February 28, 2019

San Jose: Council Considers Taller Buildings Downtown


As part of a packed agenda on Tuesday, the San Jose City Council considered a staff recommendation to raise building height limits Downtown and in the Diridon Station Area (Station Area). While ostensibly about the flight patterns at San Jose Mineta International Airport and how they can be adjusted if one engine were to go out during a flight, the underlying issue was the increased development capacity that would be available if the height limits were raised. See the staff presentation here.

The Council discussed the potential for 8.6 million additional square feet of development, most of it concentrated in the Station Area. Council members commented that the new capacity could have the potential of doubling the number of housing units in the Station Area, with one member endorsing an idea to tax the additional density allowed by the new height limits to fund affordable housing.

SV@Home is enthusiastic about the potential of new height limits in the Downtown and Station Areas.  A central challenge of scope of potential job growth in San Jose has been where and how to build the new homes necessary to accommodate this growth.  As the staff report noted, if most of the new capacity is focused on housing, the new space could bring 12,800 residents in over 8,700 additional housing units to the Area.  Not only will this mean more affordable housing, it will also mean new opportunities to realize the vision of a truly integrated mix of housing, office, retail, and entertainment, destination for San Jose residents of all incomes and abilities.

Concerns were raised by members of the Airport Commission and other residents about the impact the proposed height limits would have on airport operations and individual airlines.

The council did not make a final decision on Tuesday night, opting instead to receive the staff report, hold an initial discussion, and bring the item back in a few weeks.   As Vice Mayor Jones was quoted as saying in the Mercury News: “The decision we’re going to make is going to impact the city for the next 100 years.”