March 15, 2019

San Jose: Council raises development height limits in the Downtown and Station Area


Paving the way for more housing, on Tuesday March 12th the San Jose City Council approved a staff recommendation to significantly increase building height limits in the Downtown and Diridon Station areas. This action will allow for buildings downtown that are between 5 and 35 feet taller, and raise the height limits in the station area by 70-150 feet, potentially adding as much as 9.5 million more square feet of commercial and residential development. A study commissioned by the city calculated that this could provide opportunities for an additional 4,700 jobs and over 8,700 new homes.

San Jose has been considering options for raising height limits for well over a decade, but has consistently come up against limits fixed by emergency flight paths around Minneta Airport.  Tuesday’s action came after an exhaustive assessment process of ways to mitigate these flight risks and be responsive to the needs of major carriers at the airport. The action was not without its detractors, however, with members of the city’s own Airport Commission expressing concern.

The council directed staff to begin the process of initiating amendments to the General Plan and other key policy documents to reflect the new height limits.  It is expected that these changes will be incorporated into the amended Diridon Station Area Plan to reflect the expectation of significant development in the area. In addition to 25% affordability, SV@Home is advocating for significantly more housing in the station area than was proposed in the original plan. The action taken by the council to raise building height limits makes this goal more achievable.

The council also approved a recommendation from Councilmember Jimenez, supported by SV@Home, to explore ways to use the rezoning as an opportunity to generate much needed funds for housing and infrastructure, arguing that whenever the City provides a benefit that increases the value of the land that there should be a community benefit.