UPDATE: San Jose Council delays potential rezoning of Calle Willow

November 30, 2021

Small business owners in San Jose’s Calle Willow neighborhood fear displacement. A delayed vote on their neighborhood rezoning likely won’t help allay their fears.

San Jose City Council voted on Tuesday to postpone a vote to remove Willow Street, known to residents as Calle Willow, from a municipal plan to increase building height limits and encourage residential development there -low.

The proposal will be heard on December 7.

The proposed policy changes were rejected by residents and small business owners in the neighborhood. Calle Willow is part of a plan to alter the business districts of North 13th Street, parts of Willow Glen and Taylor Street to allow more residential development.

In a memo last week, council member Raul Peralez called on city officials to explore policies to prevent the future displacement of small businesses from Calle Willow after meeting with several business owners.

“We shouldn’t be just so keen on developing housing that we don’t care where we expand and we say we’re going to expand everywhere,” Peralez told the San José Spotlight. He has met with several owners of small businesses on Calle Willow, where he says they have been reduced to month-to-month leases by their owners.

A zoning change, Peralez feared, will make future rents more uncertain.

“The same should be said for very specific trade corridors,” he said. “(Calle Willow) is one of the few majority-minority trade corridors. We can preserve some communities like this and focus our redevelopment and densify other areas.”

The San José Planning Commission voted earlier this month to recommend that Calle Willow be removed from consideration for residential development, in agreement with neighborhood business owners.

A mural along Calle Willow. Photo courtesy of Rosalinda Aguilar.

The heavily Latino neighborhood is home to colorful businesses that often cater to the surrounding Spanish-speaking community, from Mexican bakeries to flower shops and taquerias. The area includes Willow Street between McLellan and Almaden avenues.

Business owners feared that a change in city policy would bring new, more expensive apartments to the area, which could mean higher cost of living and rents for business owners existing. Rising costs, say business owners, will force them to close.

“How much housing does San José need and why do you have to come and disrupt three or four blocks that are so important and crucial to these families and small businesses?” Rosalinda Aguilar, interim president of the Guadalupe Washington Neighborhood Association, told San José Spotlight. “If that is to happen, why can’t we look at blocks and buildings that really wouldn’t cause people as much harm and pain as those blocks would?”

Fears of displacement have had an impact on other sectors of activity in the city. In June, the council voted in favor of a multi-storey commercial and residential development at the San Jose flea market in the Berryessa neighborhood, although construction plans are still years away. The development will shrink the flea market and inevitably displace some sellers from small businesses. A group of vendors successfully lobbied the city to include a travel funds to help sellers financially in the meantime.

Guadalupe Washington is struggling with an influx of wealthier residents and more development. A new owner in the area last month pushed to paint on a fresco representing Latino culture in the neighborhood despite the community’s efforts to save it.

“I could lose my income, which is my family’s main income,” Miriam Raigoza, owner of Unlimited Barber Shop on Calle Willow, told San José Spotlight, through a Spanish interpreter. “I don’t have a plan or savings because I live hand to mouth. If (the rents) go up, my business will be gone.”

Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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