San Jose Considers Zoning for ‘Adult Dorms’ in Downtown

As real estate values continue to skyrocket, San Jose will consider adding a zoning requirement for so-called co-living facilities—basically, living spaces with small bedrooms and spacious common areas. Much like a college dorm.

The City Council today will decide whether to amend local land-use regulations to allow for these adult dorms in downtown.

Planning, Building and Code Enforcement chief Rosalynn Hughey said the proposal could help the city meet the Mayor Sam Liccardo’s ambitious, if not insurmountable, vision of building 25,000 new housing units by 2022.

“This new use will be required to provide ample common living space for residents, provide extensive bicycle parking, and offer other transportation demand management incentives that support this urban living option,” Hughey wrote in a memo to the council. “These incentives could include but are not limited to ... carpool/vanpool share programs, bike-share programs, car-share programs, unbundled parking, and other incentive-based measures that encourage residents to use alternative modes of transportation rather than personal vehicles. It is too soon to tell if this particular housing product will be the answer to San Jose’s housing crisis. However, creating the path forward for a project like this is essential to getting to the heart of the mayor’s memo of finding creating ways to address the housing crisis in San Jose.”

The shared campus-style housing gives residents the opportunity to room with other people to reduce rent costs, without the usual headaches of looking for roommates in the classifieds. Although rent costs would remain high, developers expressed hope that a co-op model would drastically reduce the burden for residents who share rooms.

Liccardo, Vice Mayor Chappie Jones and council members Magdalena Carrasco and Raul Peralez co-authored a memo applauding the zoning proposal and directing the city to make sure prospective co-living developments are bicycle-friendly.

“This concept of co-living is not entirely foreign to San Jose considering existing models from traditional dormitory arrangements to the current reality of young professionals sharing rooms in high volume under one roof due to fiscal constraints,” the four council officials wrote. “This ordinance has long been needed and should be implemented in a fashion that enhances our urban core while minimizing surrounding impacts to our existing residential communities.”

Stevens Creek Development

Also on the agenda is an item on a sizable mixed-use project slated for Stevens Creek Boulevard. The development will consist of one building of 300 housing units spanning 10,000 square feet,  an eight-story building containing up to 293 residential units, a six-story parking garage and a six-story, 233,000-square-foot office tower. Five existing buildings totaling approximately 106,000 square feet and 68 trees will have to be demolished to make room for the new project.

Eighty-eight of the 600 housing units will be below-market-rate.

The Stevens Creek development is part of the city’s broad San Jose Envision 2040, which plans to add over 3 million square feet of office space, walkable neighborhoods and increased public transportation lines in the next two decades.

Building Heights

Councilors will hear a report about raising building heights in downtown, where strict limits are in place due to its proximity to the Mineta San Jose International Airport.

Although the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has capped building heights downtown to just over 300 feet, most planes flying out of San Jose self-impose a lower limit, instructing pilots to not go above a “one-engine operative” restriction. An OEI, as it’s called, ensures a plane can safely take off and land in case one of its engines fail.

The proposal the council is leaning towards would eliminate that OEI restriction. According to city documents, this can raise heights in the downtown core by 35 feet, and around Diridon Station by up to 150 feet.

If approved, this proposal could add 8.6 million square feet of office space to the area, resulting in an estimated $4.4 billion of new construction that would net the city an estimated $5.5 million in tax revenue, 4,700 new jobs and 12,800 new residents.

More from the ouncil agenda for Feb. 26, 2019:

  • The city will hold a meeting this spring in hopes of expediting the process for building publicly-funded affordable housing projects. There have been several delays in land use project studies, which pushes construction dates for these projects further back. Those kinds of delays risk losing financing for some projects and leads to increased construction costs.
  • The city and Valley Water will reach an agreement to revise—but still continue—their controversial practice of clearing homeless people from the city’s waterways. San Jose will continue to post notices at homeless encampments and coordinate outreach services for those affected by the sweeps. The water district will provide trash-clearing services and other sanitary needs.
  • The city will amend parts of its agreement to allow homeless people to sleep in their cars in designated parking spaces, provided they comply with noise and safety regulations. The pilot program was first rolled out in October last year, and will be extended with some amendments.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260


  1. I have a few concerns with this type of project. The article does not state what the average rent for a room will be and also will these type of units be considered apartments, motels or hotels, or single family homes and what type of business tax will be applied to these units and if this tax will be collected. Will this type of housing be subject to park fees if for example there are 100 rooms that are being rented out in a building. The devil is in the details and it would be nice to know the details. In addition, it would be nice to require that some of the rooms be rented at below market rate for single people who are not high tech workers. The council could require this from Planning.

  2. I have a better idea, give it to the Army Corps of Engineers, they can turn down town into an army base with free room and board, it will be keeps in tip top condition and clothing, medical, and food will be free.,

  3. It’s good to see the City start to consider dismantling the restrictive zoning practices that contribute greatly to the low-supply/high-cost housing crunch we currently experience, and which effects our lower-income neighbors disproportionately. These dorms recall the old-fashioned Single Room Occupancy hotels which used to give low-cost shelter to people down on their luck–and which of course got regulated out of existence. The best way to lower the cost of housing is to get rid of the gov’t regulations–especially zoning–that unnaturally make higher density housing impossible to build without subsidies. It can be done: look at Chicago and Houston where there is no housing crunch.

  4. This is what happens when the tech industry floods the US with low cost labor. San Jose, The slum of Silicon Valley

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