Santa Clara University wins bid to move forward with housing proposal

Going against a staff recommendation to preserve shrinking
industrial lands, the San Jose City Council on Tuesday voted to
allow a proposal for teacher housing near Santa Clara University to
move forward.

The Jesuit institution — along with Bellarmine College
Preparatory and Cristo Rey Jesuit High School — wants to build
nearly
300 affordable homes
for faculty and staff on a plot of land
zoned for light industrial use on Campbell Avenue.

Even as it acknowledged a need for affordable housing, San
Jose’s planning department urged the council to reject the idea.
Just 15 percent of land in the city is industrial, a figure that
stands to shrink further in the coming years.

“There’s high demand for these types of spaces,” said
Chris Burton, with the city’s Office of Economic Development,
noting that industrial land can generate significant tax revenue
and provide well-paying jobs for people without college
degrees.

But the council endorsed allowing the housing proposal to
continue to move forward, in part because the university has
committed to including 20,000 square feet of business incubator
space meant to create jobs. If everything goes according to plan,
the project will go before the city’s planning commission in
November, with a final vote before the council in December.

“My mom threatened all kinds of things if I didn’t approve
this project,” joked Mayor Sam Liccardo, a Bellarmine graduate
and founding board member at Cristo Rey, before saying the proposal
creates an opportunity not only for jobs and housing, but to reduce
traffic. In the coming years, a BART station is slated to be built
nearby, which residents who don’t work across the street at the
university could take.

“We’re in fact alleviating traffic by having people live
close to where they work,” Liccardo said.

For people like Edward Medal, the project could be life
changing.

Medal, a landscape technician, and his wife leave their house in
Hollister before dawn each morning to drive more than 50 miles
north to their jobs at Santa Clara University. The commute leaves
little time to spend with their 1-year-old son, but it was where
the couple could find an affordable place to live.

“Being close to work would give us the ability to spend more
time as a family and be more in tune with our community,” he told
the council.

It would also help the schools keep people on staff.

Retention has been a major issue for Bellarmine, said CFO Ron
Miller, and such a teacher housing proposal is “key for us to be
successful in this regard.”

“It went really well,” said Chris Shay, the associate vice
president for facilities at Santa Clara University, shortly after
the vote. “We’re really pleased with the outcome.”

Yet several council members expressed concern.

Councilwoman Maya Esparza said she was intrigued by the idea of
a business incubator, but worried companies would move
elsewhere.

“I’m not willing to make this kind of tradeoff if we’re
just going to incubate businesses that are going to go all over the
rest of the Bay Area,” Esparza said, of losing industrial
land.

Councilman Lan Diep said the project was worthy, but he was
concerned about one-off votes to allow property rezoning that
“will ultimately hurt our city by a million simple cuts,” with
shrinking industrial land also potentially meaning shrinking tax
revenue.

“For me, it really comes down to San Jose being the 10th
largest city in the U.S. and…we’re down to 15 percent
employment lands,” he said.

The schools hear those concerns but say they’re committed to
making sure the project brings not only housing, but jobs, to San
Jose.

“We will go all out in this effort to make this work both for
the university and its partners and the city,” said John
Ottoboni, Santa Clara University’s chief operating officer.

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Shay agreed, saying that the incubator will send people across the
street to CustomSpace, which offers office and warehouse space to
dozens of industrial businesses. And, he said, measuring industrial
land by acre is an outdated way to quantify industrial space,
noting that where many industrial operations used to require vast
amounts of space, companies can often now work and grow in densely
packed places.

“Clearly we have a very compelling opportunity,” Liccardo
said. “This is the kind of thing we’ve been trying to encourage
employers in
North San Jose
and elsewhere to think about.”

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Santa Clara University wins bid to move forward with housing proposal