Posted on March 15, 2016
Developer Mark Hirth of Hirth Land & Development Co. took questions and comments from San Jose residents critical of a proposed student housing project near San Jose State University at a community meeting on Feb. 24. While some were skeptical others praised the development as a project the city desperately needed.
The 86 unit building would be located two blocks from campus on E. Santa Clara St. and 11th St. and house 171 San Jose State University students. The seven floor building would mix student housing with retail, restaurants and office space. The 0.6 gross acre site would feature a 5,560 square feet on the ground floor for retail and 5,700 square feet of office space on the second floor. The project totals 11,440 square feet, including room for a possible restaurant in the ground floor plaza.
Residents were apprehensive about the density of noisy college students in the downtown area. They complained that the project might add unnecessary commotion and traffic for locals. Others believed parking could be a potential problem, with one resident asserting that he didn’t think that 67 parking spaces for 171 beds was enough.
Hirth responded that a planned nearby BART station and multiple bus stops would discourage students from driving. He assured the audience that fewer students are using cars in urban university environments.
SJSU was “originally a commuter college but has grown more and more and it’s drawing students from outside of the area,” said Hirth.
While some residents were anxious, others welcomed the idea of this development underscoring the challenging housing situation in San Jose and across the Bay Area. “This area needs a shot in the arm, we’ve got to get some development going,” said one local property owner. At the community proposal Hirth argued that the plan would “blend the university life with the present community life” by supplying needed housing to students and growing local business.
SJSU’s student body has increased by almost 8,000 undergraduates since 2008, creating a large demand for student housing in and surrounding downtown San Jose. Around 86 percent of students live off campus, impacting rental prices and availability.
The project would stand independent from the university as commercial residential housing. It still needs evaluation by City Council and the Planning Commission and Director in order to receive a Planned Development Permit. Department of Housing Division Manager Chen Wayne explained that the housing market has not been able to meet the affordable demand, and San Jose rents are at the highest rate on record with noticeable recent spikes in home sales and prices.
Hirth’s project proposal is part of the growing interest in redevelopment in downtown San Jose. Wayne added, “I think we are seeing a rebirth of downtown San Jose, as a result we are seeing a lot of interest in high rise development,” and noted the city has three high-rise residential towers that have been or will be completed shortly and around 20 projects in the city approval phase.