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

Santa Clara County and the City of San José Approve Plans for Implementing Federal Emergency Rental Assistance

On Tuesday both the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the City Council of San José approved plans for the implementation of the Federal Emergency Rental Assistance Program. This program will build off of the earlier partnership between the City, the County, Destination: Home, Sacred Heart Community Service, and an extended network of community and service organizations throughout the county.  This local program has garnered national attention as a model of how to target critically needed funds to the lowest income households (below 30% of Area Median Income), overwhelmingly people of color, where the need is the greatest and the risks of displacement are the most acute.

The item in San José, which has been deferred multiple times as negotiations with federal and state agencies over how the structure of the local effort would fit within program guidelines, came very late in the evening and in the interest of time the staff didn’t share their very useful summary presentation. The program will not be fully up and running until next month, but it appears most of the regulatory issues have been addressed, and the collaborative is actively bringing additional community partners into the process. Funds for the locally administered programs will be $57.28 million.

In addition to this local program, the State of California will be administering funds through the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), in the amount of $62.46 million for County and City residents.  These funds will be targeted initially towards households with incomes below 50% of the County’s Area Median Income, and will be available directly to both landlords and tenants.  There are a number of local organizations working to implement the state program including Catholic Charities, the Silicon Valley Independent Living Center, and Project Sentinel. 

We are awaiting more news about how the two programs will be marketed and interact, and how far the current resources will go in responding to the magnitude of the local needs.  Both programs will have funds available for both rent and outstanding utilities.  Each program will expand assistance to higher income households if resources are available.  In the immediate term, tenants and landlords impacted by COVID-19 are being directed to the State program through the State’s interactive COVID-19 Rent Relief site. More news to come, but great news that help is on the way.

Mountain View Council Takes Next Step on Implementing North Bayshore Precise Plan, Allocates Office Development Rights to Google to enable Housing Development

On Tuesday, the Mountain View City Council unanimously voted to allocate 1.3m square feet of office development rights (known as Bonus FAR, or Floor Area Ratio) to Google’s proposed North Bayshore Master Plan. This allocation will enable Google to move forward with refining its Master Plan, which includes up to 7,000 new homes– 20% of them affordable– alongside new offices, retail space, parks, ecological restoration projects, and other key community benefits. While far from being the final decision in this long-running process, the Council’s action pulls the North Bayshore implementation process out of its rut and sets it back on the path to becoming real.

SV@Home strongly supported the Council’s action. When combined with existing residential developments already underway in the Precise Plan area and SyWest’s latest residential concept, the city is on track to meet its ambitious goal of 9,850 new homes in North Bayshore, and to meet the 20% affordability target. In May, the Council will review the city’s Gateway Master Plan, which encompasses a sub-area of North Bayshore where both Google and SyWest own property. We hope this discussion will be an opportunity for the city to address how Google and SyWest’s proposals can work together. SV@Home is looking forward to Google’s updates and refinements to its Master Plan, which will unfold over the coming months. We will continue to strongly support ensuring that the potential 7,000 new homes are part of any finalized Master Plan, alongside a clear path to achieving 20% of those homes as affordable.

Mountain View EPC Reviews Draft R3 Multifamily Residential Zoning Code Update 

Last week, the Mountain View Environmental Planning Commission (EPC) held a study session on the City’s update to the local rules that determine the number of homes allowed in zoning districts that currently allow more than one unit, but are significantly limited by the size of the existing lot (R3 Multifamily Residential land use designations).  Under the proposal different parts of the City would see increases in the number of allowable units on specific sites ranging from softening lot size restrictions on duplexes to significantly increasing density limits and increasing allowable heights. The update to the City’s R3 Zoning code came about because the currently more restrictive code has not been achieving the City’s goals of building enough housing and has contributed to low density redevelopment that has led to increases in displacement pressures. The proposed changes proposed by city staff were generally well received by the Planning Commission, and the update will continue moving forward.

SV@Home supported city staff’s approach to the R3 Zoning Code update. 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 the EPC, including asking to consider an increase in density close to transit and planning for parcel aggregation in the future to create more homes and more affordability. There will be a City Council Study Session on April 13th to review the draft R3 Zoning code update, and SV@Home looks forward to continuing to support the proposal and providing feedback as the draft R3 Zoning Code update is revised.

Mountain View Mobilehome Residents May Soon Get Rent Protections

Good news from Mountain View! After years of back and forth over whether the city’s rent control law includes them, mobilehome owners may soon get new protections from rent increases. Last week, the council majority directed staff to prepare a mobilehome rent stabilization ordinance that matches the protections for apartments, to be heard in late summer or fall of this year. SV@Home supported the efforts of the Mountain View Mobile Home Alliance to achieve these protections, which residents of mobilehome parks in neighboring San Jose have long enjoyed. Our letter can be found here.  

Urban Village at the Berryessa BART station

Last night, the San Jose Planning Commission reviewed plans for the new Urban Village at the Berryessa BART station, and the specific rezoning requests for a large, mixed-use development on the current site of the San Jose Flea Market.  After well over six hours of presentations, heated public comment, and engagement by the planning commissioners, the commission voted to delay action on the plan until its scheduled meeting in May.  These plans have been under development for years, and propose thousands of new homes and over 4 million square feet of new commercial and office space. The focus of the discussion, however, quickly became the future of the Flea Market and the fate of the hundreds of vendors and small businesses.  The Commissioners requested additional information from staff about how community benefits might support relocation of the market to another site, and recommended that the owner of the Flea Market have further discussions with representatives of the Flea Market vendors.