After more than a decade of legal battles between the cities of Santa Clara and San Jose, a long-awaited vision may finally emerge to transform industrial-heavy northern San Jose into neighborhoods of sidewalks, shops, and thousands of new residential units.
The two cities are in the midst of mediation in hopes of finding a solution that could end Santa Clara’s threats to sue San Jose if the city does not make necessary road improvements before new homes are built. Meanwhile, San Jose officials are pushing plans to end policies that have been blocking new housing construction in the area for years.
Last week, several legislators from San Jose and Santa Clara came together to call for “collaboration and joint solutions” between the two cities, together with senior housing representatives and non-profit developers.
“Our region really grew out of the spirit of collaboration, and I believe this is how we will solve our biggest problems,” said Councilor David Cohen, who represents North San Jose, in an interview. “This is not just about building apartments, it’s about building all the things that go with creating a vibrant community to live in.”
North San Jose, the city’s largest employment district, is home to dozens of startups and big tech companies, including Google, Hewlett Packard, and Cisco. Located on the Valley Transportation Authority light rail line, it has enough vacant land and underutilized industrial space ripe for conversion to residential and other uses.
Long considered a prime location for growth and development, San Jose passed the North San Jose Development Policy in 2005, which included a plan for the addition of more than 25 million square feet of new office and industrial development, 32,000 residential units, and nearly 3 million Square feet were defined by retail and commercial space and 1,000 hotel rooms in the area – roughly from where freeways 101 and 880 cross north on Highway 237.
But then Milpitas, Santa Clara, and Santa Clara Counties sued San Jose, citing a lack of adequate congestion reduction on roads near the North San Jose project boundaries. And in 2006, a subsequent settlement forced San Jose to split the plan into four phases, with developers limited to approximately 8,000 new homes per 7 million square feet of new commercial space in each phase. San Jose also had to make specific transportation improvements, such as widening the Montague Expressway and improving the turnoffs to Highway 101 as density increases in northern San Jose. Those responsible at Santa Clara have maintained this commitment.
Building permits and permits for the first 8,000 residential units approved in the first phase of the North San Jose directive were quickly picked up by developers, but the phased approach of the directive prevented the city from increasing housing to the commercial limit became – a threshold that the city has not yet reached. As a result, according to officials from San Jose, no residential complex has been built in this part of the city for more than half a decade.
San Jose city planners are working on plans to completely drop development policy for northern San Jose – a move that would allow more homes to be built with no set cap and eliminate the gradual approach to development. The San Jose City Council is expected to take up the matter at a meeting in August.
Michael Brilliot, deputy director of the city’s planning department, likened the decision to end politics to “taking off a straitjacket.”
“We have tried to tweak the framework so that housing construction can go forward for five or six years, but the very tight policy has brought many challenges,” said Brilliot. “The simple approach is to pull back and move on.”
According to San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, this would all be based on the hope that Santa Clara wouldn’t sue San Jose or a developer if they decided to start building apartments in the area.
“Until we get assurance from Santa Clara that they won’t sue us, I don’t think a contractor will build there,” he said.
One of the few residential zoning plans submitted to the city for North San Jose in recent years came from a Texas-based developer last month looking to build a mixed-use project with more than 700 units and a grocery store on 11.2 acres Located near the corner of Montague Expressway and Seely Avenues, across from Cadence Design Systems headquarters.
Santa Clara leaders have repeatedly requested that San Jose provide them with a schedule of transportation improvements to hold the city accountable for the promised improvements. In turn, San Jose officials have cited several completed traffic improvement projects and others that are in the works or planned.
Following the January mediation, Santa Clara officials said in a statement earlier this week that they believed the two cities had reached a “mutually agreed solution” but that they would “wait for the city of San Jose to join in.” the conclusion of the agreement continues. ”
When asked for details of the resolution, Santa Clara spokeswoman Maria Le wrote in an email that city officials would not comment on what had been agreed or not because “we continue to keep both cities bound by the confidentiality of mediation. ”
San Jose Prosecutor Nora Frimann said Thursday that the two cities are “working to understand the details of implementing a proposed resolution,” including whether that would be done through a formal written settlement or some other type of agreement .
Liccardo said the city simply “needs a statement that Santa Clara will not sue”.
Along with other elected housing officials and lawyers, he sent a letter to Santa Clara City Administrator Deanna Santana last week calling on the city council to openly discuss housing and development in northern San Jose at an upcoming meeting may be continued. Santana said Santa Clara currently has no such plans.
“The people of our valley are not interested in small inter-city fights,” Liccardo said. “They want us to either get along or get out of the way to deal with this real estate crisis. So it is time we all worked to ensure that urgently needed homes are built.
“If we wait until every transport project is built, we will wait many years for apartments to be built in the worst housing crisis of our lives.”