Opportunity Housing (OH) is a proposal to “up zone” single-family residential parcels in San Jose to allow the owner to build up to a four-plex. While details have not been proposed by city staff, in 2019 the four-year General Plan Review Task Force voted to have city staff study the idea and return to City Council with a formal recommendation. Staff plans to present their recommendation to Council in October 2020. This proposal will need to answer many questions, including design standards, how the policy might interface with the city’s new accessory dwelling unit (ADU) policy, parking and traffic implications, and much more. We anticipate that staff will recommend moving forward with an OH policy.
The issue is controversial because many homeowners have concerns about what this zoning change would mean for their neighborhoods and their daily commutes. Our office routinely fields questions from residents about the potential impact of OH on property values, noise, parking, traffic and aesthetics.
On the other hand, San Jose and our entire region needs to build more housing. Our current rate of homebuilding is not keeping pace with population and job growth, which means higher prices, more displacement of existing tenants, and increased homelessness.
As a large and diverse city with a lot of land and high traffic congestion, Matt believes that we can better balance our need for more housing with the community’s concerns by focusing first on the city’s “urban villages” strategy, first articulated in the city’s General Plan nearly a decade ago. This strategy calls for dense, mixed-used development in roughly 70 “villages” in every district across the city that have existing transit infrastructure, commercial activity and/or strong potential for walkability.
For example, District 10 has a planned urban village site along the commercial- and transit-rich Blossom Hill Road corridor. Matt thinks that we need to understand why our urban villages strategy is not contributing as much to housing development as expected and address those root causes before attempting to significantly increase density in single-family neighborhoods.
Moreover, he believes in incrementally densifying the city around these urban villages to demonstrate to residents that greater density can improve quality of life rather than detract from it. Jumping directly to the elimination of single-family residential zoning—which, incidentally, already allows for up to two additional on-site ADUs—threatens to reduce community support for new housing in general and fails to adequately understand and engage with residents’ concerns.