As feuds go, the cities of Santa Clara and San Jose are not in the Hatfields and McCoys territory, but they do have a decades long history of influencing development projects within each city’s respective boundaries. The most recent evidence is San Jose’s lawsuit against the City of Santa Clara’s approval of the Related development directly across from Levi’s Stadium, which the City of San Jose saw as a net loss on the area’s housing/jobs balance. The City of San Jose’s opinion was that the project would add the dependence on San Jose housing, while Santa Clara received the more lucrative retail and company office dollars. The City of Santa Clara respond to San Jose’s lawsuit, by suing the City of San Jose for the approval of the Santana West proposed development, a nearly 1M Square foot office expansion of Santana Row. Both projects sit within each respective city’s boundaries, though Santana West borders the City of Santa Clara. But now both these lawsuits have been resolved, and each city is moving ahead in the planning and approval processes.
With that past as context, the news this week from Santa Clara is absolutely stunning. The most recent development proposal, in Santa Clara is a staggering 10.5M square feet mixed use project, that touts a 50 story office tower, a 30 story residential tower and numerous other office, residential, retail, public spaces, and even an educational component. Kylli Inc is the Chinese developer who envisions the property as limited in ground space size, but not limited by height(though some of the property is restricted duty to the proximity to SJC Airport). What makes this proposal staggering is three things. 1). If approved as proposed it would bring 6,000 residential units, units that are desperately needed in solving the housing crisis, and units in a density never seen before in the city 2). The building heights proposed would make these buildings the tallest in the South Bay, with the tallest building dwarfing San Jose flight restricted 25 story buildings by double. 3) The sheer size of the project is actually larger than the 9.7M square foot Related project around the corner, and if completed would instantly change the face and center of the city(we’ll leave the transit and mobility to another time).
So what does all this mean for the City of San Jose, San Joseans, and the greater South Bay. It actually means good things. For one, it creates a potential “arms race” between the two cities and could even stimulate other progressive cities like Mountain View to build more density into new projects. I can’t imagine the City of San Jose sitting back and watching an “instant” dense neighborhood popped up just on the north western border, without looking at it’s own heights restrictions, and trying to find more ways to go taller and denser. Though this proposal may reignite the two city feud, this as an opportunity for the City of San Jose and it’s citizens to give credit where credit is due. The mantra about Santa Clara is that they never add to the housing supply. Here is a fantastic example that proves the city is willing to be bold and step up to the region’s housing issue, instead of just worrying about itself. San Joseans should be proud that density and urbanism is spreading in the South Bay. This isn’t a time for jealously or for the evergreen chip on the shoulder. Let’s embrace this development and sing the praises that it aspires to be.
Now is the time for the South Bay cities to start working together towards solving the housing crisis goals. As Google, Apple, Facebook, and other tech companies continue their expansion and hiring, San Jose, San Francisco, and Oakland can’t be the only cities that are dense and urban. Density can be done well on many different scales, it just happens that the Kylli proposal is on a massive scale and that is something to stand up and applaud.