By B. Sakura Cannestra. San Jose Spotlight.
A Milpitas school district's plan to help its employees live where they work is paying off.
The Milpitas City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved plans to demolish a vacant one-story industrial building on 6.69 acres of land at 1355 California Circle and replace it with 206 townhomes and apartments. The 75 apartments would be affordable and most would be designated for Milpitas Unified School District employees. The project is being designed and developed by Pulte Group.
Council members praised the project for increasing the city's affordable housing stock: Milpitas needs to add more than 6,700 homes by 2031 to meet state requirements.
“This project is very delayed, it has taken a long time to arrive,” Mayor Carmen Montaño said at the meeting. “I know Pulte, you build very high-quality homes and that's what we want in Milpitas.”
As part of approving the project, the city council removed certain requirements from the city's General Plan. The plan called for 100 percent affordable housing and the creation of a zoning plan specific to the California Circle neighborhood.
Acting Planning Director Jay Lee told councilors that the 100 percent affordable housing requirement would limit future development.
Councilman Hon Lien, who served six years as a school board trustee, said having these homes will ease a heavy burden on district employees. Teachers have left the Bay Area due to the rising cost of living in the region.
“I would like to retain good teachers in our good district,” Lien told San Jose Spotlight. “Children are the future of our world and we need teachers to teach.”
Milpitas Unified School District Board President Chris Norwood said building housing is vital to keeping teachers in the region.
“Regional housing developers have a unique opportunity to invest time, talent and treasure into the public education systems of the communities that have supported them,” Norwood told San Jose Spotlight.
The school district has a dropout rate of between 10 and 15 percent for its more than a thousand employees. Norwood said the district's goal is to cut that in half, and providing resources like housing would help retain and better support incoming employees.
Pulte representative Jim Sullivan presented the project at the meeting. He said construction should begin early next year.
Councilors discussed when the apartments could be occupied during the course of the development. The city's initial recommendation was to withhold a portion of receiving certificates of occupancy until the affordable housing portion was completed.
Sullivan said this would cause the developer immense financial stress, because completion of the entire project will take more than two years. Lee said retaining a portion of the housing would incentivize the developer to complete the affordable housing. But council members disagreed, siding with Pulte to allow market-rate housing to be occupied before construction of affordable housing begins.
Pulte Group is a national homebuilder with projects throughout California, and council members pointed to the developer's reputation as a guarantee that the affordable housing portion will be completed.
“It seems like they are a force that is here to stay, to invest in Milpitas. We are very grateful for that investment,” said Councilman Anthony Phan. “We hope your experience with us has been positive and that you continue to invest greatly in our community.”
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