The 259 Meridian project expected to be approved today by the San Jose City Council is one of the first developments that fits into the city’s West San Carlos Urban Village plan.
The proposal includes the demolition of three existing commercial buildings—comprising a combined 19,000 square feet—and a surface parking lot, which would be replaced by 226 residential units and about 1,400 square feet of ground-floor commercial space at 259 Meridian Ave. Hallmarks of urban villages include pedestrian and bike-friendly pathways, easy access to public transit and sustainably dense development.
Catalyze Silicon Valley—a nonprofit that drives public engagement to encourage cities to build sustainable, vibrant and equitable projects—was in constant talks with Strangis Properties, the developer of 259 Meridian.
“Catalyze SV engaged us early on and was very helpful in asking us and helping us improve on the project relative to things important to them, including density, parking and development,” said Strangis Properties CEO Jerry Strangis, who has worked on some of the most recognizable structures in Silicon Valley, including Communications Hill, McCarthy Ranch and Hewlett Packard.
Catalyze SV Executive Director Alex Shoor said his group has never worked with developers that have been as responsive as Strangis Properties, noting that the company stayed engaged with the community and expressed willingness to make changes to the project based on public feedback. “They keep working hard to be very responsible of the things we’ve asked them for,” Shoor said.
To wit: within the last two weeks, Strangis Properties earned rave reviews from Shoor as 15 percent of the on-site homes will be set aside as affordable—a change from the original plan. The micro-units will each span 400 square feet, and thus will be easier to afford and less expensive than the regular units on site.
Catalyze SV’s Project Advocacy Committee is made up of community members who identify, vet and lead advocacy efforts around specific developments. The committee uses seven metrics to score a project, including affordability, community, transportation, legacy, intensity/zoning, sustainability and vibrancy.
An average score of 3.5 is required for Catalyze SV to consider advocating for full support for a proposed project. In January 2019, Catalyze SV members gave the 259 Meridian Project a score of 2.83. In their most recent review this past February, however, the Strangis Properties’ proposal was bumped up to a 3.66 score.
Shoor said the score would be higher if it took into account the on-site affordable housing, which was added only recently.
Catalyze SV members said they liked the project’s commitment to fewer cars, the number of affordable housing units and vibrancy—that is, the diversity of land-use configurations, such as the 2,256-square-foot on-site plaza with seating and public art.
“It’s a really excellent project and needs to get approved,” Shoor said in a phone call earlier this week. “We want to see it get approved.”
A collective effort from the likes of Strangis Properties, Catalyze SV, neighborhood associations, city staff and council members helped make 259 Meridian “as good as possible,” Shoor said. To get to this point represents a milestone of sorts, he added. However, Strangis said even if the council approves the plans, this is just the start.
“We still have to go through the building department, and we still have to maintain financing in this difficult post-COVID market,” Strangis said. “It’s more difficult these days, so there is still lot that needs to be done.”