Tomorrow, the City Council will adopt the 2040 General Plan (GP2040), which charts the growth of San Jose for the next 30 years. The Task Force, of which I am a member, met for over four years and held over 60 public meetings. In hindsight, the GP2040 could have been done sooner, however, the scope was too broad at the start and it should have been focused solely on land use.
The GP2040 had several decisive moments where the task force voted to give direction. My preference was more emphasis on land for jobs and slower population growth with higher density. I was the minority on that vote, but I stayed on to be a part of the final product. There has been no challenge to the massive environmental impact report and the GP2040 was approved unanimously by the planning commission in September.
There will be less suburban sprawl with GP2040. Coyote Valley, Almaden Reserve and Evergreen are off the table for more housing. Growing the footprint of San Jose with housing, especially single family homes, only increases the cost to maintain the city for existing residents. However, growth within the existing city infrastructure of sewers and streets is best. Market rate housing at a higher density is best for cities financially due to the aggregated property tax and utility tax. In addition, development within existing neighborhoods will be reduced like subdividing lots, which tend to be the most contentious for residents.
Growth in the plan is focused in the downtown, along transit corridors and the concept of villages. A village may be a “class B” strip mall that you drive by every day. The future is to allow the parcel to be scraped and instead build housing on top of retail and office to create unique areas that are more urban in nature. The village will be granted higher density but must contain jobs.
San Jose residents enjoy experiencing density on their travels and all of the positive attributes it brings, like people walking, biking, pedestrian retail and active open public space. In the past, density was not done well. Much of it was affordable housing that is exempt from taxes and fees or the density was reduced so low there was no critical mass to support retail.
Another feature of the plan is to have four-year horizons to make sure other development is occurring like office, R&D, industrial uses, etc.—and not just housing.
Less will change in the short run for San Jose as new housing may remain slow for years, which is fine by me. At some point, when we reach scarcity in housing, we will really get the financially beneficial housing we want. Building single family home subdivisions or wood townhouses is a net loss for our city, and it uses up too much land. We should maximize each parcel, allowing us more opportunity in the future with the remaining undeveloped or underdeveloped parcels.
The GP2040 is not perfect, but it does put us in the right direction of planning for walking and biking rather than cars. Some may think it is pie in the sky. However, I can say that my own life has shot by rather quickly. Before you know it, 2040 will be here, so it is best to have a plan in place. But don’t you worry, it only takes six votes any given Tuesday to change it.
I have enjoyed serving on the committee these past fou years and would be interested in serving on the same task force in 10 years. But next time I’d prefer to do it as a private citizen.
At 6:30pm next Monday, Nov. 7, a film and discussion about the GP2040 will take place. The event will include the director of planning and the director of economic development. RSVP to email@example.com.
At the corner of San Fernando and Almaden Blvd., you will notice a monolithic building with no windows that is being used as a canvas for public projection art. From 8pm to midnight, the “Portal” transforms into different planets, time devices and different eyes that are recognizable like Van Gogh and DaVinci. This was funded through the city of San Jose for $4,000. Thanks go to the artist, JD Beltran, and Lisa Ellsworth, curator of the Children’s Discovery Museum.
Also, special thanks to Lt. Ta, Sgt. Moody, and Officers Bachman, Ordaz and Roland Ramirez for donating their time on Saturday for a high school homecoming event.