San Jose’s Housing Element plan for 62K homes may fall short

Failure to satisfy state opens South Bay city to builder’s remedy projects

San Jose’s Housing Element for 62K Homes May Fall Short
San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan (Getty)

A roadmap for growth housing in San Jose has hit a roadblock in Sacramento, with state regulators refusing to sign off on a plan to add 62,200 homes in the next eight years.

The state Housing and Community Development Department has straight-armed the city’s so-called “Housing Element,” which was supposed to have been approved in January, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

A failure of the Bay Area’s largest city to comply with its requirement to plan for tens of thousands of new homes puts it at risk of losing affordable housing and transportation funds.

It also leaves it open to lose control over approvals for new housing projects, as developers can trigger a state builder’s remedy to skirt local zoning rules. To date, 15 developers in San Jose have invoked the state housing loophole now being tested in courts. 

San Jose is the last big Bay Area city without a final housing plan. While San Francisco and Oakland have approved plans, two-thirds of the Bay Area’s 109 cities and counties do not.

When the San Jose City Council voted in June to send the 239-page plan to Sacramento for approval, pro-housing and tenant activists were joined by construction labor supporters in saying it might not be up to snuff.

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Under state law, the city must target where and how it can accommodate 62,200 more homes — more than half of them affordable — by 2031. The homes would add 20 percent to the city’s housing, and represent a 77 percent increase from its previous eight-year goal.

In a letter to the city this week, the California Housing & Community Development Department  said it had received “several third-party comments expressing concerns” that city officials hadn’t allowed “adequate time or opportunity to provide public input and comment” on earlier drafts of the plan.

“During the housing element revision process, the city must continue to engage the community, including organizations that represent lower-income and special needs households, by making information regularly available while considering and incorporating comments where appropriate,” state officials said in their letter. 

The housing department asked the city to do more work to prove planned sites for homes have a realistic chance of development. It also asked city officials to provide specifics on ways to  streamline the permitting process and prevent housing discrimination and displacement.

San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan said he didn’t expect the state would sign off on the council’s housing plan. “We expected to have additional technical revision requests come back from the state,” he told the Mercury News in a text.

— Dana Bartholomew

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