An Example of How One Small-Scale Redevelopment Project In San Jose Exacerbates the Region’s Housing Issues

City of San José Almaden Quicksilver County Park Paragon Real Estate Group Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan Residential


By Jacob Bourne

In southern San Jose north of the Almaden Quicksilver County Park a 1.33-acre property may be redeveloped to accommodate two single family homes in addition to the existing home at 18590 Almaden Road. Owner David Bertelsen has submitted a request to the City for a General Plan amendment and rezoning that would allow for the demolition of a 100 square foot structure and the construction of two single family homes for a total of three dwellings on the site.

In order to move forward with the development, the General Plan land use designation would have to change from Rural Residential to Residential Neighborhood and be rezoned from R-1-2 to R-1-5. The current R-1-2 zoning only allows for minimum lot sizes of 20,000 square feet, and with the shift to R-1-5, that would be reduced to 8,000 square feet, allowing for the subdivision of the site into three separate parcels. Single family homes are ubiquitous in the neighborhood surrounding the property that’s right off the Almaden Expressway. Though the Residential Neighborhood designation allows up to eight dwelling units per acre, based on densities in the vicinity, a maximum of three dwelling units would be allowed on the property.

[contextly_sidebar id=”VTPDedvnreBvVIK3qIdjLCoblaIxi88L”]“The Residential Neighborhood land use designation was created to preserve the single family home character of the neighborhood. There’s the Urban Village Growth area we’ve applied to surrounding areas, but in this neighborhood you’re not going to see condos coming,” explained Kimberly Vacca, San Jose long range planner.

The goal of the Urban Village areas is to create high density neighborhoods with housing in close proximity to employment and transit in a framework that supports bicycling and walking. It also seeks to revitalize under-used land areas in the city. However, areas such as this Almaden Valley neighborhood are subject to a different vision. About 10 miles from the heart of Downtown San Jose, the neighborhood isn’t currently planned for growth.

On August 18, a community meeting was held at the Almaden Winery Community Center to discuss the proposed General Plan amendment. Neighbors expressed concern about the potential shift from Rural Residential to Residential Neighborhood as an eight-unit per acre density ordinance could allow for condos. However, according to Vacca this would not be the case given the stipulation in the General Plan to conform to the neighborhood’s character.

Tension over adding two units of housing and the associated land use changes and rezoning exemplifies challenges many Bay Area communities face as the region continues to grow in population amidst a housing affordability crisis. According to the California Department of Finance, San Jose’s population grew by 12,041 people between 2015 and 2016. In a five-year forecast published by San Jose’s Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement, new construction is expected to add about 2,500 units of housing per year, 90-percent of which will be high-density, multi-family residences. Based on research done by Paragon Real Estate Group, only 19-percent of Santa Clara County households can afford a median-priced home as compared to 31-percent of California households and 57-percent for the nation as a whole.

A four-year review of the Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan is currently underway with an environmental review period to end in November and Planning Commission and City Council Hearings to be held through December. On April 7, a jobs and housing planning task force issued a set of recommendations including to shift the creation of 4,000 new housing units from the Urban Villages to the Downtown area. Though 18590 Almaden Road and the surrounding neighborhood falls within the General Plan’s Urban Growth Boundary, the nearest Urban Village is over 3 miles northwest of the property.

“The surrounding area is about 2.5 units per acre, so it’ll have to abide by a limit of three units,” added Vacca. “This neighborhood area is not intended to accommodate growth.”

A development team for the project has not been determined as the applicant is awaiting outcomes of a September 28 Planning Commission Hearing on the General Plan Amendment followed by a November 18 City Council session.

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