If a new high-rise apartment is approved near the San Jose State University campus, students and residents in need of affordable housing will have options.

The project’s developer, Urban Catalyst, wants to construct a 23-story, 248-foot tower just a block from SJSU on South Fourth Street. The 240-unit apartment will bring much-needed student housing to the surrounding university neighborhood.

Urban Catalyst purchased the land in early 2020 for $6.25 million. The project, the Mark, will be designed with one to four bedroom units.

The San Jose Planning Commission was set to vote on an appeal of the project last month, but couldn’t reach a consensus due to uncertainty by commissioners and the city about how many affordable units need to be in the project. The city also wanted to consult its Ellis Act Ordinance, which requires a certain number of new apartments built on the site of previously rent-stabilized apartments.

Commissioners will revisit the project Wednesday.

“There’s a lot of these projects that get proposed and go through the entitlement process. It’s a wonder which ones will actually break ground,” Commissioner Pierluigi Oliverio told San José Spotlight.

Working out the details

The city met with Urban Catalyst last week to clarify the number of affordable housing or rent-stabilized units needed to comply with city and state regulations. Should the project be approved, Urban Catalyst will need to select one of two options to comply: require 120 units to fall under rent stabilization according to the city’s apartment rent ordinance, or allow Urban Catalyst to waive that requirement so long as 20 percent of the units — or 48 units — are on-site affordable units.

Rent-stabilized units are those where landlords are restricted from raising rent above a certain percentage in a specific time period. Under the city’s apartment rent ordinance, the maximum allowable rent increase is 5 percent in a 12-month period. An on-site affordable unit is a unit in a housing complex priced according to the area’s median income.

Steve Cohen, the owner of two existing multi-family residential buildings and one single-family home behind the proposed development, filed an appeal against the project hoping to block its approval. Cohen claims there wasn’t enough outreach between the city and local property owners.

Cohen previously told San José Spotlight there needs to be more public outreach for the high-rise tower, saying that there was only one public meeting on Zoom for the project. He also claims there is inadequate parking, the project is too big for the lot and that the building won’t blend into the surrounding neighborhood.

Cohen and opponents also have issues with aesthetics, such as a two-story concrete wall proposed to block the project’s parking garage, saying it is not enough to block out excessive noise and light from cars.

Hampered by the pandemic

City officials said the COVID-19 pandemic limited meetings online and that the city did its own community outreach.

There was one public meeting for the project in September 2020, according to the city’s website, where Cohen claims four people attended. City officials say 32 people tuned in on Zoom and one called in. According to the city, the project originally had 222 apartments and was 21 stories tall.

“We have issues with this project,” Cohen said at last month’s meeting. “We’re not trying to stop it, we’re trying to fix it. If the city did the proper outreach, these issues would’ve been brought up and vetted.”

Should the project be approved, two existing multi-family residential buildings and one single-family home on the site will be demolished. The city’s planning director previously approved the project in July, and it won’t require a vote from the City Council once the San Jose Planning Commission votes on the appeal.

Urban Catalyst has purchased a number of  properties in downtown San Jose and ramped up its development, including the now-dormant Camera 12 movie theater.

The San Jose Planning Commission meets Wednesday at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Lloyd Alaban at lloyd@sanjosespotlight.com or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

This story originally appeared in San Jose Spotlight.