Affordable Housing and a Big Vegetable Garden to Grow near Santana Row and Valley Fair

“Welcome to Agrihood,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said on Thursday at a construction site on North Winchester Boulevard near Santana Row and Westfield Valley Fair Mall.

The site of the groundbreaking ceremony is a vacant dirt lot filled with crews and cranes, but by next summer, there will be a 5.8-acre home for affordable housing for low-income seniors and veterans and a 1.7-acre farm.

Residents “will be surrounded by food gardens, and be within walking distance to grocery stores drugstores, and public transportation," Chavez said at the ceremony..

The unique housing site will have 160 mixed-income apartments, 165 homes for low-income seniors and veterans and 36 townhomes.

The farm, the project’s signature feature, serves three purposes, Agrihood developers said. It aims to provide nearly 20,000 pounds of food to the community; create volunteer and community-building opportunities and honor the Santa Clara Valley's agricultural history.

“That'’something we should celebrate here in the heart of Silicon Valley,” said Kirk Vartan, a community housing activist and founder of A Slice of New York. “We want opportunities for seniors to remain active and engaged and independent.”
Chavez said the food gardens would create a strong bond with the community through events like farm-to-table pop ups, food trucks and maybe even farmers markets.

“The possibilities are endless, because eventually this will be a mixed-income, mixed-use intergenerational housing development," Chavez said.

The units will be a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments that will rent for about $2100 per month.

Agrihood will also have 54 permanent supportive housing units that the county will fill with unhoused older adults, a population that has grown during the pandemic.

“Over 50 percent of our unhoused folks are seniors, aged 55 or older,” said Consuelo Hernandez, Director of the Office of Supportive Housing.

That number is up from 2019 estimates, in which 40 percent of the homeless population identified as 51 and up, according to the 2019 survey conducted by her office

“Collectively, these developments will help us fill that gap that's needed,” Hernandez said.

The new site in the City of Santa Clara is one of six sites that will begin construction very soon in the county, which will create 560 new units, including 367 allocated to seniors, Hernandez said.

The other five projects are the Blossom Hill Senior Apartments with 146 units; PATH villas at 4th Street with 94 units; Gallop and Mesa Apartments with 46 units for foster care, formerly foster youth that are previously unhoused; Immanuel-Sobrato Apartments with 108 units and the redevelopment of Markham Plaza II with 152 units.

Those projects are largely funded by the Measure A Housing Bond passed in 2016 by county voters to help construct 4,800 units of affordable housing.

Agrihood, which has a price tag of $250 million will use $23 million in Measure A funding, $15.7 million from the city of Santa Clara and a grant of $50 million in tax-exempt bonds from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee.

Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the development is “truly a result of community led collaborative process” that has been in the works since 2005 when the city acquired the 5.8-acre vacant lot.

The Santa Clara City Council approved development of the urban farm in January 2019, which Gillmor called the "anchor tenant" of this housing site.

The farm will be managed and designed by Oakland-based farming company Farmscape.

“All of that (food) will be going to a farm stand (on site) that we'll be sharing with the community weekly,” said Lara Hermanson, co-owner of Farmscape. “And people will be able to pay what they can there.”

Hermanson continued that the "organic, sustainable and regenerative farm" will grow tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, squash and fresh herbs during the summer and broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce greens, beets and carrots, among many others in the winter.

Residents and community members can volunteer to prepare and harvest food from the farm, with professional staff on site to tend to the food gardens.

“We're going to be having essentially a giant intergenerational hangout on this farm, so we look forward to seeing everybody there,* Hermanson said.

  Jana Kadah is a reporter with Bay City News.

 

11 Comments

  1. “The new site in the City of Santa Clara is one of six sites that will begin construction very soon in the county, which will create 560 new units, including 367 allocated to seniors, Hernandez said.”

    Sometimes it seems as if the only housing taking place in progressive enclaves like Los Gatos, Saratoga, Los Altos, and Palo Alto involve the housing of pricey fundraising dinners for Democrats.

  2. Yeah that’s the land that used to belong to the UC system and was sold off so that developers could get rich and UC administrators would have a source for the funds needed to enable them to vote themselves even more gigantic salaries and pensions.

  3. Urban means not farms.

    Six acres of residential land in the heart of Silicon Valley amid a multi decades-long housing shortage should be for well… houses, not forests, and certainly not farms. You want more farmland in California, end the HSR to Nowhere boondoggle. You are carving up thousands of acres of the best farmland on earth in the central valley for a train you won’t ever ride and most likely will never finish because it makes you feel good.

    Six acres is 261,360 square feet, dig underground parking (like big boy cities do) and build 5+ story multifamilies on that and you’d get 1600 units in there, not 361 like this article trumpets as some success.

    Let’s dig into these numbers, shall we…

    “Agrihood, which has a price tag of $250 million will use $23 million in Measure A funding, $15.7 million from the city of Santa Clara, and a grant of $50 million in tax-exempt bonds from the California Debt Limit Allocation Committee.”

    $250M / 361 units = $692520 / unit. $700K a door for studios and 1 bedroom units. Wow. How many square feet are studios, 500? A one-bedroom 1000? $1000-$1200/sqft in development costs? What? $300/sqft gets me running for the door. Keep in mind that is the projected cost, you’ll never hear about the final costs, they don’t make good photo ops. I’d bet the final number will be $1500/sqft.

    $88.7M out of the $250M look to be gratis and grants from local governments, which implies this will be owned by someone other than the government. Hmmm… like a LIHTC without the owner footing even the startup cost or some sort of down payment. I’m sure they won’t discount the tax credits though.

    “The units will be a mix of studio and one-bedroom apartments that will rent for about $2100 per month.”

    Woahhh, I thought you said this was for low-income people? A studio for $2100 a month is low income?

    “It aims to provide nearly 20,000 pounds of food to the community”

    … and…

    “Residents and community members can volunteer to prepare and harvest food from the farm, with professional staff on-site to tend to the food gardens.”

    I can buy organic cauliflower at my local Albertsons for $1.99 a pound. So this garden which “aims” to produce 20000lbs will generate $40,000 worth of food a year, employ “professional” staff (which will net out way higher than $40000 once burdened – I am 100% sure), and chew up nearly 2 acres of PRIME ROAST real estate to house 360 people at the tune of $250M of taxpayer money?

    This is why $2100 seems cheap. Until you stop and think, this is why you will always be played by these people and you will always be broke.

    Chumps…

  4. Correctomundo, compadre. A quarter $Billion to house 360 people (or even 720, if they double up) is gross malfeasance. Did the Soviet Politburo come up with this waste of resources?

    Ever since this “Agrihood” nonsense come up, I been askin’ just one question: “How will the few lucky folks be selected, the ones who’ll be deeded a life tenancy in a plot of prime land with “free” water supplied by the taxpaying public, where they can practice their gardening hobby?

    I would surely love to be one of them special few urban gardeners! Does anyone think I have a chance to be one of the lucky few?

    As if.

    Sad to say, I’m not a crony of anyone. I’m certainly not a pal of TPTB, or of the developer. So my chances are slim, or none — and Slim has left the building (hopin’ they’s at least one reader who hadn’t heard that one).

    So, where’s the waiting list for the folks who wants to have a free chunk of land with free water, courtesy of Joe ‘n’ Jill Taxpayer? IS there such a list? If there is, it’s been kept secreter than the Presidet’s nuculer DEFCON codes.

    And how will them few lucky urban farmers get picked? Is that info public? Once agin; as if.

    Despite alla the holier-than-thou talk about how uncorrupt everyone is, specially them electeds, I’d bet a month’s pay to a stale donut that there ain’t gonna be no lottery, nor any other fair way to pick them winners. Gnome sane?

  5. “Urban farming,” the fad of recent years, comes to (pun intended) fruition.

    Let’s see how long it lasts in that form. (Or in anything like that form)

  6. While adamantly opposing density anywhere near his backyard (or ours), HB–I mean Not Him–is correct to say that the density of this project could be considerably greater than planned, something that would boost affordability. With 371 planned housing units on 5.8 acres, and assuming an average of 2 persons per housing unit, Agrihood would have a density of about 128 persons-per-acre.

    That would be more than twice the density of the 42-acre luxury “village within a city”—i.e. Santana Row (SR)—located less than 10 minutes on foot from Agrihood. Assuming 2 persons per housing unit in each of SR’s 1,201 housing units yields about 57 persons per acre there (https://casestudies.uli.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/C034024.pdf; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santana_Row). I don’t hear Kulak–I mean Not Him–complaining about SR’s wasteful use of land. (Overall density on residential land in San Jose is probably less than 20 persons per acre–it’s less than 15 per acre on my suburban valley street. See https://sanjosespotlight.com/opportunity-housing-fact-check-does-it-really-eliminate-single-family-home-zoning/#comment-45615.)

    Not Suckered’s point about misplaced agricultural land is relevant here but only a little. Urban agriculture, including community gardens, are great ways for people to grow food, especially if they live in apartments or do not have yards. Maximizing edible landscape is a good way to both increase neighborliness and physical health.

    For the record, density and affordability at both the public/private Agrihood and private SR developments pale in comparison to San Jose State University’s (SJSU), government-built and government-run residential housing built on government-owned land. There you have a density of about 332 persons-per-acre, more than 2.5 times that of the Agrihood project and more than 5.5 times that of SR (https://sanjosespotlight.com/opportunity-housing-fact-check-does-it-really-eliminate-single-family-home-zoning/#comment-45615). Socialized and social housing is both more affordable and more sustainable in the long-term. I don’t see John Galt–I mean Not Him–making this point.

  7. Oh Jeez…

    Where does one begin.

    First, this was not an article about Santana Row. But let’s explore that. Santana Row’s function is not to house low income residences, it is a Sales Tax Collection Depot (which in San Jose is creeping up to tithe levels) and a jobs creating machine, with some condos stapled on (which collect above average property taxes.) Talking about it’s density is as about as much of missing the point as I can imagine. The purpose of this $250M urban “farm” project is to house low income people (which San Jose has in droves) and the elderly (whose populations will be exploding), and using that measure, it fails miserably. It is $700K per door and those are small doors and it wastes a ton of residential land with the worst possible replacement, a small amount of money-losing agricultural land while we gash a swath a concrete across the one of greatest food machine ever conceived. It is a brain-dead project, bouyed by feelz not thinks.

    Second, as has been pointing out to you many times, the PRICE of rent of SJSU is very high, higher than Palo Alto while the cost to produce that service is unknowable. If it is well run as you claim, it’s because the coordinators are bleeding their customers dry. SJSU may have more density, true as one would expect from dorms, somehow they managed to bypass the enviro-zealots and introduce quite a bit of shade, which will get an affordable housing project killed in San Francisco. The whole city should be that dense, like any other city.

    Third, you simply have no idea where or how I invest my money or what is good for investors – a communist (or at least a destroyer of economies) wouldn’t. I have bought and will continue to buy in Tokyo and around France as they endlessly (over) build and a 500 sqft unit can be had for less $200K. I purchased a townhouse near Bordeaux recently at 100E/sqft, it’ll take about 20K E to renovate, but that’s still a great deal. In the US markets I operate in, I win when there is more development, because more roofs brings more restaurants and stores and other retail attractors of desperate housewives. And I buy way below these idiotic development costs, so I always win. The worst thing for me is not more units, but more people moving on to bolder espresso in a shinnery town.

    Now I see you dream for a better world, but dreams won’t get anyone there. Thinking, reasoning, planning, and executing will. That takes competence, something they don’t teach in schools anymore.

  8. Smokey – ahhh yes the free water, forgot about that one. I used to grow strawberries in our yard until my wife pulled rank and showed me the water bill, it was worth like a years supply of strawberries for one month of water. Isn’t there a book about the $64 dollar tomato or something. It’s not just you have zero chance of getting a unit, how long before they put a fence on it and only let 300 tenants or so eat the veggies? 5 minutes? My dad would go there and pick dinner if he lived in San Jose – let there be zero doubt, imagine how many other walk-ons would?

  9. “The unique housing site will have 160 mixed-income apartments, 165 homes for low-income seniors and veterans and 36 townhomes.” More information on the townhomes would have been welcomed. What will the proposed HOA fee start at, and what is the anticipated market or below market rate be? Any clues?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *