Community Leaders Support Smart Growth over Blanket Upzoning by Wide Margin

Mayor Matt Mahan
3 min readSep 7, 2021

San Jose Inside, an independent local news publication, released its first Power Poll survey results today, demonstrating that our Smart Growth San Jose plan has far more community support than Opportunity Housing (also known as the Four-plex Plan).

SJ Inside’s new Power Poll is a panel survey of nearly one thousand San Jose residents in leadership positions representing a wide range of industries and experiences. Its inaugural survey tackled housing affordability, which has been thrust to the fore by skyrocketing home prices and a persistent lack of housing supply relative to job and population growth. While the panel is not a scientific poll of San Jose residents or likely San Jose voters, you can learn more about their methodology and the potential value of this “influencer” approach here and here.

Unsurprisingly to those of us who have spent time speaking with residents in our neighborhoods, survey respondents overwhelmingly rejected the Four-plex Plan, which would allow a developer, without public input, to replace a single-family home in any neighborhood in San Jose with up to a four-plex (plus potentially an ADU or two in the backyard). A combined 65% of respondents opposed the proposal, which is in line with results from scientific voter polls:

Responses to question about Opportunity Housing, which would allow redevelopment of single-family home neighborhoods into duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes.

While the Four-plex Plan is well-intentioned, it fails to acknowledge San Jose’s history of poor planning, which has already led to some of the worst traffic congestion in the country and an ineffective public transit system. Moreover, over 60% of our greenhouse gas emissions are attributable to car use, which would actually increase on a per capita basis were we to embrace blanket upzoning. Finally, there’s a social justice argument for being skeptical of this approach: developers I’ve spoken with have unanimously agreed that indiscriminate upzoning will incentivize the redevelopment of lower-income single-family neighborhoods where the economics for developers are most favorable. Silver Creek and Almaden won’t see a lot of new fourplexes — at least in the near term — but Alum Rock and Overfelt will.

In contrast, the Smart Growth San Jose plan that I’ve put forth doubles down on our existing General Plan, which was created through a multi-year, stakeholder-driven process. The General Plan landed on a compromise that most San Joseans can live with: yes to growth, but where it makes sense. This means significantly increasing population and job density in downtown, North San Jose and along well-served transit corridors. The General Plan already points to where the next 120,000 new homes (representing a roughly 25% increase in the city’s population) ought to be built by 2040.

The real question is why we aren’t building these new homes and the short answer is our high cost of development, some of which can be attributed to government in the form of fees, taxes, lengthy and unpredictable review processes, inspection delays, retail space mandates, planning horizons and myriad other arbitrary obstacles we’ve created. My Smart Growth San Jose plan outlines the reforms we need to unlock the next 120,000 homes we’ve already planned for:

In addition to being common sense, this plan has public support. Over 62% of SJ Inside’s Power Poll respondents supported the notion of streamlining and incentivizing development in our 68 designated urban villages:

Responses to question about our Smart Growth plan, which would streamline and incentivize development within the city’s 68 designated urban villages.

As usual, the collective wisdom of the crowd is right. We need more housing — a lot more of it, in fact — but we should and we can build it in a way that enhances our collective quality of life.

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Mayor Matt Mahan

Mayor, San Jose. Former D10 Councilmember, Brigade CEO & Co-founder, SVLG and Joint Venture Silicon Valley Boards, and SJ Clean Energy Commission