March 11, 2021

Policy Rundown – March 11, 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.

Sunnyvale City Council Prioritizes Housing at Moffett Park

Last week, the Sunnyvale City Council held its third public workshop/study session on the Moffett Park Specific Plan, focused on housing, open space, and land use issues. Following an in depth staff presentation that made a clear case for the link between new residential development and other benefits the city wants to see in Moffett Park, including vibrant retail and increased use of transit, the Council unanimously instructed staff to move forward with studying the potential for residential development in the area. Sunnyvale staff envision a potential for between 8,000 – 22,000 new homes in Moffett Park, which would change based on other priorities for the area including new office development and open space. The city has already developed some general ideas for where they anticipate this housing would be targeted, which would largely be near existing transit and clustered to create opportunities for vibrancy and neighborhood feel.

SV@Home is thrilled that the Council provided clear instruction to staff about moving forward with studying housing in Moffett Park, which we strongly support. We believe that Sunnyvale has an excellent opportunity to fulfill its vision of an “Eco-Innovation District” in the area, and new housing and affordable housing are key to that future. SV@Home is also excited to continue to expand our work and partnerships at the intersection of environmental issues and housing, with the connection between new housing development and climate goals as key parts of this Plan. The Council will return to this issue later this month for a study session on potential land use alternatives and then is expected to formal direction on land use and intensity of development in May.

Google’s Middlefield Park proposal continues to move forward in Mountain View

On Tuesday, the Mountain View City Council held a study session on Google’s Middlefield Park Master Plan, which is the most significant project proposal in the East Whisman Precise Plan area. Google’s proposal would bring up to 1,900 new homes to the area, clustered along transit and alongside a number of other key community benefits including new neighborhood-serving retail, new parks, and improved bike-ped infrastructure. Notably, the proposal also includes 20% of those new homes as affordable based on proposed land dedications to the city.

The Council was generally supportive of Google’s proposal and united in their strong interest in ensuring that the affordable housing component is delivered in a timely manner. SV@Home and a number of local affordable housing groups weighed in with our overall support for Google’s housing-rich plan, alongside some recommendations for how the city and Google might be able to work together to make the affordable housing implementation plan ironclad. We are looking forward to continuing to support this proposal and thinking creatively about ensuring the affordable housing plan is successful.

Palo Alto Planning Commission Advances North Ventura Plan

After months of wrangling over different potential land use alternatives for the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan (NVCAP) in Palo Alto, the Planning and Transportation Commission made an official recommendation for an alternative that could bring up to 2,130 new homes to the area. Palo Alto assessed that of these new homes, achieving 15% affordable would be financially feasible, and that the city could pursue a higher inclusionary goal (20%) if it was willing to fill a funding gap of around $37m. The Commission recommended that the city assess and adjust the plan to create more affordable housing and open space, which will require some additional staff analysis.

While SV@Home is disappointed that the city is not thinking bigger on how it can bring even more homes to North Ventura, which is a short walk from the Caltrain and the vibrancy of California Avenue, we appreciate the work by staff and consultants to address challenges of financial feasibility that have plagued other proposal for the NVCAP area. Overall, the alternative selected by the Planning Commission will result in the highest number of new homes but also other community benefits, including open space and affordable housing. We look forward to the City Council continuing to move this process forward and the staff assessments on how Palo Alto could fund the desired increases in affordable housing and open space.

Final Diridon SAAG Meeting Delayed

This week, the City of San José announced that the final Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG) for the redevelopment of the Diridon Station Area has been delayed from its rescheduled March 22nd date in order to allow the city more time to finalize the draft Development Agreement for Downtown West, Google’s proposed mixed-use district. While they did not announce a new date for the final SAAG, we expect that it will be either later this month or in April.

SV@Home is looking forward to the upcoming discussions around community benefits, especially more details about how Google’s Downtown West will meet the San José City Council’s direction that 25% of new homes in Diridon be affordable. We’re also looking forward to more details about how the city’s Affordable Housing Implementation Plan will apply Plan-wide to incentivize affordable housing to meet the overall 25% affordable target.

San José Continues Review of a Public/Quasi-Public Land Use Conversion Policy

Last week, the San José Planning Department continued its public outreach around proposed changes to a draft Public/Quasi-Public (PQP) Land Use Conversion Policy for school districts seeking to sell or lease publicly owned land. Under the proposed changes, school districts would continue to be guaranteed full market value for the sale or lease of land, but the future uses of the properties would need to conform to the new rules, which would prioritize affordable housing.  While this planning work has been underway for some time, the spark for recent action was a recent action by the Cambrian School District, which downzoned its land to build single-family homes. See SV@Home’s letter here.

At stakeholder engagement meetings for school districts, which were open to the public, staff from local schools expressed concerns.  City staff appears to be working to accommodate those concerns by reducing the proposed minimum standards to low-density townhouse levels of 16 dwelling Units per acre. These proposed changes are expected to move quickly through the process and come to Council for approval in the near future, with the expectation that publicly owned land, including land being sold by local school districts, will be prioritized for affordable housing.

It is important to note that any land to be sold or leased by school districts, as public entities, is covered by the state Surplus Land Act (SLA), and must already follow a process which explicitly prioritizes affordable housing. SV@Home has worked very hard for years, at both the state and local levels, to ensure that surplus public land resources that are being sold or leased for non-public purposes should be prioritized for affordable housing.  We strongly support San Jose City Staff’s work to create local mechanisms to support that goal, but are quite concerned that the policy is already moving away from its full potential. As staff works to revise the draft policy, we will continue to advocate that future school district surplus lands be developed as affordable housing.