Don Rocha Urges City to Take Action on Affordable Housing Fee

San Jose should move forward with plans to enact a developer fee that would pay for much-needed affordable housing, Councilman Don Rocha urges.

In a memo to the Rules and Open Government Committee, Rocha says two years of discussion and study have laid enough groundwork. It’s time, he adds, to make a decision about how to proceed.

The potential cost to developers will likely fall in the range of $17 to $28 per square foot for new rental units. It’s possible that San Jose will push the fee down in line with Mountain View, where the council OK’d a $10-a-square-foot impact fee last year.

San Jose is considering the housing fee after losing a huge chunk of affordable housing funds with the dissolution of its redevelopment agency a few years ago. A report by the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley earlier this year showed that the region lost 63 percent of its affordable housing revenue since the statewide closure of redevelopment agencies.

The loss was worsened when the city’s inclusionary housing zoning, which required developers to pay a fee for housing that lacked sub-market rate units, was challenged in court.

A coalition of business groups asked the council to delay discussions about an impact fee for a few months, to study whether the extra cost on residential construction would freeze new development.

Meanwhile, demand for affordable housing is skyrocketing because of a surge in low-wage jobs.

In a letter to the city, Law Foundation of Silicon Valley attorney James Zahradka urged the city to act quickly. An impact fee at its maximum justifiable level, he wrote, could bring 16,800 affordable rental homes to San Jose if matched by federal and state housing funds that become available when a city contributes to low-income housing development.

More from the San Jose Rules and Open Government Committee for Sept. 24, 2014:

  • Another gun buyback is set for Dec. 13. Councilman Xavier Campos will host the event at the PAL Stadium in East San Jose. Last year, Campos’ office teamed up with the San Jose Police Department and Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office to put on the first gun buyback in San Jose in more than a decade. The effort took 463 weapons off the streets.
  • City critic David Wall wonders why everyone who works in the office of the Independent Police Auditor is a woman. “Is it possible that ‘gender-based discrimination’ is an operational edict at the office of the IPA?” he asks. “It’s time to recalibrate and use your ‘bullshitometers’ again.”
  • A spat between San Jose and the county has tied up $50 million in funds meant to affordable housing. Legislation dissolving redevelopment agencies in 2011 created a lot of uncertainty, resulting in a dispute between the city and the county that is playing out in court. The fight will probably continue for years, Mayor Chuck Reed says in a memo, “yet both the city and the county have placed a high priority on affordable housing and homeless housing.” If both agencies agreed to spend the money on something they could agree upon, it would free up to $20 million a year for affordable housing and homeless shelters starting in January 2016, the mayor says.

WHAT: Rules and Open Government Committee meets
WHEN: 2pm Wednesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. > “Meanwhile, demand for affordable housing is skyrocketing … ”

    What about the demand for affordable Tesla’s, affordable Starbucks latte’s, affordable marijuana, affordable prostitutes, and affordable politicians?

    If all of the “available housing” is occupied and paid for, it is “affordable” by someone.

    I despise all the sophistic euphemisms and “neologisms” that are cooked up by the crypto-tribalists to motivate their war parties to attack the sweat and savings of the “others” they define as “enemy” tribes.

    For the uninitiated out there, “developer” is a tribalist codeword meaning “enemy tribe”. In tribalist morality, it’s OK to take things from enemy tribes.

    • Well some differences, for Teslas and Starbucks lattes at least, is that we don’t have neighborhood groups doing all they can to prevent these products from being created and sold. If we had an artificial shortage pushed by Nissan and Pete’s coffee, and coffee and cars were necessary to simply live (kind of like housing), I suspect they’d become pretty unaffordable as well.

      • > we don’t have neighborhood groups doing all they can to prevent these products from being created and sold

        Uh huh.

        > If we had an artificial shortage pushed by Nissan and Pete’s coffee, and coffee and cars were necessary to simply live (kind of like housing), I suspect they’d become pretty unaffordable as well.

        Uh huh.

        I don’t see how any of this legitimizes Don Rocha’s conceit that he can compel the government to order individual private citizens (“developers”) to provide subsidies (i.e., give money) to people that might be happy and grateful to vote for Rocha.

        And by the way, there is NO “artificial shortage” of “affordable housing”.

        There is an artificial SUPPLY of “affordable housing”.

        • “I don’t see how any of this legitimizes Don Rocha’s conceit that he can compel the government to order individual private citizens…”

          You act like this hasn’t been happening for years. And your asinine Tesla analogy demonstrates your lack of understanding of the issue.

          • > You act like this hasn’t been happening for years.

            Dear Mr. Kunt:

            I deeply apologize if I’ve mislead you.

            You are correct. The illegal and corrupt “affordable housing” scam has been going on for years, but it has just now bubbled to the top of my stack of things to be outraged about.

            I’m sorry if I haven’t been energetic enough in informing the public that it is illegal, corrupt, and has been going on for years.

            You are ahead of the curve.

            I’m sure you as disgusted as I am about the illegality and corruption of “affordable housing” and welcome the addition of your voice to the chorus of civic outrage.

    • Every once in awhile even people like sjoutsidethebubble hit home runs and don’t even know it.

      Don’t think developers and politicians they have in their pocket like SJOTB’S heroes Liccardo Reed are “enemies?” You might want to get real familiar with San Jose SPUR and their all-encompassing planning philosophy known as “neo-urbanism”

      While you have allowed yourself to be distracted by public employees (the code word for the tribe you consider an enemy) the neo-urbanists are busy planning “communities” getting rubber stamp approval from greedy self serving politicians at the expense of individual liberty… where there goal is for “us” to live in blissfully harmony as neighbors either “voluntarily” or through coersion.

      • Sam Liccardo is in the pocket of developers? The man introduced and championed the inclusionary housing ordinance mentioned in this article which developers are suing over. He’s endorsed by the Sierra Club and the League of Conservation Voters because he’s been a strong advocate for preserving San Jose’s greenbelt, despite the fact that developers could stand to make billions by developing those lands. So what makes you think he’s in the in pocket of developers?

        • You’re familiar with SPUR and the neo-urbanist philosophy that Sam believes in?

          There are “bad developers” who would destroy the planet building single family housing (sprawl… automobile dependent….) if it weren’t for Sam working hard to prevent expansion of housing into/beyond the green belt.

          Then, there are the “good developers” who have incorporated the “neo-urbanist” ideals and philosophy into their development business model (high density housing – centered around “transit hubs” and retail commerce catering to the population…that encourage walking, bicycling and mass transit while discouraging automobiles …) The kind developing in D3….

          Now sometimes, the good developers and the bad developers are one in the same – it just depends on the project… at the end of the day they are still developers and they rely on Sam and others on the council to get their projects approved – this necessitates campaign contributions and other help to keep “friends” like Sam in City Gov’t.

          Sam may have voted for something that generally may negatively impact a developers bottom line, Specifically he may vote and lobby others to waive those same statutes on a case by case basis… when it benefits him. Its called politics.

          • So Sam is in the pocket of developers because it’s part of his job to make land use decisions? Isn’t everyone who sits on the City Council in the pocket of developers, by that argument?

          • Politicians like Liccardo, Reed, and Rocha aren’t beholden to developers so much as their minds are held hostage by the PC doctrine that has conditioned them to believe that it’s a City’s duty to zone it such that the demand for “affordable housing” is satisfied. (As if that’s even possible!)
            Developers are only too happy to go along with this destructive political correctness since, for a given parcel of land with a certain acreage, they stand to profit more when the parcel is zoned at a higher density. So it’s in developers’ interests for the people to elect good, obedient, politically correct Democrats to San Jose’s city council.
            And political correctness, like the U.S. Constitution is a living and breathing set of ideas, always subject to change depending on the political wishes of the progressives by whom it is defined. It’s only a matter of time until “progressive” wisdom proclaims that the socially responsible thing to do is fill Coyote Valley with “affordable housing”.

          • Progressives live by “the narrative” and die by “the narrative”.

            If they don’t like your tribe, they call your house “sprawl” or “blight”, and punish you with bureaucracy, fees, crappy services, name calling and even eminent domain and bulldozers.

            If you belong to a progressive tribe, they call your house “affordable housing” or a “transit village” and make the other tribes pay for it. Isn’t it quaint and homey the progressive tribe members live in “villages”. It’s so bucolic.

            And it’s so “family oriented”, because those villages raise children. Hillary told us so.

          • @Carthgus…for some reason I can’t reply directly to you in this thread because there is no reply button after your comment (SJI there has to be a better way)

            Galt sums up another aspect of the “politics” I was talking about pretty well…so yes ALL are in the developer’s pocket some like Reed and Liccardo maybe more than the others.

      • > like SJOTB’S heroes Liccardo Reed

        Mr. Wheedle:

        You haven’t been paying attention. I have strongly dis-endorsed Liccardo, Reed, Cortese, and the rest of the craven pack for their craven embrace of the drug drenched human traffickers who are “acquiring” children in Central America “relocating” them to foster homes in San Jose.

          • > …while endorsing their efforts causing the decimation of the police and fire departments…

            Pick any one:

            a. Thin air.
            b. Whole cloth.
            c. Drug induced psychosis.
            d. Moldy marijuana.
            e. A bump on the head.

    • “Meanwhile, the demand for affordable housing (low income, section 8….) is skyrocketing because of A SURGE IN LOW WAGE JOBS.” Isn’t that the real problem? These rich companies need to pay a decent living wage!

      • Hang on a minute Downtown Dweller. This can be looked at a different way.
        Maybe it’s the City’s policy of building “affordable” housing that’s supplying your rich companies with a gigantic labor pool thus assisting these rich companies to become even richer.
        Our wonderful City, led by idiots like Don Rocha, is the primary cause of the problem that it is self righteously trying to “solve”.

      • Well, if these rich companies were civic minded, they would create the low wage jobs in Nevada or China and then there wouldn’t be any affordable housing crisis in San Jose.

        Problem solved.

        Do I have to think of everything?

  2. And if you re-read my statement, you’d see I never said there was a shortage of “affordable housing”, instead there was a housing shortage causing unaffordability. But it would be pretty dumb, as well as antithetical to your world view, to say that this market manipulation hasn’t caused a real problem.

    • > I never said there was a shortage of “affordable housing”, instead there was a housing shortage causing unaffordability.

      Well, silly me.

      Since English is my primary language, I hastily jumped to the conclusion that they meant the same thing.

      I didn’t realize you were talking in a different language.

      By the way, what language is it?

      • I can only guess you’re trying to be condescending while making some point about semantics that only you understand? Thankfully for the rest of us, you’re as relevant to the local political process as that guy who shows up to city council meetings accusing the CIA of assassinating Kennedy.

        • > Thankfully for the rest of us, …

          Oh. So you’re the spokesman for some powerful, influential cabal of local movers and shakers?

          Do any of these movers and shakers have names that anyone would recognize?

          Can you provide some evidence that the movers and shakers endorse what you have to say about anything.

          Or, are you just trying get someone — anyone — to notice your Facebook page?

  3. Once upon a time there was a landlord with twenty apartments to rent in a down market. His monthly cost per unit was $800 (financing, taxes, upkeep, etc.), thus, with an expected vacancy rate of 20%, he figured a rental rate of $1000 minimum would keep him out of the red and anything under $1200 a month would keep him competitive (and keep his tenants from crossing the street to a much better complex).

    Then the market changed. An influx of well-paid tech workers were filling up the top-tier properties (and driving rents upward), large numbers of foreclosure victims were driving up prices at the second-tier, and a wave of illegal immigrants had created a run on the cheapest properties. The effect on our landlord’s apartments, always considered third-tier units, was immediate: he was overwhelmed with applicants for his vacancies, and his competitive ceiling jumped from $1200 a month to $1800. Oh, happy day. He raised everyone’s rent.

    It was at this point that the compassionate community, the same folks who’d applauded sanctuary for the illegals, noticed there was a shortage of “affordable housing.” No, none of the cheap apartment buildings had burned down, and none had been upgraded, but for some strange reason, apartments which formerly went for $800 a month were now renting for $1500. Worse yet, the hourly wages of many workers (roofers, landscapers, cement masons, etc.) had been driven down (probably by Republicans) and these former third-tier renters were now slumming it, increasing the demand at the bottom even more.

    To the rescue rides the government; its solution, extract fees from housing investors to create more affordable housing. But since these fees will be built into the rental rates, and a rental increase at the top will, in a low-inventory market, pull up all rents with it, isn’t it inevitable that the extracted fees will raise the rents (and/or government subsidies) of even those at the bottom?

    Someone help me understand how this solution helps?

  4. OK So from the comments, folks are trying to figure out what is this?

    When the RDA existed, building low income housing was a no-brainer for both the city and developers. The city could get a low/no interest loan or grant for your project. City profited from plenty of developer fee’s, land improvement, and higher assessed values (property tax) developers prospered from having the bar to building these projects lowered.

    RDA vanishes, and our crime rate skyrockets. We can’t afford to police any new “projects”

    Yet there is still a demand from developers for low income housing, especially subsidized section 8 housing where the rents are subsidized by the fed and state. There is another side to this, private homeowners currently renting to section 8 folks would love to get out, and sell their properties to these new techies. By building new low income property, you give them a place to go to.

    So rather than scare people with “We’re building this stuff without the funds to police it” Rocha’s proposal would collect the fee’s to police it up front.

    Thing is from talking to our residents in district 9, the last thing we want is more low income housing. We want less shopping malls, more open space preserved, and less snarled traffic. So far Rocha has done the opposite. Most of the residents I talked to want to build bigger houses. A few suggested, “We should be able to buy adjacent lots and combine them, so we can build super houses!”

    • If you talk to Don Rocha and explain to him that as a resident of his district you don’t think we need to be building more affordable housing, he’ll argue with you. He won’t listen. He’ll smirk and dismiss you. This guy is NOT a representative. And yes, Liccardo shares his philosophy on “affordable housing”, and despite my reservations about your cousin’s labor affiliations, I’ll be voting for Dave Cortese for mayor..

      • “As the crowd gathers around an angry man, face down in the ground with a gun in his hand.”

        Was listening to Elvis Presley’s “In the Ghetto” as I was reading your comment John, sort of relevant I guess. Anyways, you’re not telling me anything I don’t already know. Just keep telling yourself, “It’s his last term” then go check out his form 460’s “Campaign disclosure” to see the entire story on why the “Ghettofication” of district 9 is a top priority. Gotta keep those donators happy!

  5. This convo has got me thinking. I am tired of fighting for simple quality of life issues in our city. My wrist was broken by a homeless woman squatting on my street. The 24-hour 7-11 has a constant stream of transients and crazies, many of whom loiter and panhandle, as well as perform bodily functions on the sidewalk. There are sections of this city that could very well be “Ghetto-fied” if we let it happen. The city doesn’t keep our neighborhood safe and clean, we neighbors do with a Neighborhood Watch. I never thought I would not be able to wait for retirement, but now I am devising plans to gett out of here as soon as possible. Problem is, housing prices may be rising, but not on the north side of our gleaming City Hall. Check out North 5th, especially around the city hall parking garage to see what our elected officials are doing about drugs, the homeless, and crime right at their doorstep!

  6. > My wrist was broken by a homeless woman squatting on my street. The 24-hour 7-11 has a constant stream of transients and crazies, many of whom loiter and panhandle, as well as perform bodily functions on the sidewalk.

    These people are really “foragers” (a.k.a., “hunter gatherers”). They live outside of the capitalist system. They don’t create wealth. They consume wealth. Your wealth.

    The forager life style is a subsistence life style. Ten thousand years ago, all humans lived a subsistence life style.

    Then someone invented capitalism (I. e. “savings”) which resulted in what many people recognize today as “quality of life”, e.g. indoor plumbing.

    Political eggheads like to dream up words to conceal the obvious, so they started referring to “subsistence life style” as “poverty”. But “poverty” is really the natural state of human beings.

    Capitalism, and wealth, and “quality of life” are really freaky and unnatural.

    But as Mae West once said: “I’ve been rich and I’ve been poor. Rich is better.”

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