San Jose General Plan Amendment Could Pave Way for Commercial Development at Evergreen Valley Community College

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By Jacob Bourne

A 27-acre site located at the intersection of San Felipe Road and Yerba Buena Road in Southern San Jose is a part of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District and was identified by Evergreen Valley Community College as surplus land in 2004. A General Plan Amendment has been filed that would change the land use designation for the site from Public-Quasi-Public to Neighborhood Community Commercial. There are no current rezoning proposals for the site and no development applications have been submitted, however, the College issued a Request for Proposals in 2014 to identify a preferred developer, and in 2015 Republic Evergreen, LLC was chosen.

The proposed site is situated in a mostly vacant portion adjacent to the College’s 130-acre campus. A shift in designation from PQP to NCC would allow for a range of uses such as neighborhood serving retail, commercial and office development, but would not allow residential.

[contextly_sidebar id=”4LbN3PysqOUMF9rCV3VPb5sX9Jxka6F8″]“We had submitted a development proposal that included an aquatic center, assisted living facility and some affordable residential,” offered Melissa Durkin, land development manager, Republic Family of Companies. “Now we’re looking at what the Neighborhood Community Commercial designation allows. Uses such as medical offices and some retail would be consistent, but not residential. Something to consider is that there have been some retail vacancies in the Evergreen area. We’re not required to submit any specific conceptual plans at this point.”

Two community meetings regarding the General Plan Amendment were held in August. An October 12 Planning Commission hearing resulted in a recommendation to City Council that the General Plan Amendment for the full 27-acres be approved, despite Planning Staff’s recommendation that the land use designation change only apply to 14 of the 27 acres.

“We reviewed the proposal and found that there are both consistencies and inconsistencies with the General Plan, “ explained Kimberly Vacca, long range planner. “Evergreen East Hills Policy Transportation and Traffic Policy is a tool to limit the amount of development in Evergreen. There are approximately 60,000 square feet of office and commercial space left to develop in Evergreen, so 14 acres is more in line with the remaining development capacity.”

The Evergreen East Hills Development Policy Area was adopted in 2008 and aims to guide development while enhancing mobility in the area, which has a history of significant traffic issues.

A final decision on the General Plan Amendment will be made by City Council on November 15. In June, Debbie Budd, San Jose-Evergreen Community College District Chancellor issued a letter to local residents explaining that due to community feedback, Republic Evergreen will only develop less than half of the 27-acre parcel, though the proposal to change the land use designation is for the full 27 acres.

A broad range of opinions were expressed by community members at the Planning Commission hearing including that the potential development could help ease the city’s jobs-housing imbalance, while others stated concern about the loss of open space and traffic impacts. Some members of the College community want the land to be retained for future campus growth.

In keeping with the land’s status as “surplus,” the Evergreen Valley College Educational Master Plan and Facilities Master Plan verified that the 27-acre parcel is not needed for future classrooms or campus facilities. The potential development at the site would be geared towards generating revenue for the College and could provide amenities and job opportunities for students.

“We’ve been working with both Evergreen and the San Jose College District on this proposal,” said Durkin. “We’re excited about the potential development and hopeful to have maximum flexibility in terms of development of the site. That’s what we hope will result from the General Plan Amendment.”

If the Amendment is approved, the developer will likely file for rezoning early 2017.  Architecture firm Studio T Square and H&H Engineers may be working on the future project.

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