Welcome to SV@Home’s Policy Rundown, your need-to-know overview of important housing policy actions and developments from the past two weeks as well as key upcoming items where you can get engaged.

Affordable Housing in the Civic Center Master Plan

The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors expressed its support for the prioritization of affordable housing opportunities, including new permanent supportive housing for people who have experienced homelessness, as part of the County’s Civic Center Master Plan, which encompasses the area around the old San José City Hall and adjacent to the County building. The Board also voted to support an initiative put forward by Board President Cindy Chavez to explore housing opportunities for survivors of domestic violence as part of the Plan. SV@Home has long advocated for making use of publicly-owned land in the Civic Center site to site new affordable housing developments and strongly supports the Board’s decision. We will continue to support this planning process as it moves to the City of San José for action, potentially as soon as later this year.

San José Mobile Home Parks 

On January 15th, Mayor Liccardo and Councilmember Diep brought forward a memo to the Rules and Open Government Committee that recommends protections for San Jose’s mobile home parks. The action comes in the wake of apparent threats to the Westwinds Mobile Home Park in North San José where 723 households – as many as 1,600 residents – received advanced notice of possible evictions and closure of the park. The new measure accelerates prior Council direction from 2018 to proceed with the General Plan Amendment to create a “mobilehome” zoning designation to be applied to parks throughout the City. While this would not stop all proposals for park conversions to other uses, the step would require council approval for any change in use.

San José is home to 59 mobile home parks, the most of any city in California. The roughly 10,000 homes in these parks serve as critical housing options that are affordable in the private market, providing homes for over 35,000 residents. SV@Home continues to support efforts to protect and preserve these important resources, and has called for real restrictions in cases when they cannot be preserved, including requirements for significantly increased housing density and a right to return to new affordable units provided at a ratio of 1:1 with any lost mobile homes. In late 2019, after years of negotiations with residents, a deal was struck at the Winchester Mobile Home Park in San José which included many of these conditions.

The proposed General Plan Amendment will proceed quickly with referral to the January 23rd Housing and Community Development Commission meeting, and then to the Planning Commission in February and the full Council on March 10th. You can read the measure from Mayor Liccardo and Councilmember Diep here.

San José ADU Amnesty

As one of its first housing actions of 2020, the San José City Council approved staff recommendations, alongside amendments proposed by Mayor Liccardo, for an ADU Amnesty Ordinance to help homeowners with unpermitted ADUs legalize their units and receive retroactive permits.  The ordinance includes processing and impact fee waivers for qualified homeowners and a self-assessment checklist for homeowners to assess the characteristics and conditions of their unpermitted ADU to determine their eligibility. The goal of the program is to expand the number of legal ADUs and assist homeowners where upgrades and improvements are feasible, not to create an additional layer of code enforcement.  Towards that end, the program will utilize third-party inspectors to conduct ADU inspections, plan checks, customer assistance, and consultations without risk of enforcement unless an imminent threat to health and safety is found.

ADUs promise to be an important part of the long term goal of expanding naturally affordable housing opportunities in San José and throughout the County. SV@Home has long supported an amnesty program to help bring as many unpermitted units as possible out of the shadows. This is the final piece of the ADU program reforms, which have already seen a 300% increase in new permits in San José in just the last two years.

The Amnesty program will be in place for two years, and is planning to kick off at the end of this month. See Mayor Liccardo’s memo, the staff report and presentation for more details.

San José Release of Anti-Displacement Plan

On January 15, the San José Anti-Displacement Policy Network released the Community Strategy to End Displacement Report, proposing a range of policy solutions including increased tenant protections, strategies for affordable housing preservation and efforts to expand resources for affordable housing production (See the executive summary of the report here). The Network, which has been meeting for a number of years with similar cohorts from cities around the country, and communities throughout the City of San José, brought together City staff, elected officials, and community and legal advocates to explore comprehensive responses to the wide-spread displacement stemming from the housing crisis. The report is intended to inform specific policy proposals to be introduced by the Housing Department in the coming months.

As a part of this next phase, SV@Home will be co-hosting — along with Destination: Home and the Housing Trust Silicon Valley — one of a series of public meetings to provide input on the policies under consideration by the Department. Click here for more details!

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