San Jose's City Council approved a 328-home transit-oriented project for the south side
August 11, 2022
Troy Wolverton, Silicon Valley Business Journal
The San Jose City Council this week gave a green light to a development that would bring two apartment buildings to a Santa Clara Valley Transit Authority parking lot in the city's southern sector.
At its regular meeting Tuesday night, councilmembers unanimously approved the Blossom Hill Station proposal from Republic Urban and EAH Housing. As part of the project, developers plan to construct two buildings that would together have 328 residences. The larger of the two structures would have 13,590 square feet of commercial space on its ground floor and an 809-square-foot meeting room that would be available for public use. The developers also plan to build a trail that would connect Blossom Hill Road to Marshall Cottle Park on the other side of California State Route 85.
Matt Mahan, the councilmember who represents District 10, the area in which the development lies, praised the proposal. The surrounding community is excited about the public meeting room; he's excited about the trail, Mahan said.
"We don't get a whole lot of new housing projects in District 10, so we've got stop and really celebrate the ones we do get, especially when they're such excellent projects," Mahan said at the Council meeting.
Located at 605 Blossom Hill Rd., the project would include a six-story building with 239 residences priced at market rates that being developed by Republic Urban. It would also have a five-story structure with 89 residences that all be reserved for lower-income people.
Two-thirds of the apartments in that building, which is being developed by EAH, would be set aside for those whose income was 30% or less of the area median, according to Daniel Rhine, an associate director at the developer. The other third would be reserved for those with incomes that are 60% or less of the area median, Rhine said at the meeting.
The developers aren't providing transit passes
The development is part of a larger effort by VTA to encourage ridership by spurring the building of housing projects on land it owns near its light-rail stations and other transit stops. The parking lot on which Blossom Hill Station would be built adjoins the agency's Blossom Hill light-rail stop in San Jose.
But the project's putative link to transit was the source of the only bit of controversy in the Council's deliberation of the development. Mayor Sam Liccardo noted that Republic and EAH aren't planning on providing transit passes to Blossom Hill Station residents as part of their development proposal. Given that the project is specifically intended to encourage ridership, Liccardo wondered aloud why city officials and VTA hadn't insisted on the developers providing transit passes to residents for at least a set period of time.
A member of the city's staff said such a requirement is not as part of current city policy. Likewise, Jessie O'Malley Solis, who manages VTA's transit oriented development program, said such a mandate isn't part of that program and hasn't even been discussed by the agency's board, of which Liccardo is a member.
EAH is pursuing funding that might allow it to provide passes to residents of the affordable housing part of the project, Rhine said. But barring that, it can't afford to provide the passes itself, he said. As part of its agreement with the city to limit the amount of car traffic generated by the project, Republic Urban plans to promote transit use by residents and to have an employee on site to help them navigate VTA's system, said Melissa Durkin, the developer's vice president of development. But it also doesn't plan to offer transit passes.
"I'm kind of puzzled that between all the participants ... we couldn't come up with some approach that would enable" the distribution of passes to residents, Liccardo said. He continued: "We as a city need to be tougher, especially on a VTA site. I think VTA needs be more committed as well ... This undermines an awful lot of what we're trying accomplish in the city."
Despite his disappointment over the transit pass issue, Liccardo joined with colleagues in voting to approve the project.
Last month, Republic Urban Properties President Michael Van Every said if the Council said yes to Blossom Hill Station, the company would draw up construction plans next year and break ground in 2024.