May 4, 2020

Policy Rundown – May 4, 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.

More Money and Action Needed to Respond to the Impact of COVID-19 on Housing

SV@Home signed on to a letter from the Northern California Association for Non-Profit Housing (NPH) and All Home to push for Congress to take action as it considers the next stimulus package to respond to the housing crisis faced by renters and landlords. Sign on to SV@Home’s action alert, that asks Congress to support funding for housing and housing stability in future COVID relief measures here. It will take all of our voices to ensure that our most vulnerable residents are not harmed once the rent comes due and the eviction moritoriums end.

SV@Home Partners with NPH and All Home to Implore Cities to Act

SV@Home is joining NPH and All Home in sending out letters to all 16 jurisdictions in the County encouraging them to take local action—including rent freezes and funding—and to advocate for action at the State and federal level. Check out the letter to San Jose here. State actions include using a portion of the CARES Stimulus funding for rent/debt relief for tenants and homeowners, negotiating with lenders to provide forbearance for multi-family affordable properties, and including significant funding in the upcoming State budget for homeless prevention and rapid rehousing. Federal action is about money, money, money as well as classifying affordable housing as essential infrastructure.

San Jose Takes Action to Protect Renters

On April 28th, the San Jose City Council enacted a temporary moratorium on rent increases for mobilehomes and apartments covered by the City of San Jose’s rent stabilization and mobilehome rent control ordinances through December 31, 2020. The action included additional incentives for landlords and tenants to work together to negotiate lower rents during the crisis, and enables landlords to return rents to the prior rate without limitation beginning in January. SV@Home voiced support for this action and is encouraging other cities around the county to join San Jose (and Morgan Hill, which acted earlier in the month), to embrace rent freezes to protect tenants from displacement. The City has posted additional information about the rent freeze here.

Additionally, you can find more information about recent City Council actions on housing here.

Residential Construction Starts Up Again

Last Wednesday, the Santa Clara County Department of Health issued new guidance for construction projects, outlining safety precautions for contractors and developers and allowing both residential and commercial development to move forward beginning this week. This announcement followed the release of a proposal from San Jose Mayor Liccardo– Back to Work, Safely: Preparing A Protected, Prudent Path—which directed city staff to prepare the safety guidelines that need to be in place in order to reopen construction sites. SV@Home is supportive of the work that was done by so many organizations to establish guidelines that protect the health and safety of construction workers.  We strongly believe that all residential construction is essential to our recovery. See the coalition letter here.

Los Altos SB35 Ruling

Last week, in a major win for housing and the key housing streamlining bill SB35, a Santa Clara County Superior Judge ruled that the City of Los Altos violated the law in denying a mixed-use residential development in the Downtown area. The case, brought by the pro-housing California Renters Legal Advocacy & Education Fund (CaRLA), vindicates the power of SB35, a 2017 bill from State Senator Scott Wiener, designed to allow residential developments that include affordable units to advance more quickly through the city review process. The ruling has potentially major implications for other ongoing cases involving the applicability of SB35 and a city’s ability to deny housing developments on shaky grounds, including a key case related to Sand Hill Property’s Vallco Town Center development in Cupertino. We are awaiting a decision in the Vallco case. See the amicus brief signed by SV@Home and other organizations here.

Santa Clara County Cities Support for Vulnerable Residents

Cities across Santa Clara County have continued to take emergency action to provide resources for the most impacted members of our community. This past week, the Cupertino City Council allocated $200,000 to West Valley Community Services, Mirwest, and Earnin to support vulnerable renters, homeowners, and nonprofits. The City of Mountain View, which has already provided over $1.6m in support to vulnerable residents, just launched its Small Landlord Loan Program, check out the details here.

Additionally, this past week, the Los Altos City Council granted $75,000 to the Community Service Agency to provide emergency rental assistance to keep families impacted by the pandemic in their homes.  This action uses a portion of the HUD stimulus funding, authorized in the CARES ACT, to respond to the impending crisis of tenants who can’t pay rent, and landlords struggling to pay mortgages and maintenance.  Gilroy will be considering similar action on May 5th, and Santa Clara is expected to do the same at its next meeting.  SV@Home is strongly supportive of these responses, and believes that more State and federal support will be needed to respond to this issue going forward.

Palo Alto North Ventura Update

On the land use front, last week the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission held a study session on the North Ventura Coordinated Area Plan, which envisions the transformation of the North Ventura neighborhood adjacent to the Caltrain station at California Avenue. A major ongoing discussion has been the potential redevelopment of the “Fry’s site,” which is owned by the Sobrato Organization (Sobrato maintains that they do not have an interest in redeveloping the property in the near future). While community engagement and working group discussions remain ongoing, the City presented three alternatives for the future of the area (check them out on the NVCAP website). Our community partners Palo Alto Forward and Peninsula For All spoke in support of a vision that includes up to 3,000 new homes alongside transit improvements, mixed-use commercial space, and new parks that would create a vibrant, walkable neighborhood. SV@Home has also been involved, attending community meetings and working with our partners to also support a Plan that would take advantage of the best opportunity in Palo Alto for creating new affordable homes accessible to jobs and transit.

While many commentators are speculating about how the economic impact of COVID-19 will affect redevelopment opportunities in these types of planning areas, the reality remains that the public health crisis has only further exacerbated our housing affordability challenges. We should be doing everything we can to support significant housing development in area plans like North Ventura. If you want to get involved, the next NVCAP Working Group meeting will take place on May 26th to discuss alternatives and community feedback. Sign up here to stay abreast of the City process!

San Jose Releases Analyses on Diridon Station

ICYMI, here is our blog post on the Diridon Station, which we posted following San Jose’s release earlier this month of analyses on Station Area land use, transportation, and open space. While these new city analyses only represent the beginning of the next phase of public input and discussions, the vast majority of staff recommendations align with SV@Home’s Housing Vision for the Diridon Station Area, which calls for 15,000 new homes in the Station Area and planning for significantly more new homes along transit corridors.