Opportunity Housing Discussion with SJ Planning

 May, 18 - 2021   Opportunity Housing
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The above video is from the 5/15/21 District One Leadership Group meeting and documents that portion of the meeting when the topic of Opportunity Housing was discussed. Meeting highlights are as follows (click on the timecodes to go directly to that portion of the video). [Note: No editing of content was done. Only limited editing to remove logistical issues (e.g. enabling slide sharing) was done.] To see additional commentary by the participatnts, check out the chat, which is below the highlights.

D1LG Slides (Opportunity Housing Starts on Page 13)

Video Highlights

00:00:00 – Jared Hart, Division Manager Citywide Planning for the City of San Jose, provides an overview of the Opportunity Housing (OH) process; how a task force to explore OH was initiated by City Council. He explains the concept of OH, what other locales are doing, and how it is expected to be another tool to expand the production of housing. He explains Staff’s and the Task Force’s respective recommendations. A Council vote on the next steps, which would trigger environmental and economic studies is anticipated for October 2020.

00:15:51 – Michael Brilliot, Deputy Director for the City of San Jose, clarifies that the Task Force’s recommendations were different from city Staff’s recommendations for Opportunity Housing. In a nutshell, the Task Force recommended that OH implementation should occur city-wide, while Staff recommendations were within the scope of what the Council had provided. Staff recommendations are still being refined. He indicates that many of the questions (e.g. affordability) that the public has are the same questions that staff have. As such, Strategic Economics is going to be analyzing the economic data economic impact prior to the council vote in October to answer questions such as –

  • Where would the housing be built?
  • Would it be affordable?
  • Would it be stand-alone or extensions/splits of existing housing?
  • The assumption is that the cost of housing that might be produced under an OH framework would be geared towards middle income and not necessarily lower income.

Added 12/1/21 – Strategic Economics Study and Staff Memorandum

This December 1st, 2021 Staff Memorandum recommends council declines to move forward with Opportunity Housing and to proceed in creating citywide design standards to comply with SB-9, as well as directing staff to explore allowance for “SB 9-type” housing projects within R-2 Zoning Districts and on historic properties that do not qualify under SB 9.

It is based on the Strategic Economics report, dated 10/4/21. The Strategic Economics report identified which areas would be more likely to see Opportunity Housing both for rental and condominium-style housing. It seems to assume the staff recommendation of housing within 1/2-mile of transit, as compared to citywide per Task Force recommendation.

18:32 – A selection of questions from the community, curated by the D1LG steering committee are presented.

18:49 The question is posed “How Much of San Jose Residential Is Single Family Zoning. It is confusing, as the answer seems to vary from 61 to 94%, depending upon the measure. Additionally, measurements, made by Ken Pyle, based on a review of San Jose’s Zoning map are provided. Part of the confusion is apparently due to differences between Zoning and General Plan Land-Use designation. Apparently, the 94% figure comes from the 2011 General Plan. https://www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/departments/planning-building-code-enforcement/planning-division/citywide-planning/envision-san-jos-2040-general-plan/land-use-map

While Ken’s figures come from the Zoning map


29:22 – Is OH consistent with Envision 2040’s goals & policies?

37:44 – How is OH consistent with the 35-55 Dwelling Units per acre required to break even on city services? Michael makes the important point that this number may have shifted lower thanks to the increase in land/home prices since those studies were performed. Michael also says that they aren’t studying the fiscal impact of Opportunity Housing. They would have to be directed to do so by Council. [Author’s Note: This seems like it could be something that could be done by Strategic Economics Consulting when it does its study.]

39:08 – What are the guardrails to prevent negative impacts? Michael reinforces the idea that the approach is to retain the single-family fabric of the neighborhood. He says the details of these guardrails would be worked out during the ordinance phase (after the October 2020 meeting, assuming the Council gives direction to proceed).

42:39 – How does OH help people become homeowners? Brilliot says that most of the housing currently being built is rental and not owner-occupied. The intent of Opportunity Housing is that more owner-occupied is produced. He sees this as something their economic study will identify. Community Land Trusts, such as the example from Tempe, AZ

https://newtowncdc.org/homes-for-sale/tempe-micro-estates.html and how this might apply in San Jose


44:24 – What has been the impact in other cities where Opportunity Housing has been tried? It is still early to judge the success of other cities. Brilliot points out that the Council could direct staff to create an either/or approach to Opportunity Housing or ADUs to ameliorate concerns about the possibility of up to 7 units per lot. Brilliot points out that OH could be put to a city-wide vote.

48:45 – Will OH add to San Jose’s Jobs/Housing Imbalance? This is something that staff would have to be directed by Council to investigate and would most likely occur after Council decides to move forward with OH and asks staff to create an ordinance.

50:13 – Who or what is driving OH? 5

50:47 – Why not align the General Plan and Zoning maps before moving forward with Opportunity Housing? Why can’t San Jose wait to see the results of OH in other cities before proceeding? Scoping out OH has been a huge source of limited staff resources.

52:40 – Is the disruption to single-family zoning necessary to achieve the goals? One of the questions that planning is being analyzed is how much housing will be built. There are questions of how to implement OH – Should it be a pilot? Should there be limitations?

56:57 – Why not wait to see how the Urban Village plan and other OH rollouts work?

58:08 – OH should be only a 1/4-mile from Transit Villages – too many unknown questions Will cause it speculation? Experimentation and pilots make sense

01:01:08 – Council is directing staff to review OH as part of the 4-year review of the General Plan.

01:02:06 – What happened to the approach of addressing the jobs/housing imbalance? Michael explains that the current focus of the General Plan and Council is to preserve industrial (jobs-producing) lands.

Chat Highlights:

Note, the names of those contributing to the chat are not included so as to protect their privacy. Also, the links listed below, as well as text within [brackets] were added by the author to provide additional context.

  • “It would not be affordable housing but rather market-rate rental housing.”
  • “17% of land in San Jose is streets and sidewalks [A 2013 study on San Jose’s Tree Canopy reveals that, “Twenty-six percent of the land area was classified as other impervious, such as parking lots and driveways, followed by buildings (17.5%), trees (15.4%), dry vegetation and roads (13% each)and irrigated grass (10.3%)” (page 26].
  • “I think you are looking at zoning Ken. The 94% is land designated in the General Plan for single-family.”
  • “Very MISLEADING.”
  • “63 % vs 94% is a big difference!”
  • “The 94% number comes from land that is zoned under the general plan. There are approximately 250,000 parcels in SJ and tens of thousands of them do match the general plan thus the 94% is not accurate.”
  • “Actual vs Designated?”
  • “The current general plan builds significant housing while simultaneously protecting single-family house neighborhoods.”
  • “Staff’s map didn’t show the El Paseo area as being an urban village. Why aren’t the areas identified as being an urban village within the 2040 GP not included in their map of areas where opportunity housing being recommended by staff?”
  • “El Paseo was not included on the map because it is not a transit-oriented village.”
  • 1,000 ADU applications estimated in 2021.
  • Redlining eliminated 1968” [An interesting article on the history of redlining and the Home Owners Loan Corporation (HOLC) shows a map of redlining in San Jose in 1937. It is important to note that the population of San Jose was less than 68,000 in 1937 and no more than approximately 17 square miles, compared to today’s 180 square miles]
  • Racial covenants struck down by Supreme Court in 1948.
  • “More than twice of San Jose’s growth happened after the Fair Housing Act of 1968 [population 445k in 1970, compared to 1+M today], so is the redlining discussion relevant?”
  • “Jared, I had the same question as Bob. Wouldn’t the task force recommendation apply to neighborhoods within a few feet from a bus stop?”
  • “So now you are calling Opportunity Housing to be Affordable Housing. It is so CONFUSING.”
  • “The Task Force Recommendation is to allow up to four units on properties with a residential neighborhood land use designation CITYWIDE.”
  • “Yes, the Task Force recommendation was different from staff’s recommendation. The Task Force recommended allowing opportunity housing citywide on land designated “Residential Neighborhood” in the General Plan.”
  • “The state of California does not allow cities to regulate the number of cars per dwelling.”
  • “Our streets are already full of cars as people use their garages for other things.”
  • “For sale units require individual metering which makes it cost-prohibitive.”
  • “Is staff’s recommendation on Opportunity housing going to take into account the cumulative impacts of other State mandates such as allowing every residential property in the State to have 2 additional accessory dwelling units? The ADU mandate will have a significant impact on neighborhoods.”
  • State of Oregon law does not even go into effect till June 2022.”
  • “Jared and Michael – why are you suggesting the spending of all the taxpayer money for your study, when Council is already suggesting it just at transportation corridors and to see if Urban Villages solve the problem?” [Addressed in the discussion. Staff suggested a version of Opportunity Housing, while the Task Force recommended a citywide implmentation].
  • “The City of Minneapolis was sued by residents and Audubon society. The Minnesota State Supreme Court ruled against the City of Minneapolis on Feb 10, 2021.
  • “Michael is referring to SB940
  • “This is the most significant land-use issue ever proposed in SJ history. Allowing a citywide vote would be most democratic.”
  • “The executive boards of the groups pushing this proposal live in Atherton, Palo Alto, San Francisco, Los Altos, Portola Valley.”
  • “Our neighborhood is comprised of single-family homes, garden-style apartments, and supportive housing. A number of our single-family homes are rentals, including some occupied by four different tenants. We currently have several options for affordable rentals in our neighborhood.”
  • “The proposal will eliminate your choice of living in a single-family house neighborhood.”
  • “Consider a hyperlocal zoning option where residents could vote for specific zoning for their individual block. This would be similar to a block requesting permit parking or establishing a business improvement district. City blocks have clear boundaries and do not impact the larger neighborhood. This is the most democratic option for residents who want greater density on their specific block. If they can convince a majority of their neighbors on the merits of this approach, then they would be permitted to go forward.”
  • “The State of California does not allow downzoning.”
  • “Gonzales administration converted 1,100 acres of industrial land to housing. SJ lost an opportunity to generate revenue instead of raising taxes.”
  • “The current general plan adds housing capacity for 300,000 population growth by 2040 while simultaneously preserving single family house neighborhoods.”
  • “thanks Ken!”
  • “Have a great weekend. I hope you will consider opposing this draconian proposal.”

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