The 1312 El Paseo & 1777 Saratoga Ave Mixed Use Village Signature Project is progressing through the City of San Jose’s approval process. The 10.7 acre project includes the section of El Paseo de Saratoga Shopping Center near the former Lucky’s site, plus buildings across Saratoga Avenue.
Under San Jose’s Envision 2040 General Plan, the commercial area encompassing El Paseo de Saratoga Shopping Center, Westgate West and Westgate Center is designated as the Paseo de Saratoga Urban Village, one of 60+ locations targeted for housing and job growth. As part of Horizon #3, our area is scheduled to be one of the last to engage area residents in an extensive planning process to develop an official urban village plan. In the meantime, any market-rate residential development proposed in our urban village area must conform to General Plan Signature Project requirements.
In December 2019, the Sand Hill Property Company submitted a Signature Project application to San Jose’s Planning Division. The plan called for replacing existing commercial buildings with 731 residential units, 40,000 commercial sq. ft., and a 400,000 sq. ft. educational facility in five 5- to 12- story buildings. The Moreland West NA and residents shared density, height and other concerns with the developer and Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, and were advised to wait for a revised proposal.
The developer submitted a revised proposal in August 2020 with two development scenarios:
Scenario 1/School Option: 730 residential units, 67,500 commercial sq. ft., 450,000 sq. ft. educational facility (including 200 dorm rooms)
Scenario 2/Non-School Option: 1,100 residential units, 127,500 commercial sq. ft. The Moreland West NA and local residents communicated to the developer and Vice Mayor Jones concerns about the 2,500-student K-12 school, density, heights and other issues.
In October 2020, the project began the environmental review process, wherein the City evaluates the project’s potential for significant impacts on the environment, examines methods of reducing adverse impacts, and considers alternatives to the project. On Oct. 5, the Planning Division hosted a virtual Environmental Impact Report (EIR) scoping session. The Moreland West NA and others submitted written comments. We’re currently waiting for the City to release the draft EIR, covering topics such as aesthetics, air quality, energy, land use, noise, population and housing, public services, traffic, transportation, and utilities. After clearing environmental review, the project will go before the Planning Commission and the City Council.
In March 2021, the developer submitted a revised project application. The main points are:
— The 2,500-student school is out of the plan
— The proposal is to build 994 apartments and add 162,949 new commercial sq. ft. to the site — 15% of the residential units will be below-market-rate and all located at 1777 Saratoga Ave
— There will be below-ground parking as well as a 3-story parking garage, topped with apartments — Heights:
• Building 1A = 11 stories / Building 1B tapers up to 10 stories
• Building 2 tapers up to 9 stories
• Building 3 = 11 stories
• Building 4A = 12 stories / Building 4B = 10 stories (1777 Saratoga Ave)
— Tallest building (4A) is 132 ft.
Moreland West NA believes the current site is underutilized and that there are positive aspects to this project. We’re relieved that the school option is off the table. We commend Sand Hill for including below-market-rate units on site and seeking a grocer tenant. We like the project’s overall aesthetic, green spaces and how the developer used a tiered-height design, placing the shortest buildings closest to the Baker West neighborhood. That said, density remains a major concern in terms of likely traffic impacts and heights:
Density: Moreland West NA is not against density. We realize that housing needs will result in greater densities. The degree of density is the big issue. The 55 units/acre minimum for Signature Projects would in itself be huge for any site in West San Jose. With a site of 9.04 acres at El Paseo and 1.72 acres at 1777 Saratoga Avenue, 55 units/acre comes to 587 units. We believe that 587 units is a good ballpark for this site and would more than cover the area’s “fair share.”
Heights: The proposed building heights represent a radical change for this area. Again, we realize density increases will often equate to vertical increases, but 12-, (two) 11-, (two) 10- and 9-story buildings represent an extreme height increase that sets a new precedent for the area. Those heights seem more suited to downtown San Jose or more transit-oriented locations.
Instead, Moreland West NA envisions buildings in the 5- to 8-story range. Other than the earlier-era Pruneyard Tower, nothing in this regional area comes close. Cambrian Park, a much larger site at 18 acres and one with the same general lack of transit options as El Paseo, seems to top out at 6 stories. The Stevens Creek Promenade (Fort Bay) project tops out at 8 stories, and Avalon Bay West Valley at 7 stories. Sand Hill’s Vallco project remains in the works, but it appears that the most recent proposal called for no building over 9 stories. San Jose in March approved a 12-story building at 3806 Stevens Creek Boulevard, but that is all commercial and the city’s grand plans for Stevens Creek Boulevard seem to better support such heights. It’s simply unclear why the El Paseo site has been targeted for such greater heights and densities than peer projects.
Traffic: Strong efforts are underway statewide for greater-density projects near transit hubs. The El Paseo project is located near a number of bus routes, but there are no light rail or train options anywhere close. Nor is there ever likely to be such handy transit options. In addition, Saratoga Avenue between El Paseo and Interstate 280 is often quite congested, as is Prospect Avenue/Campbell Avenue between Lawrence Expressway and Hamilton Avenue. These are not ideal street segments for bicycle traffic. The El Paseo project aside, we hope for some traffic improvement measures in this congested area.
Our concerns are magnified because this project will set the baseline for major redevelopment in the area. The rest of El Paseo, Westgate West, Westgate Center, and other sites along Saratoga Avenue and Prospect Road are likely candidates for major, higher-density development.
1312 El Paseo & 1777 Saratoga Ave Mixed Use Village Signature Project: https:// http://www.sanjoseca.gov/your-government/departments-offices/planning-building-code-enforcement/ planning-division/projects-of-high-interest/el-paseo-and-saratoga-ave-mixed-use-village
The current proposal is available on the SJ Planning Division’s website at General & Civil Sheets (https:// www.sanjoseca.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=70666), Architectural Sheets (https://www.sanjoseca.gov/ Home/ShowDocument?id=70662), Landscape Sheets (https://www.sanjoseca.gov/Home/ShowDocument? id=70668), and Elevations (https://www.sanjoseca.gov/Home/ShowDocument?id=70664).
COMMUNITY SILENCE IS INTERPRETED AS APPROVAL
Share your questions and concerns with our city council representative Vice Mayor Chappie Jones (email@example.com), Project Manager Alec Atienza (alec.Atienza@sanjoseca.gov), and the Sand Hill Property Company (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please copy email@example.com.
Click here to read the MWNA Executive Board’s 10/27/20 letter to the San Jose Planning Board
Click here to read the MWNA Executive Board’s 6/20/20 letter to Vice Mayor Chappie Jones