The election of Suds Jain and Anthony Becker to Santa Clara City Council in November heralded a new era in city politics.
Now they could help end the 15-year legal battle between Santa Clara and the City of San Jose that has halted the development of up to 24,000 much-needed housing units in northern San Jose.
Jain and Becker, along with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Jose City Councilor David Cohen, and housing lawyers, last week called for “cooperation and common solutions” between the two neighboring cities.
North San Jose development can benefit both cities.
For Santa Clara, the 240-acre Santa Clara related business and residential project would benefit from housing for workers in nearby North San Jose, saving them the trip of Morgan Hill, Tracy or Hollister.
San Jose has long been a prime location for commercial and residential real estate growth in an area that is already home to dozens of startups and big tech companies like Google, Hewlett Packard, and Cisco.
The struggle between the two cities dates back to 2005 when San Jose passed the development policy for North San Jose. It called for 25 million square meters of office and industrial development, 3 million square meters of retail and commercial space, 1,000 hotel rooms and up to 32,000 residential units.
But Santa Clara, Milpitas, and Santa Clara Counties are suing San Jose over legitimate traffic reduction concerns. In 2006, an agreement was reached calling for the housing construction phases to be linked to traffic improvements. This enabled 8,000 residential units to be built.
San Jose and Santa Clara were unable to reach a transportation-related working arrangement that would allow the development of the 24,000 additional housing units.
The current sticking point comes from the two cities using different models to determine what constitutes a satisfactory reduction in traffic. In 2018, San Jose was one of the first cities to adopt the government’s “vehicle miles traveled” model for determining transportation needs. Santa Clara continues to use an old model that charges San Jose higher fees than the newer guidelines.
Liccardo said Saturday that the two cities “have a way to come to an agreement … but what San Jose needs to move forward is some kind of statement that Santa Clara will not sue.” Builders cannot obtain funding if there is a risk of legal action. “
He and the other elected officials sent a letter to Deanna Santana, Santa Clara City Manager, last week calling on the city council to consider how housing and development can continue in northern San Jose. But Santana said Santa Clara currently has no such plans.
Jain and Becker should urge Santa Clara City Council to put the problem on the agenda and resolve it. This is no time for past differences to further slow down the need for housing development in the area. The two cities should find a reasonable compromise on remaining traffic reduction issues and allow the North San Jose project to move forward.