San Jose: GP Task Force Considers Urban Village and Housing Policies

February 29, 2016 –
Costs v Income_SJ

Photo Credit: City of San Jose

On Thursday, February 25th, the 43 San Jose General Plan Task Force members, appointed by the City Council, considered staff’s recommended changes to the General Plan policies related to Urban Villages and Affordable Housing. Given the breadth of the discussion in a limited amount of time, the Task Force was unable to deliberate on any of the recommended affordable housing policies and deferred recommendations to the next meeting.

We thank the Housing Department staff for their thorough analysis and thoughtful recommendations that balance the City’s desire for more jobs with its existing and future housing needs. Staff-recommended policies that benefit affordable housing are discussed in more detail below.

We also thank staff from both the Planning and Housing Departments for incorporating some of the recommendations provided by the nonprofit development community through SV@Home’s coalition letter. However, there are a number of provisions in the proposed recommendations that may make future affordable housing development more challenging or unfeasible. We look forward to working with City Staff and the Task Force members to ensuring that the affordable housing policies ultimately reflected in the General Plan deliver the intended results. Please mark your calendars and join us at the next Task Force meeting on Thursday, March 24th at 6:30 PM.

Housing Context. According to data presented by the City’s Housing Department, San Jose continues to be severely unaffordable with escalating housing costs outpacing median wages at a ratio of 7.6. Following last month’s discussion about San Jose’s jobs-to-employed-residents goals, lasts night’s conversation focused on the housing needs of the City’s workers and residents.

Urban Villages are planning areas that are intended to be walkable and bikeable mixed-use and transit-oriented urban areas. In total, San Jose has 68 areas designated as Urban Villages, each with its own allocation of planned job and housing growth. Each Urban Village falls into one of three “Horizons”, each with different development timelines. Only Urban Villages included in Horizon 1 are allowed to move forward with allocated growth. However, when meeting certain criteria, projects that are catalytic in nature – called “Signature Projects” – are able to move forward regardless of Horizon designation.

Staff from San Jose’s Planning Department presented their recommended revisions to the General Plan policies affecting Urban Villages. Given the breadth of the proposed revisions that were discussed last night, Task Force members took the following action on proposed Urban Village policies:

Urban Village Planning Process (IP-5.3) – Passed unanimously.
Signature Project Commercial FAR of 0.35 (IP-5.12(2)) – Deferred.
Signature Project Commercial Requirement for positive fiscal impact (IP-5.12(9)) – Deferred.

Affordable Housing Policies. Staff from San Jose’s Housing Department presented a comprehensive set of policies designed to protect and increase the stock of affordable housing, both within Urban Village and in other areas of the City. The breadth of recommended revisions touch on:

Social equity and diversity (H-1 to H-1.10);
Jobs and housing fit (IP-2.6); and
Affordable housing (H-2.1 to H-2.18; IP-5.2; IP-5.11)

Staff recommendations included the following policies that will benefit those in need for affordable housing:

By right development for projects that are 100 percent deed-restricted affordable, regardless of Horizon designation. (IP-5.11)
Conversion of small, vacant parcels zoned for Mixed-Use Commercial or Neighborhood/Community Commercial, for projects that are 100 percent deed-restricted affordable provided is surrounded by residential uses on at least two sides. (H-2.5)
A goal that at least 25 percent of all new housing developed in Urban Villages are deed-restricted affordable housing, with 15 percent of the units targeting households with incomes below 60 percent of the area median income.

Staff also recommended including the following long-term strategies that will be beneficial to overall housing stock in the City:

Advancing a mechanism for a regional approach to addressing regional housing needs. (H-2.10)
Exploring new programs, policies, and partnerships. (H-2.18)
Monitoring San Jose’s housing stock (by type and cost) in relation to jobs and incomes, also known as jobs and housing fit. (IP-2.6)

Join us to weigh in at the next Task Force meeting on Thursday, March 24th at 6:30 PM.

SJ Mercury News Op-Ed: San Jose needs affordable housing to sustain its economy

February 12, 2016 – Kevin Zwick, CEO of the Housing Trust Silicon Valley and Board Member of SV@Home, writes about the need for San Jose to prioritize increasing affordable housing in order to sustain its economy, and presents 4 solutions that would encourage affordable housing opportunities without needing City funding. Read the full op-ed published by the San Jose Mercury News here.