Agreement ends decade-long building drought in North San Jose

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California Construction News staff writer

After four years of threatened lawsuits, the City of San José  and the County of Santa Clara have reached an agreement that will enable the long-approved plans to build thousands more homes in North San José  —with existing city council mandates to make at least 20% of those units affordable—to be built.

“More than once, I know we’ve all thrown up our hands on this issue,” Mayor Sam Liccardo said at a Dec. 12 council meeting. “Many years in coming, we’re finally at a point where we can say we can build housing again in North San Jose.

“We know we have a very serious housing crisis and we can only make progress if we’re able to build housing, including affordable housing.”

No new housing units have been built in North San José  in more than a decade, due to restrictions contained in a 2006 agreement between the County and Cities of Milpitas, Santa Clara and San José .

Even after negotiations with Milpitas and Santa Clara city officials found consensus for housing construction in North San José, the County of Santa Clara continued to object and threatened to sue if the city failed to construct transportation improvements contemplated in that agreement sixteen years ago.  During last week’s council meeting, San José  will vote approved a new settlement agreement after months of negotiation with the County.

“There’s no question that everyone is alligned with wanting to build more housing in Santa Clara County,” said San Jose Councilman David Cohen. “I look forward to a lot of housing development in North San Jose.

“Hoping that North San Jose will fulfill its potential to bring new life to our city.”

In 2005, San José adopted the North San José Development Policy, adding 32,000 homes, more than 25 million square feet of office and industrial space, 3 million square feet of retail and commercial space and 1,000 hotel rooms.   The County of Santa Clara and Cities of Milpitas and Santa Clara sued, asserting traffic impacts that would require additional study.   Subsequently, the municipalities came to agreement to “phase” development with transportation improvements to accommodate concerns about the impacts of growth.

“We haven’t built a single unit of housing in North San Jose since 2014 and we’ve been held up by old agreements that were clearly out dated.

“I’m glad we were able to get everyone together . . . to resolve our differences.”

San José has demonstrated its commitment to ensuring affordability of North San José’s future development, including adopting a policy requiring that 20% of the new housing constructed be rent-restricted, and affordable.

In 2020, San José voters approved Measure E, which generated nearly $110 million last year alone that the Mayor and City Council will allocate towards the development of affordable housing citywide.   The opportunity to connect new housing to the multi-billion dollar transit investments throughout the VTA light rail corridor along North 1st Street and around the nearby Berryessa BART station presents a unique opportunity for transit-oriented development in our city.

The agreement is available at this link, and is summarized in this report from city staff.

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