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Group pushes for 15,000 homes

As Google moves forward with its plans for about 50 acres near Diridon Station in San Jose, one affordable housing advocacy organization is calling on city leaders to lay out a clear plan for the remaining land — and pushing for one that includes space for up to 15,000 new homes.

On Friday, the group SV@Home outlined a range of possible scenarios for the largely industrial area west of the downtown core, suggesting the space could easily accommodate up to 35,000 jobs and 15,000 housing units.

Already, the tech giant has plans to build between 3,000 and nearly 6,000 homes, and around 25,000 Google employees could pour into the area. Reaching those larger targets, said SV@Home, is doable when officials factor in Google’s contribution.

“There’s a tremendous amount of opportunity to add both jobs and housing near the major transit hub in the area,” said Mathew Reed, policy manager for SV@Home.

The group conducted an analysis of land in the area, which totals roughly 240 acres. After removing streets, tracks, properties that are already developed or in the pipeline, about 10 acres for parking and Google’s land, there are roughly 60 acres left over where offices or homes could rise.

If land in the area is evenly divided between residential and non-residential uses, the analysis found, the average height of both office and apartment or condo buildings could be modest and still meet the group’s target — around four or five stories if a developer built on an entire lot. Even if a developer wanted to reserve half a lot for, say, green space, they could still reach SV@Home’s target by building eight or 10 stories.

Under height limits approved recently by San Jose leaders, buildings would be allowed to rise in some places to more than 20 stories, and SV@Home thinks residents can ultimately expect a mix of building heights, something Google also envisions.

“This is very much a work in progress,” Reed said. Still, he added, Google is “only part of the footprint.”

City leaders are expected to outline at least a partial vision for the space at a meeting of the Station Area Advisory Group in mid-March.

“There’s really potential for opportunity here and we shouldn’t constrain it,” Reed said.

Asked why SV@Home wasn’t suggesting even more than 15,000 units of housing, Reed demurred, indicating the idea might stretch beyond what San Jose is willing to consider.

Jeffrey Buchanan of the group Silicon Valley Rising, which has criticized the city for not doing enough to prevent the Google project from displacing low-income residents, praised the analysis.

Buchanan said he’s heard concerns from residents that the city “is not aiming to the right north star” when it comes to housing.

Kathryn Hedges, a downtown San Jose resident, would also like to see plans that include space for more housing.

“More housing is always better,” Hedges said.

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