A study session by the San Jose Planning Commission on the Diridon Station Area Plan this week offered a preview of tonight’s much-anticipated public discussion of the high-profile development.
Commissioners held a study session Dec. 2 to discuss San Jose’s development plan for the 250-acre area, including Google’s proposed 80-acre campus project.
Planning Division Director Tim Rood detailed some of the major changes to the plan, including changing the height of the buildings.
The height changes have drawn criticism, with city staff pushing the tops of the tallest buildings in the area up to Federal Aviation Administration height limits — about 295 feet, or about 28 stories. Rood noted that the heights were reduced and then increased following feedback from current residents.
Nicolle Burnham, assistant director of the parks and recreation department, described the characteristics of the open spaces and said that if the plan is approved, the city will try to acquire land along Los Gatos Creek between Park Avenue and San Fernando. Avenue to complete the Los Gatos Creek Trail. .
Eric Eidlin, the city’s station planning director, told commissioners that parking privileges for new residents would be “uncoupled” from their rental payments – meaning residents would have to buy or rent their own parking spaces rather than having a space provided as part of their housing contract.
The plan includes a 25% affordable housing target for the region aimed at building extremely low-income, low-income and moderate-income homes.
Kristen Clements, division chief of the housing department’s policy group, said the city wants to establish a preservation program to acquire existing apartments and convert them into affordable housing for low-income tenants. The city has not yet identified a funding source for this program.
Commissioner Deborah Torrens asked how to address concerns raised by the San Jose Sharks regarding the construction of new developments, including Google’s Downtown West project, the Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel running through downtown, and train preparations at California high speed.
Google’s 80-acre plan includes 4,000 housing units, 7.3 million square feet of office space, 10 parks and a 30,000 to 50,000 square foot community center. It is expected to bring some 30,000 new employees to downtown San Jose.
The hockey team said it could be kicked out of San Jose because ongoing development, street closures and lack of parking could threaten access to the SAP Center. Jessica Zenk, deputy director of the Department of Transportation, said the city is working with the Sharks to manage construction and traffic impacts.
Commissioner Pierluigi Oliverio expressed concern about the exclusion of Asian residents from the racial equity portion of the city’s affordable housing plan. Commission Chair Mariel Caballero also asked about racial equity and suggested the city monitor the percentage — rather than the number — of black and Latino residents in the area.
“Given the increased housing capacity, I would suggest we use a percentage instead of a number,” Caballero said. “Otherwise we will lose equity in this area.”
Clements said racial equity is not one of the city’s goals for the Diridon area plan. The city isn’t looking to maintain the number of black and Latino residents in the area, she said, adding that she just wants to track how the number of those residents changes over time.
Caballero also asked if the affordable housing goals for the area could be increased to 50%, doubling the city’s current goal. Clements said the city is determining how best to meet the 25% affordable housing goal and that it would be “financially difficult” to achieve 50% affordable housing.
The meeting did not include discussion of Google’s Downtown West project, which will occupy a significant portion of the Diridon area. The planning commission will host a meeting dedicated to this project at 4:30 p.m. on December 9.
San Jose Planning Director Rosalynn Hughey said the city plans to prepare a final version of the plan for the planning commission and city council to approve in the spring.
The Diridon Plan community meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
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