We have big news —

Last Tuesday, February 26th, the City of San Jose voted unanimously (9-0) to approve the addition of coliving as a dedicated enumerated use in its Planning Code!

This vote is a huge deal, and is the culmination of many, many months of collaboration between Starcity, San Jose City staff, community stakeholders.

Okay, but what does that mean?

Basically, the amendment creates a new use category in the city’s Planning Code, which allows developers (like us!) to build coliving communities in downtown San Jose, including Starcity’s upcoming 800-unit project at 199 Bassett Street.

In the coming months, San Jose’s Housing Department will put forth recommendations as to how they will recognize and regulate coliving housing, which we hope will encourage more people to consider coliving and, in turn, allow it to remain affordable by design.

Why is this significant?

This action represents the first time a city in the US has formally adopted coliving as an approved use.

Before this, there was no framework to allow for anything besides a traditional layout — what’s referred to as a “multi-family apartment”.

“True to form” coliving communities could either not be built at all, or would have substantially compromised designs in order to comply with existing planning codes, which generally were created at a time when coliving wasn’t really considered.

While the traditional apartment rental style works for many people, it tends to sequester people in their own private spaces. San Jose’s amendment will now allow coliving communities to have multiple private bedrooms on each floor, centered around shared community spaces, like kitchens and living areas, to encourage conversation and community building.

More specifically, here are the major takeaways of this action:

  • Starcity’s project at 199 Bassett is on track to becoming a reality. Now that we don’t have to compromise our design for the community to fit it into another “box” — such as multi-family, group housing, or student housing — our team will submit a drawing package and seek approval as an official coliving building.
  • 199 Bassett Street is slated to be the first coliving project in San Jose and the largest coliving community in the world, when completed in 2021.
  • The new use language adopted by San Jose recognizes trends that correlate with coliving residents: reduced auto-dependency, higher transit or bike ridership, and greater interest in meaningful communal spaces. Coliving projects push cities in a more urban and sustainable direction.
  • At a global level, this action highlights coliving as an innovative move that may be extraordinarily helpful in providing a high volume of housing units at more competitive rents.
  • Coliving is one potential solution to the housing shortage that exists throughout San Jose, the Bay Area, and California.
  • Coliving is more affordable by design, and thus this new use category makes it possible to build a product that is attainable for middle-income folks, who currently have extremely limited housing options.
  • Finally, our expectation is that other major cities in California and beyond can now look to San Jose’s actions as an example of how to incorporate and incentivize creative housing solutions to meet today’s demands. This will pave the way for innovative coliving projects throughout the country.

All of us here at Starcity are extremely excited about this step. In particular, we’d like to thank Mayor Sam Liccardo, District 3 Councilmember Raul Peralez, and Director of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement Rosalynn Hughey.

These leaders, and their respective dedicated staff, have worked tirelessly over the last few months to bring forth a thoughtful amendment to the Planning Ordinance.

The decision effectively incentivizes coliving communities to be built in the heart of San Jose, and would not have been possible without their proactive mindset. Starcity is grateful to them for embracing coliving as a novel solution to the region’s housing challenges.