By Meghan Hall
The Roosevelt Park neighborhood is situated just ten minutes from downtown San Jose, where development is plentiful and new high-density, mixed-use projects are springing up. However, in the Roosevelt neighborhood itself, development has stalled over the past several years as city officials worked to finalize and pass development framework. With the Urban Village Implementation Framework passed, projects such as the Empire Lumber Project, which would involve developing an almost 2.8-acre site into a seven-story mixed-use development.
The project, located at 1260 E. Santa Clara St., has been in the works for some time. The property is currently developed with a single-story commercial building and surface parking lot, and was formerly occupied by Empire Lumber. The proposed development would include up to 405 residential units and 60,000 square feet of commercial space. Most of the commercial space would be on the ground level of the project, with a portion on the mezzanine level. One level of below-grade parking and two-levels of above grade parking, totaling 490 parking spaces, will be included in the plans. A pool deck, podium garden, and a club and fitness center (approximately 2,422 square feet) are proposed on top of the parking structure on the third floor of the development.
The proposed BART Silicon Valley Phase II Extension project, that would bring BART service to the Alum Rock BART Station on 28th St., is about 1,000 feet from the project site. VTA schedules indicate that BART will begin service to the station in 2026. The project site’s location on Santa Clara Street puts it on one of the busiest bus corridors in Silicon Valley, with Local Routes 22 and 23, as well as Rapid Route 522, just blocks away from the site.
“[The project] is in the ideal location because first of all, it is an urban village area that calls for an intensification in mixed-use development,” explained Erik Schoennauer, a long-time land use consultant representing the property owner, whom project documents list as Pacific States Industries Development and is associated with the Burch family. “The zoning is implementing the vision of the adopted Urban Village Plan, and it is well-served by both present transit and future transit.”
According to Schoennauer, part of the reason the entitlements process has extended over the course of the past several years, is due to a provision with in the Roosevelt Urban Village Plan that prevented development projects from proceeding until a formal implementation framework was passed. The
The result, said Schoennauer, has been a dearth of development throughout not just the Roosevelt neighborhood, but other nearby districts as well, such as Little Portugal, Five Wounds and the 24th & William neighborhood. The Roosevelt Urban Village Plan itself was originally approved in 2013; the San Jose Urban Village Implementation and Amenity Framework was not passed until last year. The purpose of holding projects until the framework was passed, in part, was so that the city could take a tax on housing built into the framework that would help to pay for future community benefits.
“[The City] did not want any projects to go forward without paying the tax for those amenities,” said Schoennauer. “Of course, at the time, they believed that they could craft the framework in short order. Instead, it took them four or five years.”
Now, projects like the Empire Lumber development are just now working through the final steps of the entitlement process, and neighborhoods such as Roosevelt can begin to realize their full development potential.
“It stalled investment in the neighborhood,” continued Schoennauer. “Very little new development happened in these areas, meaning that we didn’t realize new housing that is desperately needed. We didn’t realize new jobs that the city wants, and we didn’t realize the community amenities that the urban villages want. If nothing happens, then you don’t get any of those things.”
For the Empire Lumber project, this means rezoning the site to comply with the Urban Village plan. Currently, the site is zoned for general commercial and light industrial uses. Under Planned Development zoning, a mixed-use project would become feasible and comply with the guidelines laid out in both the implementation framework and the Roosevelt Urban Village Plan.
Schoennauer and is hopeful that that the environmental review and rezoning processes will wrap up in four to six months, at which time Pacific States Industries Development will evaluate when to proceed with construction.
“The zoning as proposed conforms completely with the Roosevelt Urban Village Plan,” said Schoennauer. “…There really is not a timing objective, except to get the property approved for development, and then see what the market wants to do.”