Appeals against student dormitories go to the San Jose Planning Commission

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San Jose State students have to wait even longer for an apartment near campus after late approval for a high-rise apartment building.

A decision on a student dormitory project in the city center has been postponed for another month following an appeal by a neighboring property owner.

The project – a 23-story, 274-foot tower just one block from San Jose State University – plans to add 240 rental apartments to the area. The units have one to four bedrooms.

If the project is approved, two existing apartment buildings and one single-family house will be demolished on the site. The city’s planning director previously approved the project in July, and it won’t require a city council vote once the San Jose Planning Commission votes on the appeal.

The commissioners debated on Wednesday how many affordable units will be included in the project and whether there will be rent-controlled units per city mandate. The commission voted 7-3 with one abstention to continue the point on October 13th.

Commissioners Charles Cantrell, Maribel Montañez and Pierluigi Oliverio voted against postponing a decision and Commissioner Jorge Antonio Garcia rejected the election because one of his family members lived near the project site.

Commissioner Mariel Caballero – noticing the confusion among her colleagues, city officials and the applicant about the affordable units required – wants city officials and the developer to meet to resolve the issue.

“What that means for the developer is not clear to me,” said Caballero. “I wonder if we need to take a break so you can all come on the same page to find out.”

Steve Cohen, the owner of a building behind the proposed development, appealed the project in hopes of blocking its permit.

Cohen told San José Spotlight that the high-rise tower, which development company Urban Catalyst is calling The Mark, needs more public relations. According to the city’s website, there was a public meeting on the project in September 2020.

“There should have been five ward meetings to look into it and let everyone know what was going on. It makes a better project, ”said Cohen. “We had a community meeting on Zoom and were told that there could be no more community meetings because of COVID.”

City officials said the COVID-19 pandemic had limited online sessions and the city had done its own outreach.

A majority of residents at the meeting spoke out in favor of the project, saying it would bring much-needed student dormitory to the city center. Still, some who called said the project was too big for the area.

“A 23-story glass building will never merge with a one-, two-, or three-story Victorian house,” said Resident Patricia Curia. “This is the first intrusion of powers east of the inner city center into a flourishing district and should have been planned with more thought into the future.”

The developers say the project will reduce the need for student dormitories in the city and university, which some experts see as a crisis. The company has grabbed several properties in San Jose and pushed development in the downtown area, including the now-dormant Camera 12 cinema. It bought land to develop the Mark Tower for $ 6.25 million in early 2020.

“This project focuses on addressing only one segment of the deep regional housing needs, especially student housing,” said Paul Ring, partner at Urban Catalyst. “We are particularly excited about this student-focused housing project as it offers an opportunity to invest and provide living space for students.”

The university has struggled over the years to accommodate some of its students. A 2019 report by San José Spotlight found that the university only offered emergency housing to six students, and a more recent report found mixed results with an Airbnb housing partnership.

“I have concerns about affordability for students who have low-wage full-time jobs,” said Angelina Perez, a student from San Jose state, although she supports the project. “I hope that the applicant will consider working with the university in the future.”

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on twitter.



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