Meeting to be held over affordable housing units for teachers in San Jose

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- An estimated 150 supporters are expected to pack the San Jose City Council meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. to advocate for the rezoning of a small vacant lot on Lincoln Avenue in the city's Willow Glen district to build 14 affordable housing units for teachers.

The property owner, Sarah Chaffin, has gotten support from the San Jose Teachers Association, civic groups, and affordable housing advocates. However, the rezoning application is being opposed by the mayor, vice mayor and two other councilmembers.

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"I have overwhelming support. However, this issue of solving the housing crisis for teachers and the missing middle is very important to me, and I'm not going to stop," Chaffin said.

The small parcel is currently zoned for commercial use, but it would have to be re-zoned for residential use for the project to proceed.

City staff already has denied the application. The planning commission decided to have this go before the City Council to decide whether to grant the exception to the city's general plan.

Opponents argue the site is surrounded by land zoned for commercial use. And commercial land use is important to foster jobs and small businesses. There is also concern of a potential domino effect if one property owner is allowed to re-zone from commercial to residential use.

Mayor Sam Liccardo worries, too, that once approved, there's no assurance the teacher housing will be built.

"We have no guarantee that in exchange for the city changing the rules for this development or this property owner that the public will get affordable housing. There will be a windfall certainly for the landowner that will probably triple the value of their land, but there's no enforceable commitment," San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said.

Chaffing says she's willing to sign a deed restriction.

A school principal says she recently lost a good teacher due to housing costs. "She and her husband really would have loved to stay in the area, but they just couldn't afford to live here so they ended up taking jobs in Southern California and moving down there, so it was a real loss to us," principal Stephanie Palmeri-Farias said.
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