Evergreen Senior Homes Initiative: Vote No in June

Hills in the Evergreen area of San Jose. A measure on the June ballot will propose 900 housing units in this area, along with exemptions to the city's general plan. Photo by flickr user Patrick Nelson.

This June, voters in San Jose will consider the Evergreen Senior Homes Initiative, a ballot measure that would approve a plan to build 900 housing units for seniors on a 200-acre parcel in the Evergreen area. The measure would also create a zoning overlay, which could be used to circumvent existing zoning in order to create housing for senior citizens on other employment lands throughout San Jose. The measure would create significant exemptions from the priorities laid out in the Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan and weaken inclusionary housing requirements.

SPUR strongly opposes the Evergreen Senior Homes Initiative. We believe that using the ballot to make decisions about what, where and how to build is counter-productive to managing growth and would be damaging to the planning process. After a lengthy public engagement process, in 2011 the San Jose City Council approved the 2040 general plan, a document that guides growth over a 30-year period, with scheduled reviews every four years and major updates every 10. We stand by the Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan and seek to advance its key strategies including the development of infill housing through the streamlining of the Urban Village process.

What Would This Measure Do?

In addition to approving the development of 720 luxury homes and 180 below-market rate homes in Evergreen, the measure creates a senior housing zoning overlay that would apply to all “underutilized employment lands” in San Jose. This term is not defined, but it could potentially mean any existing land not built out to its maximum capacity, including low-rise office buildings, strip malls and vacant industrial land. If the ballot measure is approved, landowners would be able to develop their land either according to the maximum allowable commercial land use designation or to this new senior housing overlay residential designation.

The senior housing overlay also creates several exemptions to San Jose’s general plan.

The general plan’s goals currently include:

• focus development in identified growth areas

• encourage higher-density housing and discourage single-family detached residences in growth areas

• prohibit gated communities

• protect and improve the quantity and quality of employment lands

• connect new residential development with safe, convenient and accessible pedestrian facilities

• maximize pedestrian, bicycle and vehicular connections

• develop residential projects at densities sufficient to support neighborhood retail in walkable, main-street type development

The overlay would amend the municipal code to exempt senior housing from:

• enforcing standards for inclusionary (low-income) housing

• timing the construction of inclusionary units so that they are available at the same time as market-rate units

• dispersing inclusionary housing throughout the development

• ensuring inclusionary units are built to the same overall quality of construction and design and comparable square footage as market-rate units

• requiring that residents of the inclusionary units have access to the same amenities as the market-rate units

SPUR’s Recommendation

SPUR was founded in 1910 as an affordable housing organization. One of our core tenets is to “make it affordable to live in the Bay Area.” In August 2017, SPUR published Room for More: SPUR’s Housing Agenda for San Jose, which recommended several strategies to bring down the price of housing and build walkable neighborhoods. We are proponents of housing production.

However, this initiative is not the right solution. SPUR prioritizes infill residential development within walking distance to transit, and we are committed to resourcing and building high-quality affordable housing. SPUR also cautions against “ballot box zoning.” The proposed measure undermines good planning and runs counter to these priorities by using the ballot box to make zoning decisions.

Join SPUR in opposing the Evergreen Senior Homes Initiative. For more information about the coalition opposing this measure, visit StopTheDeception.com.