By Jack Stubbs
Downtown San Jose, has, over the last few months in particular, become a development hotspot for a number of technology companies looking for a relatively cheaper alternative to the stratospheric development costs found in San Francisco to the north.
A number of larger-scale tech-driven developments, notably among them Diridon Station—where tech giant Google has plans to redevelop roughly 80 acres of the 240-acre site into a mixed-use project delivering up to 5,900 residential units and 7.3 million square feet of office space, according to project documents submitted to the city last October—are expected to change the San Jose’s skyline in the coming years, a number of other multifamily projects continue to progress through the city’s planning process, as well.
San Jose-based Strangis Properties—a family owned land-use consulting firm that since its founding in the early 1980s has worked on some of the most recognizable projects throughout San Jose and Silicon Valley including Samsung Semiconductors, McCarthy Ranch and Hewlett Packard—has another project progressing through the city’s review process.
The proposed development is located at 259 Meridian Ave., just a few blocks from the soon-to-be-developed Diridon Station property and roughly two miles west of various downtown San Jose attractions like the Center for Performing Arts, the McEnery Convention Center and the Tech Interactive Museum. The plans call for the construction of a four- to seven-story mixed-use building that will ultimately contain up to 226 residential units and approximately 1,400 square feet of ground-floor commercial space, according to project plans submitted to the city by Strangis Properties and the developer, Holmes Business LLC Et Al.
And while the proposed mixed-use development, which will comprise 200 micro-units on a roughly 1.5-acre site, is nearby to the much-larger Diridon Station property, its location within the West San Carlos Urban Village played a much larger role in how the project progressed, according to Jerry Strangis, co-founder of Strangis Properties.
“The area that we’re in is proximate to the Google Campus, but there really isn’t a correlation between our project and theirs, given the market conditions of the need for housing in San Jose. the real issue was dealt with and approved when the Urban Village Plan was adopted two years ago…it really set the stage for this development to occur,” Strangis said. The project team is hoping that the city will allow it to change the site’s current zoning designation from Commercial Office/Residence Zoning to Commercial Pedestrian Planned Development Zoning CP(PD).
In mid-2018, the city of San Jose approved various Urban Village Plans, which dictated neighborhood-specific guidelines around the height, scale and density of proposed mixed-use developments. “Our project sits in the West San Carlos Urban Village Plan, which is the vehicle that the city of San Jose uses to promote more urban, higher-density development…over the last five years, the city updated its general plan to allow for more urban development based on proximity to transit and commercial centers,” Strangis said of the underway project at 259 Meridian Street.
The mixed-use project—which was last reviewed by the city’s Planning, Building & Code Enforcement department at a community meeting in mid-November 2019—was first reviewed at another meeting last Spring, and an Initial Environmental Impact report was submitted in January 2019. The two public hearings have not yet been scheduled for the project, although a significant amount of public input was expressed about the project at the most recently community meeting held last November.
According to a meeting summary posted on the city’s web site, there were a number of initial designed-related comments expressed by public attendees about how the proposed project would fit into the surrounding neighborhood context. Community residents highlighted concerns around how the design team would ensure effective pedestrian- and vehicular circulation around the site; how parking space would be integrated into the mixed-use project along Meridian Ave.; and more general concerns around how the proposed height and scale of the building would not necessarily conform with the existing character of the neighborhood.
Particularly at a time when different neighborhood hotspots throughout San Jose continue to density, the challenge remains how to strike a balance between incorporating the pertinent neighborhood feedback while also delivering a denser, more urban project-type that conforms to broader market trends, thinks Strangis.
“There will always be community concerns about traffic and parking in the neighborhood, but that issue was primarily addressed through the city approving the Urban Village Plan. We submitted our plans to be in compliance with the Urban Village guidelines, which really dictate what can be developed there,” he said.“We still have concerns from the Neighborhood association with traffic and parking…but on the other side of the spectrum, there are advocacy groups that are interested in denser, more urban developments.”
And Strangis is optimistic that—even considering current uncertainty in the commercial real estate development community about what lies ahead—the project will progress as planned in the coming months. “I fully expect this to go to hearing, and we should have feedback from the city sometime next month…given the current situation we’re in because of the [corona]virus, a lot of projects have stopped or slowed down because of the critical nature of the crises…but we’re hoping to get approvals sometime over the next couple months, and hope to be under construction within a year.”