Ongoing community pressure has one developer upping the number of affordable homes in a development planned for an unincorporated area adjacent to San Jose.
Kimco Realty, which is transforming Cambrian Park Plaza into Cambrian Village, has pledged to increase its affordable housing from 5% to 10% following efforts by Councilmember Pam Foley and Catalyze SV, which advocates for sustainable, equitable and vibrant places. The 1950s-era shopping center, located at Camden and Union avenues in San Jose, is being reimagined as an 18-acre urban village combining residential and commercial uses with open space.
The development comes before the Planning Commission Wednesday, five years after it was initially proposed. The project still requires City Council approval, and the parcel—which sits in an unincorporated portion of Santa Clara County—will need to be annexed into San Jose at a later date.
Darius Brown, a senior development officer in the city housing department, told San José Spotlight Kimco Realty confirmed last week it is increasing the number of affordable homes from 15 to 30.
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Foley worked with the developer to re-envision its initial plan to create a walkable, bikeable community with open space and underground parking. The urban village design includes 305 apartments, 48 single-family homes with 27 attached accessory dwelling units and 25 townhomes. The village will also offer a 229-room hotel, 50 apartments in the senior living center and four acres of open space.
Foley said it’s critical to have as many affordable homes as possible so people can afford to live in San Jose.
“I wish they’d go to 15%,” she told San José Spotlight, “but I know it doesn’t work for them financially.”
The city requires developers to provide 15% affordable housing in projects or pay in-lieu fees toward affordable homes built elsewhere. Since Kimco has not met the requirement at Cambrian Village, it has to pay about $7.88 million into a fund for other affordable housing projects, Foley said. She appreciates having affordable housing fully integrated into the project with market rate housing.
Alex Shoor, executive director of Catalyze SV, applauds the developer’s decision to double the number of affordable homes, but said more can be done to help residents. Catalyze SV is advocating the affordable housing threshold be decreased from 100% of the Area Median Income to 60%, which would be more feasible for working and middle-class residents.
“Part of why we’re pushing for a lower Area Median Income is because… 100% of the Area Median Income is $105,000,” he said. “That’s a ton of money for the average person in our county who’s working and middle class. That may not even be their income.”
The housing market is hot in Silicon Valley, with the average mortgage in San Jose at approximately $9,136 a month with homeowners insurance and taxes, a 51% increase from June 2021 and a jump from $8,664 two months ago. In May, homes were valued slightly above $1.7 million, up 22.4% from last year with interest rates that have nearly doubled since January. The situation is no better for local renters, as the region is one of the most expensive rental markets in the country.
Every single one of those homes are for people making $105,000 and more, Shoor said, so no one who works at Cambrian Village can live there. Shoor said having people live near where they work also decreases traffic and improves the quality of living. The city is behind on reaching its affordable housing goals and developers can be part of that, he said.
Foley said it’s up to the developer to balance the project between market rate and affordable housing. She said adding additional affordable homes to the development would require raising the height of the apartment building taller than six stories, which wouldn’t be acceptable to the community.
District 9 has more than 900 affordable housing units in the pipeline at 80% and lower of the Area Median Income some of which are being proposed on Bascom Avenue and Blossom Hill Road, she said.
“It’s exciting having this project finally move forward after five years,” Foley said. “We don’t have anything like this in District 9. Having a showpiece like this… with all the jobs and housing and open space, retaining the iconic carousel sign is really important.”
If approved by the Planning Commission, the San Jose City Council will consider approving the environmental impact report on Aug. 9 and initiate annexation, Foley said. Approval of the annexation request is expected to go before councilmembers on Sept. 13.
The Planning Commission meets Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. on Zoom. Residents may also join by phone at (888) 475-4499.
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at email@example.com.
This story will be updated.
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