San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo (r) speaks in favor of Measure C as his council members from Vietnamese and Spanish community look on. (Amar D. Gupta/Siliconeer)

Two measures on the June 5 ballot in San Jose deal with housing. One, Measure C, is supported by the mayor, the City Council and community members. The other, Measure B, is backed by real estate interests.

At issue, is a 200-acre plot of undeveloped land in the Evergreen hills at the city’s eastern edge.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and his team spoke to ethnic media representatives last week about the measures. The mayor and his team were flanked by a chain of people holding placards reading, “Yes for C” and “No for B.”

Liccardo explained in English that Measure B is for “Builders,” and Measure C stands for “Community,” and why it is important to pass C and defeat B. His fellow council members followed his lead, speaking in Spanish and Vietnamese.

Measure B, they said, the Evergreen Senior Housing Initiative, was launched by real estate developers Carl Berg and Chop Keenan, who want to build 910 residential units ostensibly for seniors, but almost all units would be priced at market rate. B reduces the city requirement of 20 percent affordable housing in each new project to 6 percent.

Additionally, it exempts the developers from paying the standard fees for the impact of increased vehicular traffic and bypass the city’s environmental regulations.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo speaks in favor of Measure C outside San Jose City Hall, May 17. (Amar D. Gupta/Siliconeer)

The mayor and council members say that Measure B would stretch already strained city resources, create traffic gridlock and sprawl, destroying the green environment of San Jose’s Coyote Valley.

Measure C is meant to counter B and restrict residential development in the underutilized lands, which currently are reserved for job creation.  But the builders’ initiative goes beyond Evergreen hills, extending the job-killing reach of Measure B to all undeveloped “job creation” land in San Jose.

The City Council agrees that part of this land inevitably would be developed in some form that would include housing, but affordable housing rather than a conclave of luxury homes in the foothills. They say the land should be developed in accordance with the city’s plan, prepared with community leaders keeping community needs in mind.

“Measure B poses a threat for our Valley’s future, because the measure overrides limits on sprawling development in our most environmentally sensitive areas, such as Coyote Valley and the South Almaden Reserve,” Liccardo wrote in a recent opinion piece in San Jose Mercury News. “Measure B’s passage would destroy our hillsides and open spaces, and burden our freeways with even more gridlock.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo’s team flanked by a chain of people holding placards reading, “Yes for C” and “No for B,” outside San Jose City Hall, May 17. (Amar D. Gupta/Siliconeer)

Megan Medeiros, the executive director of the Committee for Green Foothills, who was one of the placard-holding activists during the mayor’s briefing, agrees. She and her team have been actively fighting and campaigning for Measure C, hosting precinct walks to go door-to-door and urging likely voters to vote “No” to urban sprawl and wildlife habitat destruction.

“The builders conned the unsuspecting citizens in malls and public places to get the signatures needed to put Measure B on the ballot, thus gaining a backdoor entry bypassing the city regulations,” said Medeiros.

In the end, it is up to the voters to make an informed decision on June 5. It is to be seen whether citizens will be taken in by the developers’ campaign against Measure C, or if they will read the “fine print” and vote against Measure B. At stake, as Mayor Liccardo puts it, is “the future of our children and successive generations.”

With less than two weeks to go before the votes and builder advertising in full swing, it appears to be an uphill battle for the city. 

For EMS – Jyoti Khera is a freelance writer based in San Jose. She writes on politics, food, and films for India Currents.