September 27, 2018

Santa Clara: Tasman East Plan Should Maximize Density Without Sacrificing Affordability


On Tuesday, September 18th, the Santa Clara City Council held a Study Session on the proposed Tasman East Specific Plan, which would bring 4,500 new homes to the area north of Tasman Drive at Lick Mill Boulevard. SV@Home is excited by the opportunity provided by this transit-oriented development which would include a significant number of affordable homes along with a vibrant neighborhood.

There are some concerns, however, that the incentives currently proposed to achieve higher density around Tasman East will result in a reduction in the number of affordable homes built. In place of the normal State density bonus, which allows increased density in exchange for more affordable homes, City staff have proposed allowing developers to actually decrease the percentage of affordable homes they are required to build in exchange for increased density and more units overall (to as low as 8-10%).

With Santa Clara having just last year taken action to update its Inclusionary Zoning ordinance to bring it in line with its neighboring communities, requiring that 15% of homes are set aside as deed-restricted affordable, it is an enormous step backwards to require less from the Tasman East Specific Plan. Other cities planning for growth on specific planning sites have targeted higher numbers– with Mountain View’s North Bayshore and Cupertino’s Vallco Mall both adopting 20% inclusionary requirements.  On VTA sites and in San Jose’s Urban Villages, 20% is the minimum, with higher overall systemwide requirements.

We have a housing crisis. The City of Santa Clara’s Regional Housing Needs goals call for 2,500 affordable homes and 1,593 market rate homes, illustrating that there is a significantly higher need for affordability than traditional market-rate development. In response, the City must explore all options to reach an overall affordability goal of at least 20% and consider incentives to achieve deeper affordability levels than the currently required 100% of AMI level.

SV@Home supports more housing for all, and is hopeful that the Council can find a way to add more overall housing units while ensuring that a meaningful number of the new homes are affordable to families making low- and moderate-income wages. To that end, we urge the City to:

  • Target a higher level of affordability overall: Santa Clara should press to secure at least 20% of homes built as part of the Tasman East Specific Plan as deed-restricted affordable, including targeting low, very low, and moderate level incomes. This is in line with similar large-scale planning efforts underway across the County.
  • Conclude the affordability grandfathering period as originally intended: The grandfathering of projects under the City’s previous Inclusionary Zoning ordinance should only apply to projects already in the entitlement process at the time the Specific Plan process began. Extending this period to additional, new projects undermines Santa Clara’s affordable housing goals.

The Tasman East Specific Plan will return to the Planning Commission on October 24th and the City Council on November 13th. We encourage housing advocates join us in advocating for more affordable housing at both meetings!