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Editorial: Housing project would benefit San Jose and Santa Clara

PUBLISHED: April 13, 2021 at 5:30 a.m. | UPDATED: April 14, 2021 at 5:45 a.m.

The election of Suds Jain and Anthony Becker to the Santa Clara City Council in November signaled a new era of city politics.

Now they could help end Santa Clara’s 15-year legal battle with the city of San Jose that has held up development of up to 24,000 desperately needed housing units in North San Jose.

Jain and Becker joined San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Jose City Councilman David Cohen and housing advocates last week in calling for “collaboration and shared solutions” between the two neighboring cities.

The North San Jose development can benefit both cities.

For Santa Clara, the 240-acre Related Santa Clara commercial and residential project would benefit from housing for workers in nearby North San Jose, sparing them commutes from as far away as Morgan Hill, Tracy or Hollister.

As for San Jose, it has long seen North San Jose as a prime location for commercial and residential growth in an area that is already home to dozens of startups and large tech companies, including Google, Hewlett Packard and Cisco.

The fight between the two cities dates back to 2005, when San Jose adopted the North San Jose Development policy. It called for 25 million square feet of office and industrial development, 3 million square feet of retail and commercial space, 1,000 hotel rooms and up to 32,000 housing units.

But Santa Clara, Milpitas and Santa Clara County sued San Jose over legitimate traffic mitigation concerns. A settlement was reached in 2006 that called for tying the phasing of housing to transportation improvements. That allowed for construction of 8,000 housing units.

San Jose and Santa Clara have been unable to come to a working agreement on traffic issues that would allow the development of the 24,000 additional housing units.

The current sticking point stems from the two cities using different models to determine what constitutes satisfactory traffic mitigation. In 2018, San Jose was one of the first cities to adopt the state’s “vehicle miles traveled” model for determining transportation needs. Santa Clara continues to use an old model, which calls for higher fees from San Jose than the newer guidelines.

Liccardo said Saturday that the two cities “have a path to an agreement … but what San Jose needs to move forward is some sort of declaration that Santa Clara won’t sue. Builders can’t get financing if there is a risk of a lawsuit.”

He and the other elected officials sent Santa Clara City Manager Deanna Santana a letter last week asking for the City Council to discuss the issue of allowing housing and development to proceed in North San Jose. But Santana said Santa Clara has no such plans at this time.

Jain and Becker should push the Santa Clara City Council to put the issue on its agenda and resolve it. This is no time for past differences to further slow needed housing development in the region. The two cities should find a reasonable compromise on any remaining traffic mitigation issues and allow the North San Jose project to move forward.

Tell the Politicians – Start Building Houses!

Join our growing coalition of residents, housing experts, and community activist to urge the Cities of Santa Clara and San Jose to work together to solve our common challenges of affordable housing — starting with an end to the threat of lawsuit stopping new housing in North San Jose.