The SVO Voices Its Council Priority Setting Recommendations

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On behalf of The Silicon Valley Organization (The SVO), we are writing to share our policy recommendations for the council’s priority-setting meeting on March 5th. By way of background, we are the Silicon Valley’s premier business advocacy organization representing 1,400+ companies that employ nearly 300,000 workers and we represent our membership as the region’s largest Chamber of Commerce.

We have reviewed the policy nominations put forward in the staff memorandum and we believe that the following policies should be prioritized, in the following order, to support economic growth in the City of San José:

Universal Development Fee (Mayor Liccardo)

We support the concept of a universal development fee to streamline the process of cost calculations for projects. The goal is to provide cost predictability and make fees easier to estimate before a project applicant submits a proposal before the city. Under the city’s current fee estimation procedure, a developer is required to seek a fee estimation from multiple departments, which often times add unnecessary delays in approving critical housing projects. Currently, development fees are extremely difficult to estimate and fees are often set without oversight or coordination between city departments. A universal fee would address many of these issues by streamlining the fee calculation process.

Childcare & Early Education (Mayor Liccardo)

By identifying creative incentive programs that promote childcare and early education facilities, we can create innovative solutions to protect our most vulnerable community members. Specifically, we recommend that the study of possible developmentincentives should include density bonuses and/or fee reductions if a project includes space for childcare facilities. Affordable childcare options can be especially helpful as a part of a broad economic development stratetgy to retain employees in need of adequate childcare services.

Explore & Compare CEQA Policies Across Municipalities (Councilmember Foley)

Given that cities have varying interpretations of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), there are wide disparities between municipalities regarding the number of housing units produced throughout the region. The City of San José should conduct a study of CEQA policies across municipalities in the region, with an eye towards a balanced interpretation of CEQA in order to significantly increase our local housing supply.

Reduce or Eliminate Parking Minimums Near Transit (Councilmember Foley)

Last year, the San José City Council conducted a study session on the cost of private development. The study session provided insights revealing that many projects are practically unviable due to the rising cost of construction materials and labor. The city’s parking minimum requirements add significant costs to a housing project and cause many projects to not pencil-out. For housing developments within a one-half mile radius of a transit line, there are significant opportunities to both reduce development costs and encourage the use of public transit, electric assist, biking, and walking through robust transportation demand management plans. We must review all city requirements that increase the cost of development and eliminating parking minimums can make it easier for projects to pencil-out.

ADU’s: Reducing Permit Costs & Streamline the Process (Councilmember Foley)

The region’s land use strategy of favoring low density, single-family home developments is one contributing factor to our housing crisis, which reduces our region’s economic competitiveness. Accessory dwelling units (ADUs) are “low hanging fruit”, when it comes to increasing our housing supply. We support the concept of a dedicated team that would be focused on facilitating ADU developments. Furthermore, we believe that the city should have both pre-approved plans for expedited approval as well as reduced permit fees to incentivize these developments. Single family homeowners must be a part of the solution for the housing crisis, and incentivizing ADUs must be a part of our housing strategy to increase both local supply and production.

General Plan and Zoning Alignment (Councilmember Diep)

When the Envision San José 2040 General Plan and zoning designations are out of alignment, it forces developers to apply for conforming zonings to build projects that are already permissible under the general plan. This additional, duplicative process can add significant time delays, causes developers to miss market timing for project financing, and adds significant impediments to housing production. If we are to address our housing crisis, we must do everything we can to facilitate development and avoid unnecessary bureaucratic processes.

Downtown Wayfinding (Councilmember Davis)

In order to promote Downtown San José as an attractive “destination hotspot”, we must identify interactive signage and markers to encourage tourists and residents to visit the downtown core. This must be a key economic development strategy in order to improve the vibrancy of our downtown by assisting tourists, residents, and service seekers to their desired location. We believe a more accessible downtown core through the use of technology will not only help increase tourism and get more customers to San José businesses, but it will also be relatively cost effective. If this policy is considered and implemented, we strongly encourage the city to establish a public RFP that allows for a competitive bidding process and for businesses to compete for the opportunity to guide tourists to attractive hotspots in downtown San José.

In closing, we support these policies because we believe it will improve our community by supporting economic growth in the city. For the above reasons, we urge you to prioritize the policy proposals in order to help businesses succeed and for our community to thrive.