Residents wonder what San Jose College should do with 27 acres
After negotiations with a major developer and a lawsuit failed, the 27 acres of open land along Evergreen Valley College remained untouched for years.
And now it’s back to the drawing board for what should happen to the college land.
The once promising development opportunity sits in limbo as the San Jose Evergreen Community College district contests what to do with the vacant land. District administrators held a public meeting on Saturday to ask for ideas.
More than 70 people joined the virtual discussion, many of whom advocated for the district to expand university programs to attract students who have left the area for other colleges. Some said housing was badly needed. But community leaders in the East San Jose area say their voices have been muffled by district leaders.
“I imagine as the trial progresses they will feel more comfortable engaging with the community on what we can agree on,” said Robert Reese, table member. District 8 community round in San José Spotlight. “We ask them to be clear about the educational uses they envision and how they are going to achieve them.”
Matt Bohannon, vice president of Brailsford & Dunlavey, moderated Saturday’s meeting with district officials. The development management company is helping to raise awareness in the community and presented plans for the redesign of the Evergreen Valley College campus to the Board of Trustees on April 3.
The projects include a new sports complex, a student service center and a three-story building for teaching language arts. There are no development sketches or construction plans for the 27 acres.
A common theme on Saturday was an incentive to use the land for educational purposes. Many residents have spoken out against Evergreen Valley College’s lack of degrees and programs, forcing students to study elsewhere and enrollment to decline.
“The majority of our students see Evergreen (Valley College) as an extension of a local high school,” said Raquel Ornelas, an Evergreen resident. “They’d rather get on a bus and go to De Anza College, then get on the bus or skateboard down Evergreen Road.”
The saga of the future of the college’s vacant land spans 17 years when the land was first designated surplus by the district in 2004.
In December 2016, the district successfully lobbied San Jose to allow commercial development on the land, as well as 103,000 square feet for an elderly care facility and medical offices. The developer, Republic Urban, has abandoned housing plans at the site after significant opposition. But in July 2019, negotiations between the college and the developer deteriorated and the neighborhood withdrew.
The developer filed a lawsuit in October 2019 and the case continues today. The two sides are in pre-trial settlement talks.
Now the district is asking the community what should happen next.
“Evergreen Valley College shouldn’t have a project less ambitious than those on the West Side so that our students can also have the capacity to be employed in the high-end tech workforce,” a named resident said. Dave.
Members of the District 8 Community Roundtable, a local neighborhood organization, said 17,000 Evergreen students had left the area for larger community colleges like West Valley, De Anza and Foothill.
“It truly is an educational land,” Grace Lutheran Church pastor John Goldstein told the San José Spotlight. “We need to change the terminology and start talking about the educational uses of the land.”
Student Demi Yang said her studies at De Anza College are made easier because the campus has a daycare center – something Evergreen Valley College no longer has.
“I was hoping the land could be used for academic advancement to support student achievement regardless of the grade they choose,” she said. “I hope there are also lands preserved as natural wetlands so that our community can get more into nature.”
San Jose-Evergreen Community College District Chancellor Byron D. Clift Breland, who writes an educational column for the news organization, said the district will discuss “next steps” and provide feedback on future uses of the land. to the board of directors.
Clift Breland said he hoped the district could expand high-tech programs with paid jobs and more skills training programs on the 27 acres, as some residents suggested on Saturday.
Reese and others say they were excluded from development talks with Republic Urban and said decisions were made with little to no community engagement.
“(The district) spent a lot of time apologizing to the community for not hiring them,” Reese said. “It was surprising that they asked us (recently) for a proposal, and now we have a meeting and we don’t really know what we’re getting into.”
With four new directors on the board and a new board chair, Maria Fuentes, they hope their voice will be heard this time around.
“We’re looking to see that (requests) are genuinely taken into account when it comes to the board,” he said.
Contact Vicente Vera at [email protected] or follow him @vicentejvera on Twitter.