October 2, 2017

San Jose Mercury News: San Jose mayor proposes 25,000 residential units amid housing crisis


On October 2, San Jose mayor Sam Liccardo announced that San Jose will build 25,000 new residential units over the next 5 years, with a focus on transit-oriented development and Downtown San Jose. Of those 25,000 units, 10,000 are slated to be affordable, a bold commitment to affordable housing in Silicon Valley’s largest city. SV@Home Executive Director Leslye Corsiglia added a regional perspective:

“Now is the time for all cities to rise up and take this kind of action,” said Leslye Corsiglia, head of SV@Home, a non-profit that advocates for housing issues. “We do have a housing crisis. This crisis affects everyone from those who are living on our streets to those work for our leading employers.”

See the original story at the San Jose Mercury News.

San Jose mayor proposes 25,000 residential units amid housing crisis

By George Avalos

SAN JOSE — Alarmed by a steadily worsening housing crisis, San Jose’s mayor on Monday proposed construction of 25,000 residential units over the next five years in the Bay Area’s largest city, a plan that would far outstrip that community’s historic pace of home building.

“Our region does face a housing crisis; it is a crisis at all levels of income, one that affects our least affluent neighbors the most,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said at an event to announce the proposal for 5,000 residential units a year.

The housing woes in the Bay Area could crimp the ability of technology and other companies to be able to attract and retain talented employees on their payrolls, the mayor warned.

“How we respond to this crisis will define our generation,” Mayor Liccardo said. “This problem will not go away.”

Part of this proposal would include sweeping changes to the landscape of downtown San Jose, according to the mayor.

“This plan calls for doubling down on the downtown,” the mayor said. Much of the future housing should be directed into downtown, because higher-density projects could be more readily built in San Jose’s urban core.

“We want to really focus on transit-oriented development,” Liccardo said. Transit villages should be moved “to the front of the line” in the city approval process, the mayor added.

Mountain View-based Google has proposed creation of a transit village consisting of 6 million to 8 million square feet of offices near downtown San Jose’s Diridon train station. The tech titan could employ 15,000 to 20,000 in this transit village.

About half of the proposed 25,000 housing units should be built in downtown San Jose, and roughly 10,000 should be affordable units set aside for people with moderate, low or very low incomes, the mayor recommended during the event, at a senior residential development in San Jose’s Japantown.

“Now is the time for all cities to rise up and take this kind of action,” said Leslye Corsiglia, head of SV@Home, a nonprofit that advocates for housing issues. “This crisis affects everyone from those who are living on our streets to those who work for our leading employers.”

Gov. Jerry Brown recently signed a sweeping legislative package aimed at easing the housing crunch statewide, including a $4 billion bond measure.

“We have a very expensive real estate market, and we need to take action on an urgency basis,” said state Sen. Jim Beall, whose district includes parts of Santa Clara County.

Still, plenty of challenges loom. The mayor acknowledged that the present city staff tasked with project, permit and building approvals is undermanned. Liccardo said open slots in San Jose’s planning department must be filled swiftly, and he anticipated that city planning administrators would propose creating additional jobs in the department ahead of next year’s city budget decisions.

“We have a massive crisis and we need to be all hands on deck to solve it,” said Jennifer Loving, executive director of Destination: Home, an advocacy group seeking to combat homelessness in the region.

Mayor Liccardo also has begun to scout for new financing sources to bankroll affordable residential units in San Jose.

“We have an opportunity to do something now to ensure that this does not become a valley only for the affluent while leaving behind thousands of families who have made their lives here,” Liccardo told this news organization after the event.

Several developers attended the event, and said they have a considerable number of units in the pipeline that could speed the mayor’s proposal well down the road to the 25,000 target.

Ralph Borelli, who represents the owners of the San Jose Flea Market site, said plans are in the works to build 2,500 residential units as part of the project, which is near a future BART station in northeast San Jose.

Joshua Burroughs, a senior development manager with the Swenson development firm, said his firm has about 1,000 units that can be built in the SoFA arts and entertainment district of downtown San Jose.

“This proposal is incredibly significant,” said Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “It is coming from the mayor of the 10th largest city in America, the largest city in Northern California, leading by example that we hope will ripple across the rest of the region.”

Photo courtesy of BANG Staff Photo/George Avalos.