May 6, 2021

Policy Rundown – May 6, 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.

San José Planning Commission Unanimously Advances Downtown West, Amendments to Diridon Station Area Plan

Last week, the Mountain View City Council held a study session to discuss the City’s update of the R3 Multifamily Residential zoning district standards, with members expressing support for city staff’s proposal. The proposal to update the City’s R3 Zoning code—which covers areas of the City of Mountain View with many medium-density apartment buildings— was initiated due to concerns about recent development proposals in areas of the city zoned R3 that would construct rowhouses and redeveloped luxury stacked-flat homes rather than more affordable, higher-density options. Additionally, there were concerns about displacement pressures on existing residents. The proposed R3 zone update emphasizes form-based zoning (a planning strategy that focuses on building size and massing rather than the density of housing units, for example), which will diversify the number and types of multi-family development, and will potentially allow for 12,000 new homes to be built over time.

SV@Home supported city staff’s approach to the R3 Zoning Code update and believes that it is an exciting opportunity to facilitate redevelopment in the context of strong market pressures. 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 City council, including increasing density close to transit, planning for parcel aggregation in the future to create more homes and more affordability, clarifying how the state density bonus (a state policy that allows developers to build taller, denser buildings in exchange for increasing the amount of affordable housing in a proposal) will work with the R3 Zoning Code update, and ensuring that the R3 zone update is conducted in tandem with the City’s upcoming anti-displacement policy. City staff will continue revising the draft R3 Zoning Code update and present the updated draft at the next City Council study session. SV@Home looks forward to continuing to support the proposal and providing feedback as the draft update is revised.

But the work is not done yet! We need at least six votes from the San José City Council on May 25th to make this a reality! That’s why we need all South Bay Housers to get engaged and take action in advance of the May 25th Council meeting!

You can get started by using our Diridon Action Tool
  to tell the City Council to support Downtown West and a Housing-Rich Diridon Station.

Stay tuned for the details about how you can call into the meeting on May 25th to express your support!

Palo Alto Renter Protections

On Wednesday, April 28th, the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Committee held its second marathon meeting discussing and making recommendations on a menu of tenant protection policies. (Much of the policy proposals moving forward are in response to a memorandum passed by the City Council in 2018 which was introduced by SV@Home’s newest team member Corey Wolbach when he served on the Palo Alto Council.) As it had during its April 14th meeting, the commission dug deep into the questions of what policies and programs would have the most impact in protecting tenants from displacement, and how those interests could be achieved without placing unreasonable burdens on local landlords. After over 10 hours of discussion, the Commission supported nearly every recommendation brought forward by staff, including: 

  • Expansion of an underutilized rental unit registry
  • Expansion of the types of properties covered by tenant relocation assistance in cases where tenants are forced to relocate
  • Expansion of State eviction protections (AB 1482) to more tenants sooner in their tenancy
  • Limits on required security deposits
  • Restrictions on the use of criminal records for screening tenants
  • Local efforts to provide a right to council for tenants facing eviction orders in court. 

The commission had a split vote on whether to expand the State restrictions on exorbitant rent increases, ultimately deciding it was unnecessary given current protections. Commissioners also expressed an interest in learning more about rental housing preservation and tenant or community right to purchase programs, which had not been recommended by staff at this time.

The package of policy proposals will go next to the full council in August for consideration and determination and direction to staff to prepare ordinances for all or some of the measures.  Any final policies will return to the commission for review and to council for final approval later in the fall.  

The policy package came together with the support of a partnership between the City of Palo Alto, SV@Home, and a Partnership for the Bay Area Challenge Grant fellow, which coordinated months of discussions with renters and service providers, and worked with local advocates to stand up the new Palo Alto Renters Association (PARA). Local outreach and advocacy will pick up over the coming weeks and will expand significantly as the items are finalized and return to council. This has been an exciting process to date, and SV@Home is looking forward to building local tenant advocacy capacity and getting real policies across the finish line.

CDLAC Approves Regulatory Changes for Affordable Housing Financing, Eden Housing’s San José project receives key support

Last week, SV@Home and its partners—led by the Nonprofit Housing Association of Northern California- (NPH) and the California Housing Partnership (CHPC)-  advocated before the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee (CDLAC) for regulatory changes to increase the Bay Area’s bond allocation from 17% to 21% of the total available. In addition, we pushed for approval of changes to the tiebreaker system (which determines which projects receive state financing) to better account for the higher cost of construction in the Bay Area and make Bay Area projects more competitive. While we did not get everything we wanted, the committee did make changes that will ensure that Bay Area projects are in a better position to compete for funding moving forward.

CDLAC also granted an appeal for Eden Housing’s 130-unit 425 Auzerais project in the Diridon Station Area, making it the one of the Bay Area projects to receive CDLAC funding in the first round. SV@Home strongly endorses this project, as it will provide critically needed homes for some of San Jose’s most vulnerable residents in a rapidly changing area.

Although these are welcomed changes to advance affordable housing projects in the Bay Area, we look forward to continuing our work with the California Housing Partnership (CHPC), the Non-Profit Housing Association of Northern California (NPH), and other member partners to ensure the Bay Area gets its fair share of state funding. A few changes SV@Home and its partners would like to see implemented: increasing the amount of bond resources allocated to the Bay Area to at least 24% and for CDLAC to recognize and reward cities that commit more of their own affordable housing funds to projects.

San José City Council Approves Funding for The Kelsey Ayer Station 

On Tuesday, the San José City Council voted unanimously to approve a $15 million dollar loan for The Kelsey Ayer Station, keeping the project on track to break ground later this year!

SV@Home endorsed the 115-unit project through entitlements and will continue to support through opening, as it will provide needed homes and supportive services for a low and very low-income families in the area, including individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The project is well located just north of downtown San Jose and surrounded by amenities and transit. SV@Home is excited to see this project move one step closer to getting built!