NBC Bay Area: San Jose Housing Advocates Push to Block More Developer Incentives

By Damian Trujillo
October 31, 2019

The housing crisis in the South Bay is pitting business interests against housing advocates.

A proposal on Tuesday’s City Council agenda would give developers more incentives for building residential high-rises while limiting their commitment to affordable housing.

Housing advocates are fighting back.

As a new housing development emerges next to City Hall in downtown San Jose, some city leaders say developers need incentives to build more of them because it's simply too expensive to build here.

"We have 33 projects that told us they weren’t going to build," Councilman Johnny Khamis said. "And by reducing the fees, we’re actually going to get housing."

On Tuesday, the San Jose City Council will discuss a number of housing proposals. One would look at reducing or eliminating many of the fees developers pay to build in the city, such as an affordable housing impact fee, about $17 per square foot.

The developer-friendly proposals are drawing the ire of housing advocates. One group came out with an ad attacking Councilman Lan Diep. The ad says one of the developers who would benefit is KT-Urban, who was building the old Silvery Towers.

Critics dubbed it "Slavery Towers" after a subcontractor was arrested for using slave labor on the project.

Diep has come out in support of reducing or eliminating developer fees.

On Thursday, housing advocates rallied outside city hall before storming the offices of the mayor and city council. They want the developer fees to stay, if not increase. And they want strong rent control regulations.

"It's really disingenuous and dishonest to have this discussion about fee reduction, fees that need to be reduced; otherwise the market won’t build," Khamis said.

Diep's office said the councilman was unavailable Thursday, and Mayor Sam Liccardo's office said it is fully committed to affordable housing, recently setting aside $100 million for such projects.