Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks.
SV@Home Strongly Supports the San Jose General Plan Taskforce Recommendation to Eliminate Commercial Requirements for All New 100% Affordable Projects
San Jose is not meeting its goals to build the affordable housing it needs, even as the hardship facing communities hardest hit by the pandemic are making this need more pressing. A major hurdle to building more affordable housing is that these projects are often required to include commercial and retail space. This city requirement is making many projects infeasible in the very places we have planned to expand opportunities – adding millions of dollars in additional development costs, reducing the number of homes that can be built, and creating a funding problem because affordable housing funds cannot be used to build commercial spaces.
This week San Jose’s City Council deferred consideration of a package of recommendations from the General Plan Four-Year Review Task Force, including what may be the most consequential step they could take to remove barriers to affordable housing development in the city — eliminating commercial space requirements for all new 100% affordable housing projects. The recommendation will come back for Council action on either December 7th or December 14th.
WE NEED TO TAKE ACTION NOW – Tell the City Council to change the rules and eliminate commercial requirements citywide for all new 100% affordable housing projects.
Meeting the challenge of the housing crisis – family and community instability, displacement and increased homelessness – means committing to removing barriers. This is a collective commitment we need to make to an equitable recovery that puts the housing needs of the lowest-income communities at the center of our priorities. Elimination of commercial requirements for all new 100% affordable housing projects would be the most impactful action Council can take to unlock affordable housing production. Now is the time to urge Council to take action! CLICK HERE TO TAKE ACTION!
San José Opportunity Housing and SB9 Implementation Updates
In August 2020, the San José General Plan Four-Year Review Task Force recommended that the city explore allowing two to four homes to be built on lots currently restricted to single-family homes — dubbed “Opportunity Housing” by city staff. This recommendation will finally be coming before the City Council on December 14th, but the entire landscape has changed in the wake of the passage of Senate Bill 9 (SB 9) by the California Legislature in July, which allows two to four units on single family lots throughout the state.
Staff is recommending that the City focus on implementing SB 9 with the following recommendations (full memo here).
1. Halt the City’s Opportunity Housing effort and focus on implementation of SB 9 (which requires the City to allow most of the Opportunity Housing types originally contemplated) as part of the Four-Year Review of the General Plan process.
2. Direct staff to develop citywide design standards for implementation of SB 9.
3. Direct staff to explore allowance for “SB 9-type” housing projects within R-2 (duplex) Zoning Districts and on historic properties that do not qualify under SB 9.
In a study session in October the City Council asked staff to come back with an urgency ordinance before the end of the year to address concerns thatthe City’s existing ADU ordinance could technically allow up to 10 units on current single family lots. Staff is also expected to bring back some basic design guidelines to manage applications while the full implementation process is rolled out next year. Other cities have used these design guidelines to try to undermine the goals of SB 9, by making is hard (or impossible) to actually build more housing.
SV@Home, a founding member of the San José Neighborhoods for All Coalition, continues to believe that expanding housing opportunities and communities of inclusion will help break down the division of our city by race and income, provide new housing choices and options, and promote environmental sustainability by building in rather than sprawling out. This state action will enhance neighborhoods and strengthen communities throughout the city.
However, ending exclusionary-zoning barriers alone will not make this new housing affordable to lower-income families. We need the City Council to support a separate study of incentives to expand affordability, including both affordable homeownership and homes for rent. This is the remaining piece of the General Plan Four-Year Review Task Force recommendation not addressed by the state law. It will be important for advocates to weigh in in support of incentives for affordability. We will be sending out a more detailed email on how to engage ahead of the 14th – stay tuned!
In some cities we are seeing opponents try to pass urgency ordinances with restrictions that would create barriers to the feasibility of homes created using SB 9, although other cities are realizing that measures explicitly intended to subvert the law expose local cities to risk of litigation and will likely be overturned by the courts. Cities trying to undermine SB 9 now are providing the roadmap for what future cleanup legislation should address, making their efforts likely futile in the long-run, but nonetheless delaying new housing.
Palo Alto Moves Forward on Providing Tenant Protections
This Monday night, the Palo Alto City Council moved forward on implementing a package of renter protections that have been under development since 2018. City staff demonstrated that lower income renters are particularly vulnerable to displacement, which is true throughout the region but particularly in cities like Palo Alto where rents are extreme.
The Council directed staff to bring back details and cost estimates for implementation of an apartment rent registry. Palo Alto has had a rent registry on the books for years, but it could be expanded to collect more valuable information about the rental market in the city and the challenges faced by tenants.
They also directed staff to come back with an ordinance amendment expanding Tenant Relocation Assistance to buildings of ten units or more, down from the current coverage limited to larger complexes of 50 or more units. The current Tenant Relocation Assistance Ordinance (TRAO) requires that tenants who are being evicted due to redevelopment receive between $7-17,000 in financial assistance to mitigate the impact of displacement.
The Council asked for an ordinance that would expand just cause eviction protection coverage to include newer apartment units and for tenants during their first year of tenancy (this closes loopholes in protections provided under state law AB 1482). Other policies directed to a council subcommittee for review included closing loopholes related to the anti-gouging provision of AB1482, a security deposit limit, and a fair chance ordinance.
The city also directed staff to support county efforts for a Tenant Right to Counsel, clarified that the goal of these protections is to focus on households who are low income and rent burdened and tasked the Human Relations Committee (HRC) to look into possible implementation improvements of these policies.
SV@Home has been working with the City of Palo Alto since 2019 as a community partner in a city-initiated grant from the Partnership for the Bay’s Future (PBF). This partnership included a Challenge Grant Fellow, also funded by PBF, to provide additional staff capacity to the city to explore and develop anti-displacement and tenant protection policies. We have been honored to work closely with the city and the community in this partnership over these past few years to protect renters. We hope to share the example of these Palo Altan policies as a way for other cities in the region to enhance tenant protections as a part of the state mandate requirement to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing as part of their housing element.
Learn More About the Community Opportunity to Purchase Act (COPA) in San José
The City of San José Housing Department is hosting two meetings this month to discuss a proposed Community Opportunity to Purchase (COPA) program on December 8th and 14th (registration details below).
COPA would be the city’s first preservation program. It would give certain Qualified Nonprofit Organizations (“QNP”) the opportunity to buy residential rental properties that come up for sale before they go on the market and the opportunity to match the terms and conditions of a property sale, providing more transparency in real estate transactions and creating permanent affordable housing. More information about the proposed COPA program can be found on the Housing Department website.
These public meetings will consist of brief presentations followed by time for questions and answers. Vietnamese and Spanish translation will be available. Please join us to learn more and provide your feedback.
Wednesday, December 8th
5:00 to 6:30 pm
Wednesday, December 15th
3:00 to 4:30pm
Mountain View to hold Study Session on Google North Bayshore Master Plan
On December 14th, the Mountain View City Council is scheduled to hold a study session on Google’s North Bayshore Master Plan, which will determine a huge piece of the North Bayshore Precise Plan’s implementation. Google’s proposed Master Plan includes 7,000 new homes, 20% of them affordable achieved through a combination of land dedication for deeper affordability and some moderate income inclusionary units. SV@Home is joining with housing advocates to urge the Council to continue to advance Google’s Master Plan proposal, which will account for the majority of the homes planned for the Precise Plan area. We are very excited about the opportunity to create 7,000 new homes, 20% of them affordable. At the same time, we believe it is important that the City and Google develop an affordable housing implementation plan that will outline the details of how the affordable housing will actually be built, including more information about funding sources and the timeline. It is critical that the proposed affordable housing moves forward quickly and at the same rate as the market rate developments.
Eden Housing to Break Ground on 425 Auzerais Apartments
On December 8th, SV@Home will join Eden Housing, the Housing Trust Silicon Valley, Santa Clara County’s Office of Supportive Housing, and the City of San José to celebrate the groundbreaking of 425 Auzerais Apartments, a 130-home community in San José’s Diridon Station Area. Half of the units will be reserved to address the homelessness crisis in the County supported by Section 8 project-based vouchers and supportive services. The other half of the units will be restricted to serve households earning 50-60% of Area Median Income (AMI). SV@Home proudly endorsed the Auzerais Apartment project through its entitlement process and looks forward to celebrating its grand opening!