April 27, 2021

Policy Rundown – April 22, 2021


Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks.

San José Holds Final Diridon Station Area Advisory Group Meeting

Last Wednesday, the Diridon Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG) held its final meeting, bringing to a close this multi-year effort to engage members the San José community around the future of Diridon Station. SV@Home was proud to serve as a member of the SAAG since its formation and believes the group was one of many key forums for shaping the Diridon Station Area Plan, Google’s Downtown West proposal, and the Affordable Housing Implementation Plan, which the City Council will consider next month. We’d like to thank city staff and the consultants for all of the hard work on the entire SAAG process.

The focus on this final SAAG meeting was a discussion of Google’s Downtown West proposal. You can read more about  SV@Home’s support for the proposal in greater detail here.

SV@Home is looking forward to the City Council’s consideration of the draft amendments to the Diridon Station Area Plan, the Downtown West Development Agreement, and the Affordable Housing Implementation Plan, tentatively scheduled for May 25th. We strongly support staff recommendations for all three pieces, which are, respectively: creating the framework for up to 15,000 new homes throughout the Station Area, 25% of them affordable; catalyzing the entire Area’s development with 4,000 new homes, including 1,000 deed restricted homes (as well as over $150m for the new Community Stabilization and Opportunity Pathway Fund); and setting expectations around how the City will achieve its affordability goals while also addressing issues of renter protections and preservation of existing affordable housing.

Stay tuned for more information soon about how you can get engaged in supporting the comprehensive plan for a housing-rich, affordable Diridon Station! We will have a sign-on letter that you will be able to send to the City of San José to tell them that you support all of the critical affordable housing elements at Diridon Station. Look for this opportunity in your inboxes soon![spacer height=”20px”][spacer height=”20px”]

Mountain View City Council Considers R3 Zoning Updates

Last week, the Mountain View City Council held a study session to discuss the City’s update of the R3 Multifamily Residential zoning district standards, with members expressing support for city staff’s proposal. The proposal to update the City’s R3 Zoning code—which covers areas of the City of Mountain View with many medium-density apartment buildings— was initiated due to concerns about recent development proposals in areas of the city zoned R3 that would construct rowhouses and redeveloped luxury stacked-flat homes rather than more affordable, higher-density options. Additionally, there were concerns about displacement pressures on existing residents. The proposed R3 zone update emphasizes form-based zoning (a planning strategy that focuses on building size and massing rather than the density of housing units, for example), which will diversify the number and types of multi-family development, and will potentially allow for 12,000 new homes to be built over time.

SV@Home supported city staff’s approach to the R3 Zoning Code update and believes that it is an exciting opportunity to facilitate redevelopment in the context of strong market pressures. If implemented correctly, it could increase the overall number of homes and affordable homes in Mountain View while addressing concerns around displacement. SV@Home also provided several recommendations to City staff and City council, including increasing density close to transit, planning for parcel aggregation in the future to create more homes and more affordability, clarifying how the state density bonus (a state policy that allows developers to build taller, denser buildings in exchange for increasing the amount of affordable housing in a proposal) will work with the R3 Zoning Code update, and ensuring that the R3 zone update is conducted in tandem with the City’s upcoming anti-displacement policy. City staff will continue revising the draft R3 Zoning Code update and present the updated draft at the next City Council study session. SV@Home looks forward to continuing to support the proposal and providing feedback as the draft update is revised.

Palo Alto Places Restrictions on City’s Housing Production Strategy, Raises Fees on Housing Developments

Last Monday, Palo Alto’s City Council took two actions that will affect affordable housing production in the City. The first was to adopt a new development fee structure. The second was to prohibit Planned Home Zoning (PHZ) applications in the majority of the city with single family homes as well as for projects east of Highway 101.

During the development fee discussion, council members debated how a fee hike would align with the City’s priority of enabling affordable housing, especially if not phased-in over time. Opponents cited that fee increases would adversely impact housing feasibility. In response, council member Stone motioned to study fee reductions for projects that exceeded City inclusionary requirements. Ultimately, with a 5 to 2 vote, the City Council approved the new development fee structure for residential and non-residential projects to be effective immediately. Maximum fees for multi-family projects will increase for Park fees to $42,468, for Library fees to $1,956, and for Community Centers fees to $3,283 (roughly 5x, 3x, and 1.5x increases respectively). Although SV@Home did not weigh-in on this item, we strongly support fee reductions for all housing projects.

Following the discussion of development fees, the Council discussed the Planned Home Zoning (PHZ) program, which allows developers to come forward with residential proposals that include more density than is normally allowed under the city’s zoning code in exchange for meeting key requirements, including 20% of units being deed-restricted affordable. SV@Home stood united with the vast majority of community members and advocates to oppose placing any new restrictions on the program. In spite of overwhelming community opposition, with a 5 to 2 vote, Council approved eliminating the majority of city land currently occupied by single family homes from the PHZ program as well projects east of Highway 101.

SV@Home has supported the PHZ program since it was revived last year and the process has so far attracted several proposals, although no projects have yet advanced through the entire process. We are disappointed Council took these actions, making it even harder for developers to build new homes in the City. We will continue to advocate for much needed housing in Palo Alto, and will push for approval of the projects already in the PHZ pipeline.

Redevelopment of Old Hospital Site in Downtown San José Moves Forward

On Tuesday, the Santa Clara County Housing Authority invited community members to learn and comment on the final design of the redevelopment of the old hospital site in Downtown San José at 675 E Santa Clara St, a site that been underutilized for years. The mixed-use project, located in the East Santa Clara Urban Village area, includes two sites– a North Lot and a Main site that wil include  six new buildings across 5.14 acres. The design, which incorporates feedback from multiple rounds of community engagement as well as the City’s preliminary review process, will bring vitality to the area with open air setbacks, community gardens, tree-lined plazas, bike and pedestrian passages, and 5,500 square feet of community serving retail. The proposed 100% affordable project includes approximately 660 new senior and family homes deed-restricted at a range of income levels. Check out the final design on YouTube.

The meeting was well attended, with community members expressing both concerns and praise for the project, while the project team addressed questions at a brisk pace. SV@Home attended the meeting and expressed support for the project. It is expected that the planning application will be submitted to the city later this month.

Sunnyvale Council Receives Update on Mobilehome Park Resident Protections

This Tuesday, the Sunnyvale City Council heard an update on the negotiations between mobilehome park owners and mobilehome residents to establish a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that would govern allowable rent increases, vacancy decontrol (which limits the amount a landlord could raise rent if a tenant vacates a rented mobilehome or apartment), capital improvement passthroughs, and other key lease terms. A large number of mobilehome residents turned out to advocate for better protections from large rent increases. SV@Home joined local advocacy groups like Livable Sunnyvale in advocating for mobilehome protections similar to existing protections in South Bay cities like San José, Milpitas, Morgan Hill, Los Gatos, and Gilroy.

Specifically, SV@Home supported allowable annual mobilehome space rent increases of 75% of the consumer price index (CPI) up to a maximum of an overall annual 5% increase in rent, recommended limiting vacancy decontrol to avoid incentivizing evictions, and called for strong accountability mechanisms to ensure that the enforcement of the MOU would not fall short of the protections offered by the more typical ordinance process. See our letter here. The Council is scheduled to make a final decision on a potential MOU this summer.

Palo Alto Planning Commission Begins Discussion of Proposed Renter Protections

Last Wednesday, the Palo Alto Planning Commission spent a contentious four hours discussing a suite of proposed renter protections brought forward by city staff. The proposed protections identified by staff for further exploration ranged from implementing an annual rental property survey that has been on the city’s books since 2002, to expanding tenant relocation assistance to cover Palo Altans who live in smaller apartment buildings that include 5-10 units (currently tenant relocation assistance is only available if you live in a larger building of 50+ units), to supporting county and state programs that are already in place or in process.

SV@Home advised staff on the development of the recommendations as part of our work as a community partner with the Partnership for the Bay’s Future Challenge Grant, and advocated that the planning commission, council, and city staff continue to explore and elaborate the seven recommended protection items. The public comment was overwhelmingly supportive of the new protections, including testimony from some members of the recently formed Palo Alto Renters Association (PARA) who talked about their experiences as renters and the need for the proposed protections. SV@Home has been supporting the development of PARA as a critical forum for renters in Palo Alto to advocate for their needs. While the planning commission only got through the first three items out of nine in the report, it recommended that the council pursue each of these three protections further with plans to discuss the remaining items in the future. Check out the staff report for the full list of renter protections under consideration.