Is the Affordable Housing Network the only organization in San Jose that believes San Jose’s “Envision 2040” General Plan is a blueprint for a train wreck?
Let me rephrase that.
Our city is already a train wreck—thousands of people living in the street, families forced to relocate to the Central Valley, traffic exploding, and the quality of life rapidly swirling down the drain. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf recently said the housing crisis is “about to kill the Bay Area.” San Jose’s general plan is better described as the nail in the coffin.
I took another look at the plan when City officials continually referenced it during recent public hearings on the Google Diridon project—as if to justify their curious indifference to the thousands of San Jose residents that the project threatens to displace. Mention of the San Jose general plan is generally prefaced with the remark that it was unanimously adopted by City Council after years of hearings attended by some 5000 people. Apparently this is expected to silence any opposition to its strange conclusions.
Few San Jose residents are aware of what our general plan actually says. Instead of fighting for common sense state fiscal reform, San Jose is attempting to solve its fiscal problems by restricting housing production in the middle of a catastrophic housing crisis. Envision 2040 was modified in 2016 by the Four Year Task Force and City Council, but its figures still simply do not add up.
The plan is based on a projection by the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy (CCSCE) that San Jose’s population will increase by about 405,000 new residents by 2040. The plan establishes a 1.1 jobs to employed resident goal. In order to reach this mark, it calls for job growth of 382,000 new jobs by 2040, while maintaining a housing goal of only 120,000 new units.
These figures are nonsensical.
In the first place, a population growth of 405,000 people cannot fit into 120,000 new units. At the California average of 3.1 persons per household, 120,000 housing units will only accommodate 372,000 people. Does the general plan propose to block the increased population projected by CCSCE from happening?
More seriously, if we plan for an additional 382,000 jobs, most experts agree that this will create an additional housing demand of about 254,000 housing units (382,000 divided by the average 1.5 jobs per household). If San Jose only allows construction of 120,000 additional housing units, where will those other 134,000 housing units be built? And where will the 134,000 households go, who are expected to work in San Jose, but whom the city is deliberately planning to refuse to house? 134,000 families at 3.1 persons per household comprise an astonishing 415,400 people.
Either we will erect a wall to bar those 415,400 people from living in San Jose, or more likely, since many of them will be more highly paid tech workers, they will move here and displace 415,400 other people who are already here—frequently including the families of people who built this city over generations.
Actually, some combination of these two scenarios will most likely happen, but the likeliest outcome will be widespread, massive displacement.
San Jose honored its most famous resident, Cesar Chavez, by naming its downtown plaza for him, and it continues to honor him with an annual city holiday and flag-raising ceremony. But what good are our ceremonies, if we banish hundreds of thousands of the very people he loved, and dedicated his life to organizing and defending?
No responsible urban scholar or policy-maker advocates displacement. It destroys communities, reduces diversity, tears families apart, erases culture, damages the environment, ruins people’s quality of life, undermines economic opportunity, and increases inequality and homelessness.
Where will these 415,400 people live? Mayor Liccardo recently stated he does not believe that other Bay Area cities will step up to provide the housing needed. The answer is that San Jose’s general plan, and the City Council, literally have no idea. They do not even mention that this is a problem, much less outline concrete steps to solve it.
The Google project is just another step down the primrose path.
Does anyone on the City Council care?
“Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.” —Shakespeare