Efforts to transform a portion of San Jose’s Berryessa neighborhood into a walkable “urban village” are taking another step forward following preliminary approval for a major housing and commercial development.

The San Jose Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved rezoning a 13-acre light industrial and agricultural lot in support of a developer’s plans to eventually build up to 850 homes and a large commercial facility near the Berryessa BART station and across from the Berryessa Flea Market.

Commissioners also signed off on an environmental impact report to allow for the potential future development, and approved the construction of 24 single-family homes, as well as 24 townhomes.

Rob Facchino of Terracommercial Real Estate Corporation is proposing the development and is the landowner of the plot, located at 1655 Berryessa Road, city reports said.

The San Jose City Council will have final say on the rezoning, environmental report and the first 48 homes in June. If the council approves those pieces, future phases of the plan—including hundreds of condos and apartments, a nearly one-acre neighborhood park and up to 455,000 square feet of commercial space—would only require city planning director approval.

The site is currently occupied by businesses, including a landscaping company.

The development is about a quarter-mile from the BART station and would contribute to major changes planned for the area, including the shrinking of a longstanding flea market site across the street where thousands of homes are planned, along with offices, retail and restaurants.

Erik Schoennauer, a lobbyist and land use consultant working on the project, said developers are simply implementing the council-approved Berryessa BART Urban Village area plan, defined by denser housing and commercial development, and mixed-use walkable neighborhoods.

He told commissioners the project is planned to include a mix of housing types.

“For sale housing, rental housing and our goal is to have a substantial amount of affordable housing in this neighborhood. We hope to be successful because it will be a model of how to build neighborhoods in the future,” he said.

Not everyone at the meeting agreed. Some housing advocates and residents said the project should be even more dense.

Kelly Snider, a real estate professor at San Jose State University, said single-family homes should not be allowed.

“It’s kind of embarrassing that in the city of San Jose in the 21st century, we are still approving brand new single-family detached homes, just a few feet away from the only BART station we have in our entire city,” Snider said.

Schoennauer said the city’s plans for the urban village require inclusion of townhomes and single-family detached homes at the edge of the development as a “transition” to the existing neighborhoods.

It could take five to six years to build out the project completely, Schoennauer said. While he expects the project to eventually meet the upper limits of the total number of homes that can be developed in the area, it’s still unclear how much of the allowed commercial space will be built.

“We are subject to the marketplace, so we’re going to have to see what the market wants to build,” Schoennauer told San José Spotlight. “We’ve environmentally cleared a large amount of square footage and a wide range of uses so we can be as nimble as possible to attract an investor on that site.”

He said theoretically, the space could be used for an office building, retail, hotel or even an assisted living facility.

“This will ultimately become a new urban neighborhood that has good access to transit, good access to grocery stores, retail and dining, and good access to neighborhood parks and creek trails,” Schoennauer said. “It’s going to be a dynamite neighborhood where people will want to live and will want to visit.”

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