A DECADES-OLD blighted corner that once housed a gas station near Santa Clara University will be transformed into high-density housing.

The Santa Clara City Council voted 6-1 earlier this week to approve a new housing development near the university. Councilmember Kevin Park was the sole no vote. The approval is key to breaking ground on the mixed-use housing complex planned at 2655 The Alameda, to revitalize a long-abandoned lot and create much-needed housing near the city’s transit center.

“The project will finally transform a blighted corner and an eyesore of 30-plus years into a beautiful mixed-use building for the community,” Kapital Partners developer Anjuli Nanda Habbas said at the meeting.

“The project will finally transform a blighted corner and an eyesore of 30-plus years into a beautiful mixed-use building for the community.”

Anjuli Nanda, Kapital Partners

Completing this project will require an amendment to the city’s general plan. Councilmember Anthony Becker said he isn’t in favor of repeatedly amending the general plan for developments, but would in this case to move The Alameda project forward.

The developer plans to build a four-story mixed-use development with 39 homes and 1,500 square feet of retail space on its ground floor. Five of the homes, or 15 percent, will be designated as affordable housing to meet city requirements for new developments. The complex is within walking distance of the university, bus routes and the Santa Clara Caltrain station.

Mountain View-based Kenneth Rodrigues & Partners designed the building, with Swenson Builders acting as the general contractor. Kapital plans to begin construction early next year with a completion date slated for the end of 2025.

The approved mixed-use project on The Alameda will transform a blighted corner and eyesore of 30-plus years. (Rendering courtesy of Santa Clara)

Santa Clara frequently faces public pushback each time a high-density housing project is presented. But The Alameda development won over city leaders. They praised its architectural design and plan to transform a triangle-shaped empty lot, where garbage and couches are often dumped, into much-needed housing. The former gas station site that closed in the 1980s stood vacant until Kapital purchased the less than a half acre property in 2021, for $1 million.

The Santa Clara Planning Commission voted last month to recommend approving the development. Shreya Chokshi of Catalyze SV, which advocates for more affordable housing, said the organization supports the project.

Santa Clara resident Claudia Daw and several others spoke at the meeting in opposition of the project. Daw said the building is too tall at four stories. City staff said the building’s height is comparable to nearby student housing and is consistent with requirements for urban infill under state law.

Daw said she was also concerned about a 2004 finding of contaminants in the site’s soil left from the former gas station. Andrew Crabtree, community development director, told the city council that the contamination came from a prior leaking underground storage tank. He said an initial study found that with mitigation, the contaminants will have a less than significant impact on the neighborhood.

“I feel like it’s designed for and aimed at students … I don’t see the benefit to the community here.”

Councilmember Kevin Park

Crabtree said the developer changed the project design based on public feedback to lower the building height and add an outdoor gathering space. He said the project is exempt from local parking requirements due to its proximity to transit centers, but offers 34 parking spots and about 80 bicycle spaces.

Councilmember Raj Chahal asked the developer to consider increasing the affordable housing to 20 percent. But before the developer could respond, Santa Clara City Attorney Glen Googins said councilmembers should avoid making any demands to modify the plan at this stage.

Councilmember Park, while enamored with the building’s location and design, said it could turn into another “off campus dorm” with too small of a retail space and too little parking.

“I feel like it’s designed for and aimed at students,” Park said. “If we ask for a general plan amendment, it ought to be something better than what the general plan offers. I don’t see the benefit to the community here.”

Contact Natalie Hanson at natalie.hanson96@gmail.com or @nhanson_reports on Twitter.

This story originally appeared in San José Spotlight.