this past year, as the city faces a growing housing and homelessness crisis. Slowly, the city is inching its way closer to meeting Mayor Sam Liccardo’s goal of producing at least 25,000 new housing units — 10,000 of them affordable — by 2022.
While city leaders say progress is being made, the city is still falling behind on reaching that goal by a long shot, as several challenges have stalled production. In 2019, only 4,392 residential units were either approved or under construction, 1,836 of which are under construction. In terms of meeting the mayor’s affordable housing goals, only 245 out of those 10,000 units have actually been built, while 1,640 are in the pipeline.
But there is some good news.
The city, along with developers, nonprofit partners and tech companies such as Google and Apple, invested millions in beefing up San Jose’s housing stock this past year. Finally, frustrated city leaders are starting to see more shovels in the ground, while many of those anticipated projects — including the city’s first permanent supportive housing project — opened in 2019.
Here are some of the city’s most highly-anticipated housing development discussions and decisions of 2019 — including several affordable housing complexes that opened their doors.
Second Street Studios
Downtown San Jose’s first long-term affordable housing development finally opened its doors in May, after a series of challenges halted the project’s opening for months. Prolonged delays cost Santa Clara County nearly $1.15 million in motel costs for the residents set to move in after weather challenges stalled development. Despite the hurdles, the first-of-its kind project in the downtown core — meant to address the growing homelessness crisis — now houses 134 individuals, considered some of the most vulnerable, chronically homeless and disabled residents in the county. The project’s opening has changed formerly homeless individuals’ lives, many of whom can now feel safe and secure in a new home.
A group of those formerly residents now pen a monthly San José Spotlight column about their experiences called “In Your Backyard.”
“Moving in was as happy a time as I can remember after what seemed like a lifetime of struggle and pain,” wrote resident Cecilia Martin in a recent column. “Almost four months later, every day I think about how much this has changed my life and feel thankful.”
The 5-story, 100,000-square-foot housing complex also provides case managers, medical and mental health professionals and a “wellness” peer who was formerly homeless to each resident, according to Abode Services, the project’s service provider.
Villas on the Park
Earlier this month, the city opened the doors to a 6-story building with 83 units entirely dedicated to housing formerly homeless residents in the heart of downtown. Located at 280 N. Second St. near St. James Park, Villas on the Park cost $37 million, primarily funded through revenue from Measure A, a $950 million affordable housing bond approved by voters in 2016.
The highly-anticipated project took four years to complete, and through several private-sector partners, the project’s developers furnished and stocked each unit with basic essentials such as pots, pans, sheets, pillows, shower curtains and towels. The apartment complex is one of the first to permanently house the region’s homeless population, giving a second chance to those who braved living on the city’s streets.
“This place is a lot of relief,” Jimmy Hendrix, the first resident to move in, told San José Spotlight. “It’s easier to take care of yourself when you’re inside.”
Santa Clara University Teacher Housing
Against all odds, the San Jose City Council in a 9-1-1 vote in May approved moving forward with a plan to house teachers on a plot of industrial land.
The proposed project includes 295 units of below-market-rate homes, for teachers at Santa Clara University and aims to retain quality faculty and staff in a region where rapidly increasing housing prices have displaced and pushed them out. Despite opposition from city planners, citing a conflict with the General Plan’s goals of rezoning land meant for jobs to non-industrial uses, many city leaders said the proposed project is a step in the right direction to solving the region’s affordability crisis.
The site, located at 1202 and 1205 Campbell Ave., will be rezoned to transit residential use in order for Santa Clara University to continue with the project.
Earlier this year, tech giant Google unveiled a massive plan to bring 5,000 new homes, 6.5 million square feet of office space and 500,000 square feet of retail, hotel, community and other “active uses” to the west side of downtown. The massive 80 acre mixed-use development will transform San Jose’s downtown, bringing a vibrant new community reflecting the beating heart of Silicon Valley’s tech industry.
The plot of land, located west of Highway 87 near a busy transit hub will revitalize the core of the city, attracting new growth, stimulating the city’s economy through the production of nearly 25,000 new jobs and creating a bustling transit hub next to Diridon Station and BART’s newest San Jose extension.
The proposal also includes a whopping 15 acres of public amenities, such as large plazas, parks and plenty of natural, green space. While construction on the ambitious project may take more than a decade to complete, eager city leaders are expected to approve the project by the end of next year.