SJSU to turn state-owned downtown building into student housing

San Jose State University students, faculty and staff could soon have access to hundreds of new apartments on land in downtown San Jose currently owned by the state.

On Friday, State Sen. Jim Beall (D-San Jose) said the state would allow the university to redevelop the Alquist Building on the Paseo de San Antonio into anywhere from 800 to 1,200 units, depending on whether a property nearby can also be worked into the deal.

While the exact details still need to be fleshed out and some state workers moved to other offices, the announcement marks a major turning point in addressing calls from homeless student advocates and others to do more to help those studying at the school find stable housing nearby.

“Everybody knows this is a dire need,” Beall said during a phone interview on Friday afternoon.

A recent report from the California State University system found that more than 4,000 SJSU students were homeless at some point during the previous year — around 13 percent of those enrolled.

The idea was floated last year, as reports of students and even faculty sleeping in cars or on the streets prompted calls from housing advocacy groups and San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo for the university to work to address the need for housing.

Now, Beall said, the transfer of the property from California to SJSU will serve as an example of how state-owned property can be used to help alleviate a ballooning housing crisis.

“I was one of the first housing leaders at SJSU when I was a student here, so this project is very personal to me,” Beall said in a statement. “My job was to report landlords for rental discrimination and help find housing for homeless students.”

In addition to badly needed housing, Beall said, the property is a valuable piece of real estate in a vibrant downtown area near campus.

Beall and Assemblyman Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) pushed successfully last year for $250,000 in state funding for SJSU to use to develop a housing plan for the space.

“Redeveloping the Alquist building for a multi-use housing and campus facility would help address SJSU’s growing need for campus community housing and expand the campus facilities,” Kalra said in a statement. “The Alquist building has great potential to enhance the connection between San Jose State and the downtown esplanade. I am excited to work with Senator Beall in helping SJSU with the process of redeveloping an underused facility that will bring great value to the university and the City of San Jose.”

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