Housing / Land Use

SJB housing element workshop narrows down potential sites for rezoning

Attendees favor vacant lot behind Valero gas station.

As part of the process to update San Juan Bautista’s housing element, Martin Carver from EMC Planning Group sought public input at an Aug. 13 Planning Commission workshop to narrow down possible sites for rezoning for affordable housing. The San Juan Bautista City Council hired EMC to update the city’s housing element on Jan. 14 after the state found the city out of compliance with state housing requirements.

Carver said the draft housing element was published on July 12 and the initial California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) study is under a 30-day public review that ends Aug. 30. The goal is to have the City Council adopt the housing element—a portion of a city or county’s general plan that outlines appropriate development procedure—in September. Among the city’s housing element requirements are a zoning designation for a possible homeless shelter, as well as transitional and supportive housing.

Over a dozen residents attended the housing workshop at the Community Center at 10 San Jose Street and discussed their preferences regarding three potential sites:

  • Site A: a vacant lot on Muckelemi Street behind the Valero gas station
  • Site B: a vacant lot between Highway 156 and Muckelemi Street
  • Site C: a lot with orchards on the east side of Lang Court

The attendees rated site A as their first choice and site C as their second choice. Site B got little support as some felt it could be better utilized as a gateway to San Juan Bautista.

“I’d hate to do B because that, combined with the lot next to it, could be used for mix use,” said resident Cara Vonk, who added that there was a “beautiful project” proposed 10 years ago, but the owners didn’t follow through because of lack of financial support.

Carver told participants that site C would require fewer changes, as it’s already zoned as low-density residential. Attendees, however, expressed concern over developing on the south side of Highway 156 because of safety risks for students crossing the busy road to go to and from school.

The group also explored the possibility of a pedestrian walkway over the highway. However, the discussion did not get much traction after Councilman John Freeman said doing so would be costly.

San Juan Bautista’s current regional housing need is 41 residential units for categories that range from extremely low income to above moderate, according to the presentation. Carver said that undeveloped sites identified in the current housing element, which was up-to-date through 2014, can be reused in the new version.

Freeman said that the city surpassed the 41 units, referring to the Copperleaf (45 units) and Rancho Vista (85 units) subdivisions built in recent years.

The workshop also brought up a conversation about how much control the city had over in-lieu fees for affordable housing. Carver said the ordinances for in-lieu fees are “a local beast” and that there is nothing in the state law that defines a range. 


Noe Magaña

Noe Magaña is BenitoLink Co-Editor and Content Manager. He joined BenitoLink as reporter intern and was soon brought on staff as a BenitoLink reporter. He also experiments with videography and photography. He is a San Benito High School alumnus with a bachelor's in journalism from San Jose State and a Liberal Arts Associate's Degree from Gavilan College. Noe also attended San Jose City College and was the managing editor for the City College Times, the school's newspaper. He was a reporter and later a copy editor for San Jose State's Spartan Daily. He is a USC Center for Health Journalism 2020 California Fellow.