Op-Ed: Is San Jose Deliberately Trying to Displace People?

Is the Affordable Housing Network the only organization in San Jose that believes San Jose’s “Envision 2040” General Plan is a blueprint for a train wreck?

Let me rephrase that.

Our city is already a train wreck—thousands of people living in the street, families forced to relocate to the Central Valley, traffic exploding, and the quality of life rapidly swirling down the drain. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf recently said the housing crisis is “about to kill the Bay Area.” San Jose’s general plan is better described as the nail in the coffin.

I took another look at the plan when City officials continually referenced it during recent public hearings on the Google Diridon project—as if to justify their curious indifference to the thousands of San Jose residents that the project threatens to displace. Mention of the San Jose general plan is generally prefaced with the remark that it was unanimously adopted by City Council after years of hearings attended by some 5000 people. Apparently this is expected to silence any opposition to its strange conclusions.

Few San Jose residents are aware of what our general plan actually says. Instead of fighting for common sense state fiscal reform, San Jose is attempting to solve its fiscal problems by restricting housing production in the middle of a catastrophic housing crisis. Envision 2040 was modified in 2016 by the Four Year Task Force and City Council, but its figures still simply do not add up.

The plan is based on a projection by the Center for the Continuing Study of the California Economy (CCSCE) that San Jose’s population will increase by about 405,000 new residents by 2040. The plan establishes a 1.1 jobs to employed resident goal. In order to reach this mark, it calls for job growth of 382,000 new jobs by 2040, while maintaining a housing goal of only 120,000 new units.

These figures are nonsensical.

In the first place, a population growth of 405,000 people cannot fit into 120,000 new units. At the California average of 3.1 persons per household, 120,000 housing units will only accommodate 372,000 people. Does the general plan propose to block the increased population projected by CCSCE from happening?

More seriously, if we plan for an additional 382,000 jobs, most experts agree that this will create an additional housing demand of about 254,000 housing units (382,000 divided by the average 1.5 jobs per household). If San Jose only allows construction of 120,000 additional housing units, where will those other 134,000 housing units be built? And where will the 134,000 households go, who are expected to work in San Jose, but whom the city is deliberately planning to refuse to house? 134,000 families at 3.1 persons per household comprise an astonishing 415,400 people.

Either we will erect a wall to bar those 415,400 people from living in San Jose, or more likely, since many of them will be more highly paid tech workers, they will move here and displace 415,400 other people who are already here—frequently including the families of people who built this city over generations.

Actually, some combination of these two scenarios will most likely happen, but the likeliest outcome will be widespread, massive displacement.

San Jose honored its most famous resident, Cesar Chavez, by naming its downtown plaza for him, and it continues to honor him with an annual city holiday and flag-raising ceremony. But what good are our ceremonies, if we banish hundreds of thousands of the very people he loved, and dedicated his life to organizing and defending?

No responsible urban scholar or policy-maker advocates displacement. It destroys communities, reduces diversity, tears families apart, erases culture, damages the environment, ruins people’s quality of life, undermines economic opportunity, and increases inequality and homelessness.

Where will these 415,400 people live? Mayor Liccardo recently stated he does not believe that other Bay Area cities will step up to provide the housing needed. The answer is that San Jose’s general plan, and the City Council, literally have no idea. They do not even mention that this is a problem, much less outline concrete steps to solve it.

The Google project is just another step down the primrose path.

Does anyone on the City Council care?

“Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven;
Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
And recks not his own rede.” —Shakespeare

Sandy Perry is president of the Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County. Opinions in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].


  1. EvEver hear of BART or the bullet train? That is their answer, Antioch and Fresno.

    You want affordable housing, end the lazy scapegoating of landlords and developers, they need tenants as much as tenants need them. It is the city council, their advocate supports, and university experts and their land use mismanagement that is the problem, they have always been the problem. End the UGB, end CEQA, end inclusionary fees, end “Smart” development, end the endless list of permits, end the massive incompetence of the building department, and perhaps supply will grown. Take down all these barriers of development and incentivize developers to build and property owners to rent.

    The city council’s dishonesty around the recent development measures and rent control will not only stymie development, it will increase conversion of renter-occupied to owner-occupied units. Why anyone still rents out SFHs, condos, townhouses, or duplexes with Prop 10 barrelling towards us is beyond me. JCE and rent control forced us to convert all of our units to owner-occupied, for which we are now grateful. Prop 10 and split rolls will only make the whole mess worse.

    Keep doing what you are doing, not listening to anyone who has a clue, and things will only get worse, not better.

  2. San Jose housing to jobs-housing ratio is way out of whack. New residents do not provide enough tax revenue to support all the public services they use. For decades, San Jose has provided the housing for the other cities in Silicon Valley, where jobs-housing ratios have been skewed in the opposite diection. Housing growth has to be balanced with job growth to ensure the longterm financial stability of the city. It will take decades for San Jose to reach a healthy balance. Yes, there is a housing shortage, but all those new residents will be using schools, parks, libraries, sewers, streets, and police and fire services. The fees that developers pay provide only short term funding for these services, which will be needed permanently. Keep building housing without regard for these economic facts, and our quality of life will continue to spiral down the drain.

    • > Keep building housing without regard for these economic facts, and our quality of life will continue to spiral down the drain.

      Makes sense to me.

      And I think the politicians KNOW this and they don’t care.

      WHY don’t they care?

    • Question: How many Engineers does it take, to solve a simple chronic homelessness problem??

      Answer: You don’t!! That’s not our department!!

      There is nothing more farcical, than watching a community of engineers, at Google and Facebook, scouring their schematic diagrams….and trying to solve a very simple problem…in ways that obviously won’t work…because they have systematically discouraged anyone who doesn’t have their STEM (Science,Technology, Engineering, Math) qualifications, from getting a job in the area!

      Why not import some social scientists, who already know the answers to the problem?

      Why is ‘chronic homelessness’ such a ‘simple problem’? Because the answer is already known! There is nothing left to figure out!!

      We live in a community that fails to do its ‘due diligence’….and fails to consult the vast literature, gathered by our universities, government researchers, and private foundations…. of effective ways to help the homeless ….even when that information appears in the front section of the newspaper.

      The ‘HOUSING FIRST Model’ has worked, exceptionally well, everywhere it has been tried….in this country, as well as in Canada. You simply put all of the county’s unsheltered residents into some kind of shelter..and then connect them with the services the need to solve their problems. Problem solved!!

      Expensive?? Hardly! It saves the tax-payers money, every time. Unsheltered residents have to eat. So, they often engage in crimes, such as shop-lifting, prostitution, braking into homes and selling drugs….just to eat. The Housing First approach saves the tax-payers huge amounts of money, by drastically reducing the need for police patrolling, associated court costs, and costs for incarceration, as well as the medical costs for those trapped outside in harsh weather.

      Problems solved!! But….don’t expect our engineering community to get it!! They have been failing ‘to get it’ for decades…which is why this article correctly describes our city as a ‘train wreck’..Silicon Valley….one of the wealthiest places in the world…a trillion dollar economy….with the 4th largest number of homeless in the country!!

      Time to hire some consultants with social science degrees!!

      • > The ‘HOUSING FIRST Model’ has worked, exceptionally well, everywhere it has been tried….in this country, as well as in Canada. You simply put all of the county’s unsheltered residents into some kind of shelter..and then connect them with the services the need to solve their problems. Problem solved!!

        > Expensive?? Hardly! It saves the tax-payers money, every time.

        ‘ ‘ ‘ ‘

        > Time to hire some consultants with social science degrees!!


        You got your social science degree at one of those budget social science schools. Right? One of the schools that advertises on marijuana cigarette papers, maybe?

        I’ve got a BETTER solution to the “chronic homelessness problem”:

        The BUSES and RESERVATIONS model!

        It worked wonders for the Injuns when Andrew Jackson (co-founder of the Democrat Party) made them homeless.

        Simply create Homeless Reservations on land that no one cares about and hundreds of miles away from Dianne Feinstein, Jerry Brown, and Sam Liccardo. And then scoop up the homeless from downtown San Jose, put them on buses, and bus them to the Reservation.

        Much, much cheaper than your wacky “HOUSING FIRST” model. Teepees are far cheaper than government subsidized new construction in Silicon Valley, the most expensive housing market on the planet.

        And, the BUSES and RESERVATIONS model WORKS! We’ve had reservations for a hundred and fifty years AND cities all over the country are ALREADY busing THEIR homeless to “de facto reservations” like San Francisco and Los Angeles.

        How come the social scientists never thought of this?

        • Sorry to deflate you! My social science degree was from one of the top 3 universities in the country! You are the one who lacks any education, in this area. And, that is quite obvious, to everyone :)

          And….your ‘Buses and Reservations approach’….is a classic example of what not to do. Because, it simply won’t work. Think about it!

          You are advocating a complete Dereliction of Responsibility. And, that is the problem.
          (How can you expect people on the street to take any ‘personal responsibility’..when you systematically refuse to take any Civic Responsibility?)

          There is no question, in any educated person’s mind….that Silicon Valley creates its own homelessness problem. We allow landlords to charge astronomical rates for rent. …. beyond any reasonable costs….and corporations refuse to give employees reasonable benefits.

          (No landlord you ever talk to, will be able to explain what expenses they incur, that they forces them to charge $2400 for the exact same 1- bedroom apartment that rents for about $500 in nearby communities, in the Central Valley. There are no such costs! Beyond a few low fees, it is almost all pure profit-taking. Ask a land-lord. I have, many times! They wont be able to tell you, about any extra costs!!

          And, that is a *BIG* problem. because, that means *NO* minimum wage workers can even afford to live here. And, with the cost of gas, very few, at that wage, can afford to commute.

          You don’t care!! Because, your approach is to evade all Responsibility for the problems our community has created. And dump it all on others.

          But….one problem with that…is other cities in the region, are thinking the same thing They are thinking of putting all their homeless people on buses, and shipping them to us!

          An entire nation….refusing to take any responsibility! And, it all starts, here, in Silicon Valley….one of the richest places in the world….with the 4th largest number of homeless in the country!!

  3. i don’t know what are you complaining about here, this is market economy at its finest.

    The native residents in san jose don’t have to sell to the tech workers, i bot my house in an old neighborhood last year, the previous owner cashed out and he’d lived there for the past 30 years. And since then, there were couple more houses listed/sold, and old/retired owners cashed out. so young people like myself get a place to live and old people get their money and moved to a place cheaper to retire, it is a win/win for everyone.

    of course, if you think this is unfair, then don’t sell. it is all fair trade, and we don’t live in a communist country where housing is assigned by the government.

  4. Thank You Meatball,
    Having lived in SJ for 44 years selling my home and moving back to the United State has been just wonderful. Just the opposite in that 44 years, I never had a job here but commuted to Santa Clara and Fremont hauling my property tax money back to San Jose. If San Jose can lure unsuspecting employers into their web they might actually be able to raise enough revenue to pay for the unfunded liabilities that have been heaped on the to few taxpayers living in the city. This city needs more rich taxpayers.

  5. Umm..this sounds like pouting over the market demands of the Bay Area in general, without providing any solution besides citing Google to sensationalize an agenda, which BTW still doesn’t stop the migration to SJ. The author should take a course in public communication 101……

  6. Sandy Perry. thank you for addressing the issue. those of us actually from here know that the problem is older than we are. and lame responses like John’s only make me sad and hope John goes back to wherever he was before he invaded our city.
    first of all. policy makers are accountable. they are not to impose policy that causes any harm. period. but John thinks people are pouting.
    the rule for policy makers is the solution has to do more good than harm. if the solution causes harm you don’t call it a solution and don’t use it. if it exacerbates a problem as in HOMELESSness you don’t do anything at all. enacting policy that exacerbates society ills is just idiotic.. comments like previous owners cashed out, show how dumb are new residents are. They didn’t cash out. you got taken to the cleaners…but you wouldn’t know the difference. California was cool until you all brought your greedy asses to town.

    • wow, what a pity hobo Manny is, if you can’t afford to live here, guess time to GTFO. South of the boarder probably a better fit for you.

  7. Make the criminals leave The price for rent will kick out criminals once guns go away there will be no more real crime . Self driverless cars no duis no car accidents . No gun crimes what are the police going to do . Kick out the in educated give them a chance though appdoetable rent

  8. Criminals, pedophiles, and druggies camp in our parks. Mentally ill homeless squat in our neighborhoods. We are starting to experience Middle Class flight, leaving only the rich and poor to populate San Jose. Quality of life swirled down the drain years ago. The Guardianship Bill that Brown signed should apply to San Jose, too! That will affect the tip of the iceberg.

  9. You know, as someone who’s known Sandy for a while, I can legitimately say that there was nobody more qualified to write this article.
    I’ve lived in San Jose my entire life and I’ve seen so many changes in my neighborhood as well. People selling their homes and moving elsewhere. Other people moving in and beginning their lives and families.
    I’ve also seen that the homeless population is out of control. And our city is failing at their moral obligation to deal with the problem. I strongly feel that our government needs to be held accountable for their lack of effort.

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