Following through on a policy priority five years in the making, San Jose is partnering with developers to build affordable housing on several city-owned plots of land, including the first housing project stemming from Google’s major downtown development.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously to approve exclusive negotiating agreements with four different developers Tuesday, who have all laid out preliminary proposals for the future development of the sites. Mayor Sam Liccardo was absent.

San Jose officials say the effort is part of the city’s commitment to finding creative ways to spur more affordable housing development, which is far outpaced by market-rate housing. San Jose has only met about a quarter of regional and state goals for affordable housing since 2014.

“The sites stretch across the city and provide everything from permanent supportive housing, to rental housing for low income families, to market-rate housing and even affordable ownership housing,” said Rachel VanderVeen, deputy director of housing for San Jose.

City officials expect nearly 600 affordable apartments and homes, along with 200 market-rate apartments, to be constructed across four different locations near the eastern foothills, downtown, West San Jose and South San Jose.

The agreements are an early part of the development process for these sites and separate reviews would be needed in the future for approval of the proposed projects.

At one of the sites, right near the entrance of the SAP Center, San Jose and the Santa Clara County Housing Authority envision up to 246 apartments in twin 12-story towers. All apartments would be below market-rate, reserved for people earning anywhere from $35,000 to $100,000 annually, depending on household size, city reports said.

The housing authority plans to include supportive services for the future residents of that development in the area.

The project would be built on three parcels Google turned over to the city as part of its affordable housing obligations for its massive Downtown West office and housing project. The land totals a little less than an acre, and marks the first of four sites from Google the city plans to use for affordable housing.

“I’m so happy that we are getting affordable housing, especially in Downtown West,” Councilmember Dev Davis told San Jose Spotlight. Davis represents the area where the three parcels are located, on North Montgomery Street and Autumn Street.

Google’s multi-billion dollar plans call for 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 residences, 15 acres of parks and a large community center. About 1,000 of the homes are set to be affordable. Davis said it’s important to have housing for mixed income levels in the area.

“It’s a value that we have in our society, we want to have people intermingling with each other, regardless of their socioeconomic status,” she said.

Community center revamp

The largest development in the batch being considered by the City Council is envisioned for the current site of the Southside Community and Senior Center, at 5585 Cottle Road in South San Jose. The center hosts daily senior lunches, has a senior computer lab, a crafts boutique and a preschool.

The city will negotiate with developer AvalonBay Communities and nonprofit developer Bridge Housing to build 123 affordable apartments for families, 133 affordable apartments for seniors and 200 market-rate apartments.

Preliminary plans also call for a new 30,000 square foot community center that would include a 6,000 square foot preschool and 10,000 square feet for other future facilities. Existing senior and preschool services would need to be relocated during construction.

District 2 Councilmember Sergio Jimenez, who represents the area, said the community center is one of the city’s oldest.

“Getting a brand new community center for our seniors, that is the driving force behind my interest,” Jimenez told San Jose Spotlight. “If we are able to get some affordable housing there, along with market-rate, and get a new community center, in my mind that’s a win-win-win.”

VanderVeen said the Cottle land could serve as a trial balloon for the city, if existing services can be maintained or enhanced and housing can be added.

“This is really an opportunity where we’re densifying city land. We’re not necessarily saying we don’t need this community center anymore,” VanderVeen told San Jose Spotlight before the meeting. “If we can determine success, then I feel like it unlocks more opportunity.”

San Jose is also planning to partner with Habitat for Humanity to build eight affordable townhomes for ownership on the half-acre site of former Fire Station #21, at 1749 Mount Pleasant Road. An emergency housing project in San Jose overseen by Habitat was previously investigated for several instances of wage theft.

District 5 Councilmember Magdalena Carrasco said some residents from the Mount Pleasant Neighborhood Association asked if the city considered putting a park or community center on the property, instead of housing.

“It’s an area where resources and services are very scarce, there is no public transportation,” Carrasco said. “No real city services or open space.”

VanderVeen said the city’s parks department was not interested in the site because it’s small and hard to access for maintenance, and the housing department saw it as a good fit for affordable homes for ownership.

Carrasco agreed, and asked the city to consider having Habitat provide a community space for residents in the area during the negotiations.

“It’s an unbelievable opportunity for families, especially in this area and the city of San Jose to be able to purchase a home between $337,000 and tops off at about $387,000. That’s unheard of,” Carrasco said.

The city is also considering converting a half-acre site at 3707 Williams Road to 59 affordable apartments in a five-story building, proposed by nonprofit EAH Housing. The site currently has a building used by the Silicon Valley Korean American Federation as a community center, though city representatives said the group could relocate to the San Tomas Community Center.

VanderVeen said one of main reasons affordable housing is harder to develop is finding suitable sites, and the city hopes to help address that roadblock with these agreements for building on city-owned sites.

“These sites are getting freed up only because the city itself has made a commitment to affordable housing,” VanderVeen said.

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