SV@Home was there on Tuesday the 9th when the Santa Clara City Council held a study session on the “Agrihood,” an innovative 361-unit development centered around an organic farm. The CORE Companies was selected in 2015 as the project developer of the 5.8 acre City-owned site after a competitive process, and has spent the past three years designing a development that responds to community concerns and ideas.
This has been anything but a simple project, requiring State legislation and a robust community process focused on placemaking led by Project for Public Spaces. According to the City staff report, to date the process has included 42 developer outreach meetings, two formal community meetings, and ten City Council meetings. More information about the project can be found on the Agrihood website.
The Agrihood will include 181 affordable homes, including 165 rental units for seniors. One-third of the units in the senior development are set aside for veterans and one-third are permanent supportive housing units, including units for people who were formerly homeless. A 160-unit mixed-income development will include 16 units for moderate income renters. A third development will provide 36 townhome units.
The study session included public testimony that was overwhelmingly in favor of the development, with 15 speakers in favor. Only four speakers raised concerns or requested revisions. Speakers were especially excited about the high percentage of affordability and the inclusion of deeply affordable units. The senior housing building includes 122 units at 30%, 40%, and 50% of Area Median Income. A number of speakers highlighted the opportunity that the community farm represents, including the community-building effect it could have on the development and the opportunity for students from nearby schools to learn about agriculture. Many mentioned the number of years that the project had been in process – the site was first identified for senior housing in 2003. Fifteen years later, the Agrihood is finally scheduled to come to the city council.
The city staff’s presentation dived deeply into the financing of the project. In the last 12 months, CORE accessed a number of subsidies, including partnering with the County to access competitive Measure A Funds, and securing Section 8 vouchers to protect seniors against rising rents. CORE also negotiated a ground lease for the affordable parcel that will provide permanent affordability.
However, the staff presentation also highlighted that the project is still very cost-sensitive and time-sensitive. According to the staff presentation, nearly $60 million of the $85 million total cost is funded by subsidies. The County Measure A Funds are subject to Board of Supervisor approval, and any changes that would increase costs, and by default the County Measure A request, would likely be detrimental to the project. In addition, any delays to the project risk changes to market rate assumptions (on which the affordable project is highly dependent), potential loss of highly competitive Measure A Funds, potential loss of Section 8 vouchers, and complicating the timing with State requirements.
A few people have advocated for the addition of more units or retail to the project. While SV@Home supports higher-density housing, CORE has worked hard to design a feasible project that incorporates community input. Any changes at this time in the process would likely result in additional costs that could render the project infeasible. Those costs could include an increase in construction costs due to change in construction type, additional costs to accommodate required parking, costs for design and development changes, and costs related to time delays.
The Agrihood is expected to return to the Council for final approval on Tuesday, November 20th. SV@Home will be there and is encouraging supporters to turn out to voice support. If you are interested in speaking at the hearing, please email email@example.com.
If you are not able to attend the hearing, you can still sign on to our petition in support of the Agrihood, with 107 signatures gathered to date.