July 23, 2020

Policy Rundown – July 23, 2020


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 we continue through the month of July, most City Councils are on their summer breaks and will not reconvene until August. This means the next several weeks will likely be quieter than normal on the policy update front, but we expect many critically important items to be high on Council agendas come August and the Fall, so stay tuned!

San José General Plan Four-Year Review Task Force Meets Next Week!

Next Thursday, July 30th, at 6:00pm, The General Plan Four-Year Review Task Force will be discussing – under the heading “Opportunity Housing” — re-zoning exclusive single-family neighborhoods to allow for small multi-unit projects, including duplexes, tri-plexes, bungalow courts, and other housing types often referred to as “missing middle housing.”  While the item is limited to areas adjacent to Urban Villages in the Task Force’s scope of work, SV@Home is recommending that the modest upzoning be extended to single-family zones throughout the city, and that areas adjacent to transit be considered for medium density housing.

This is a tremendously important discussion and the Task Force has been very receptive to exploring a full range of solutions to our housing shortage.  This discussion actually began during the February Task Force meeting, but was deferred due to lack of time. In preparation for the February meeting,  Planning Department staff prepared a detailed document to frame the discussion, and background material on the recent history of modest up-zoning measures around the country.

As we talk about zoning, it is important to remember that historic housing policy created significant disparities, with older, outdated zoning policies that prioritize single-family housing resulting in the segregation of lower income families and communities of color. In San José, it is estimated that 94% of the residential land is dedicated to single family uses. Modest increases in density can provide more opportunities for our community members to remain in the city they call home.

In addition to the conversations in San José, actions to address the need for missing middle housing typologies by making it simpler for local governments to approve increased densities are under consideration in Sacramento. SB 902, which is currently awaiting hearing in the Assembly, would remove barriers to help local governments rezone areas to allow up to 10 homes per parcel, either by right/ministerial or subject to discretionary approval. Additionally, it would authorize four homes per parcel to be built as a use by-right in residential areas (for cities smaller than 50,000, the number of homes per parcel would be smaller).

Santa Clara Moves Project Forward Despite Surplus Lands Act Concerns

This week, the Santa Clara City Council voted unanimously to extend the Exclusive Negotiations Agreement (ENA) for the 500 Benton Street site despite concerns that City actions were in violation of the State Surplus Lands Act, which requires that surplus government land be first offered competitively to developers of affordable housing. Plans for the site, located adjacent to the Santa Clara Caltrain station and the future Santa Clara BART stop, include affordable workforce housing on Valley Transit Authority (VTA) land as well as a housing development targeted at local students. Local advocates have raised concerns that the student-focused proposal does not adequately take advantage of the transit-oriented location for affordable housing. SV@Home shares these reservations, and submitted a letter to the Council expressing our concerns that the City’s process may be in violation of Surplus Lands Act affordable housing requirements. While the Council did extend the ENA, the actual development proposals will still be coming forward in the future and SV@Home hopes there will be future opportunities to engage on this important issue.

Diridon Station Area Updates and Virtual Office Hours

While the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed many aspects of the Diridon Station Area Plan (DSAP) and Google’s Downtown West proposal, the City of San José is still seeking community feedback on key aspects of these processes. In the coming weeks, city staff are hosting a series of listening sessions on important topics impacting the Diridon Station Area, including Housing and Equity issues. The sessions are intended to collect ideas from the public and provide an additional opportunity to provide feedback to staff. We encourage you to consider attending one or more of these sessions to share your views about the importance of housing for people of all incomes and abilities in the Station Area. For a list of the sessions and to RSVP, click here.

As laid out on the Diridon Station Area website, given the public health crisis, staff have adjusted the target for City Council consideration of the Google’s Downtown West Mixed-use Plan from end of 2020 to early 2021. The next key milestone is for the City to release the Draft Environmental Impact Report for public review, currently anticipated for summer 2020. A Draft Amended Plan for the DSAP is expected to be released in fall 2020. Drafts of the Affordable Housing Implementation Plan and Diridon Parking Study are also anticipated be released in the fall.