Building Consensus

Home builders are notorious for fighting building mandates, but in the case of San Jose’s green building proposal, which is going before the council soon, they’re apparently onboard. Hmm, maybe that’s because what San Jose is proposing really isn’t that strict?

Compare San Jose’s proposed ordinance to what Palo Alto has already implemented for green building, and it’s clear that Palo Alto has taken the lead. Besides having stricter requirements for commercial and industrial buildings, the city also has stricter thresholds for green building on the residential side. Not to mention the ordinance covers green building for home remodels, unlike San Jose’s.

But Jeff Janssen, senior policy adviser for Mayor Chuck Reed’s office, says you can’t really compare San Jose to the smaller cities, where development is not as heavy. Because of that, he says, San Jose has to carefully balance green-building goals with the builders’ needs, which is why they are phasing in the green building standards so they become increasingly more strict over the years.

“They don’t like mandates,” Janssen says of the builders. “But we are lucky the home builders here didn’t want to fight with us.” As far as other big cities in the Bay Area, Janssen says, San Jose is on par with places like San Francisco, as far as green building standards go. “I think we are pretty compatible with what everyone else is doing,” Janssen said. “We are phasing things in a little slower than San Francisco.”

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.


  1. I’m unclear why we call it “green building.”  Adding 30,000 new units in north San Jose and thousands of units in other areas, we should call it “brown building.”  After all, everything will be brown from the severe shortage of water.

  2. The only reason you can’t compare Palo Alto and San Jose is that Palo Alto builders get about a 400% premium on the price of their units, so they can easily afford some simple environmental building standards.

    That, and the residents they attract REALLY go for ‘green’ building in pure marketing terms. There is a development very close to San Antonio Road in Palo Alto, where their entire message is GREEN DEVELOPMENT, with solar, recyclable bamboo-like building materials, etc.

    San Joseans shop more on price and neighborhood.

    So I think ‘big’ and ‘small’ are deceptive in this case.

  3. Palo Alto imports 40,000 workers a day from the Central Valley, almost all of whom drive.  Their policies are about as green as a coal mine. 

    The 30,000 units won’t use much water, though.  Those units don’t have lawns.

  4. But smaller cities have mayors who happy with their jobs while Chuck keeps wandering the ailes of local grocery stores moaning.

    Can we get him some mood lifters?  The water therapy is not working.

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