Mathew Reed, Director of Policy for SV@Home, told San José Spotlight that with careful planning, there’s no reason a new housing development on the shuttered Glider Elementary School site should lead to a traffic crisis or any other serious problems. California’s drought is also no reason to refuse multifamily homes. Newer, more dense homes are more water efficient, and dramatically reduce landscape per home- the greatest source of residential water use. “Water is a challenge, but it is a regional challenge, not a neighborhood challenge,” Reed said.
“As an organization that has been dedicated to responding to the housing crisis, it’s always very upsetting when the neighbors assume that additional housing in their community is somehow going to be a negative,” he said. Publicly-owned lands sitting vacant or underutilized are an important resource for much-needed new homes statewide.
BY: Katie King┃San Jose Spotlight
PUBLISHED: September 27, 2021
A shuttered elementary school in San Jose may become an affordable housing site, much to the chagrin of nearby residents.
The Oak Grove School District is in early negotiations to sell or lease the Glider Elementary School site to The True Life Communities, a real estate firm headquartered in Denver, Colorado.
“True Life Communities has stated their commitment to public outreach and engagement in planning for any development of the site following purchase,” a district spokesperson said on Friday. “Final approval of any resulting agreement for sale of the site will occur transparently in open session.”
The district cannot provide a timeframe for how long negotiations will take.
Glider Elementary School, located along Cozy Drive in South San Jose, closed three years ago amid budget cuts and declining enrollment. The district’s school board adopted a resolution in March 2020 stating its intent to sell or lease the site.
San José Spotlight reached out to Jorge Pacheco Jr., school board president, about the potential housing site—he referred this news organization to the district for comment.
Officials with The True Life Communities did not respond to a request for comment. The company’s mission statement says it creates “attainable housing” for future generations.
“We repurpose under-utilized commercial property to a vital residential use, bringing new life, new energy and renewed economic opportunity to the communities in which we work,” the mission statement reads.
The potential sale isn’t sitting well with nearby residents. As of Sunday, nearly 700 residents have signed an online petition asking the district to reject offers from developers who want to buy the property and build dense or multi-family housing. Almost 200 people have left comments.
Some have concerns that higher density housing will increase traffic and make emergency evacuations more difficult during natural disasters. Others say they’re worried it will lead to water shortages and decreasing property values.
“We decided to settle in this neighborhood because it was so residential, peaceful and quiet,” Abhishek Bhattacharyya wrote. “Had we known that a housing project of this magnitude would be undertaken, which might lead to years of traffic congestion, environmental concerns and irreversibly affect the essence and allure of this charming locality, we might have re-evaluated our choice.”
Other residents said their families will miss playing on the campus.
“My three kids and the other neighborhood kids often go to Glider to play,” wrote Carol Cook. “Kids and families need open areas to play and there are not many parks in our adjacent neighborhoods.”
An anonymous commenter scolded others for thinking of themselves.
“There is an ongoing housing crisis in our city and you are failing to see the bigger picture,” they wrote.
San Jose officials are working to increase the stock of affordable housing in the second-highest rental market in the country. While the city has an ambitious goal to construct 10,000 affordable homes by 2023, it’s still far short of its target.
The petition asks the school board to host a community meeting prior to selling the site—and to tell residents how proceeds from the sale will be used. In the event of a sale, the petition requests that 50% of the site be preserved as a green park space for the community.
No high density development
Mathew Reed, director of policy for SV@Home, told San José Spotlight he’s disappointed by the backlash.
“As an organization that has been dedicated to responding to the housing crisis, it’s always very upsetting when the neighbors assume that additional housing in their community is somehow going to be a negative,” he said.
With careful planning, Reed said there’s no reason a new housing development on the shuttered school site should lead to a traffic crisis or any other serious problems.
“Water is a challenge, but it is a regional challenge, not a neighborhood challenge,” he said.
Superintendent Jose Manzo previously explained the district was sensitive to concerns shared by residents who live near the property.
“The district wishes to assure the community that the proposals for purchase or lease of the site that the district has received do not propose high-density development, and while development approvals ultimately rest with the city of San Jose, the district anticipates that future use and development of the site will be compatible with the surrounding neighborhoods,” Manzo said in a recent statement.
A similar debate broke out in 2019 when the San Jose Unified School District pushed to relocate two schools in Almaden Valley to make way for affordable teacher housing.
The plan’s supporters said it would help struggling educators and prevent teachers from leaving the area in search of lower living expenses. But many residents in the Almaden Valley neighborhood fiercely opposed it and argued the addition of affordable housing would increase traffic and lower home values.
More than 6,500 people signed a petition protesting that plan.