Blog Second Comment on San Jose’s Draft 2023–2031 Housing Element

May 10, 2023

South Bay YIMBY is a grassroots group advocating for plentiful, inclusive, and affordable housing in the South Bay. We appreciate the opportunity to provide further comment on San Jose’s Draft Housing Element, and thank staff for the considerable work they have undertaken in preparing & updating this document.

Our biggest concern is that there is not currently enough land in San Jose zoned for housing growth to meet the city’s housing needs. This is borne out by the distressingly low rate of housing production within the city since 2015. Without significant policy changes, San Jose will remain locked in the current housing crisis.

The draft Housing Element contains some promising proposals to help address the lack of adequate land for housing growth, most notably Program P-11 (Explore allowing SB 9 type housing on additional properties) and Program P-35 (Small multifamily housing). We look forward to working with the city to ensure that these programs are implemented in a timely and effective manner. To strengthen these important programs, we recommend:

  • Ensuring that all feasible 2-4 unit housing typologies studied in the missing middle report commissioned by the city are allowed under the SB 9 design standards; and
  • Adding pre-approved duplexes to the city’s popular and successful pre-approved ADU program immediately after enacting SB 9 design standards, rather than waiting to do this in the longer term missing middle work.

We further urge the city to identify additional housing opportunity sites within High & Highest Resource census tracts, which currently accommodate just 25% of the city’s planned housing growth. Highest Resource tracts are in particular need of more capacity, holding just 2.5% of the city’s planned housing inventory. The city should add capacity for an additional 6,000 homes in these areas, including rezonings, to ensure that it is adequately positioned to affirmatively further fair housing.

Additionally, while we are pleased to see that the city has moved up the timeline for Program P-7 (City ministerial infill approval ordinance), we believe it needs to be implemented more rapidly. The city has a deadline under state law of January 31, 2024, for ministerial approval of qualifying developments on inventory sites, and we believe that a citywide ministerial approval ordinance can and should be adopted at the same time.

Lastly, Council’s rejection of a Community Opportunity to Purchase (COPA) policy leaves a hole in the Housing Element’s anti-displacement framework that must be filled by a robust commitment to alternate strategies for preservation of both restricted-affordable and naturally-occurring affordable housing.

It will be important for the City to monitor housing production over the course of the Housing Element and adopt additional pro-housing programs and rezonings as needed if production is not on pace to meet the city’s needs. This is particularly important given how much housing growth the city is counting on from highly uncertain neighborhood-scale redevelopment in North San Jose and Downtown West; if those projects are not moving forward by the midpoint of the planning cycle, the city will need to identify alternate sites and strategies. If staff need additional capacity in order to fully implement and track the success of the Housing Element, we urge them to make this clear to Council, and would support additional resources needed to ensure the city can properly plan for its housing needs.