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501 S Almaden Avenue

In Design

501 S Almaden Ave, San Jose, CA 95110

Project Overview

• Project Type: 100% Affordable

• Owner/Developer: Satellite Affordable Housing Associates

• Presented to our members: October 2023

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Catalyze SV evaluates project sustainability, equity, and vibrancy. Learn about our project review process.

501 S Almaden Avenue Project Scorecard
Project Overview:

501 S Almaden Avenue is a 17-story, 135-unit, mixed-use building just north of Valley Fair Mall in San Jose. The site is currently a paved parking lot that SAHA purchased in May 2021. The project proposes a mix of studios, one-, two-, and three-bedroom units. The development will also include property management offices, garage parking, and other amenities such as bicycle storage, community rooms, and outdoor open space with a children’s play area. It is well located with respect to local services, amenities, and public transit in Downtown San José.

501 S Almaden Avenue scored an overall 4 out of 5 from our Project Advocacy Committee members.

Community Score: 5/5

As we understand it, the development team conducted two city-based community meetings, the first in March 2022 and the second in September 2023. Our members commend the developer for going above and beyond in their community engagement efforts. We encourage additional efforts to engage residential neighbors and YWCA clients who could be future residents, emphasizing the importance of gathering more input from these groups. One of our members expressed appreciation for the excellent presentation and hoped for continued transparency through regular updates on the project's website. Our staff also appreciated SAHA’s quick willingness to engage with our process. Overall, we look forward to the development team’s commitment towards continued community engagement and appreciate the developer's commitment to fostering a collaborative environment and their proactive engagement with stakeholders.

Vibrancy Score: 3/5

The project proposes a central courtyard with seating, a children’s play area, and planters. Additionally, the project proposes a spacious community room with seating, a community kitchen, and computer workstations. We appreciate efforts at pedestrian activation in the project, highlighting features like wide sidewalks and nighttime illumination. Additionally, we encourage considering how building elements can connect with the human scale, especially at the entry-level. Our members highly value the vibrant and community-oriented design. We strongly recommended prioritizing and budgeting for public art and interpretive materials related to the Tamien Nation's unceded lands, emphasizing their importance for community vibrancy, especially in the absence of retail activation. We urge the development team to return and share updates on these aspects. One of our members suggested the need for more activation in the courtyard and expressed concern about the lack of ground-floor activation on the block, emphasizing the importance of making the site feel like home for residents through external-facing amenities. Overall, our members would like to see more community-focused design that can enliven the area. This is especially important if two multi-story affordable housing buildings are next door to each other on a block in need of greater activation.


Transportation Score: 4/5

Our members are pleased with the proposed project's proximity to Diridon Station. The current design includes 19 residential parking spaces and 36 bike parking spaces, including electrical vehicle (EV) charging stations. We largely support a lower parking ratio like 0.36 parking per unit. Our members recommended increasing bike parking, focusing on utility/cargo bikes, and ensuring a well-designed and user-friendly bike parking area. One of our members suggested offering tenant services like bike repair clinics and education programs to promote biking. As an incentive for public transit use, we encourage seeking funding for transit passes, making them available to every tenant who desires one for years . Overall, our members appreciate the project's location, with ample transit options and limited parking. However, we view transit passes as a beneficial complement to the low parking ratio, especially considering the downtown's transit-rich environment.


Intensity/Zoning Score: 4/5

The project's proposal to construct an 8-story building with 53 homes using the State Density Bonus Law garnered positive feedback from our members. We are pleased to see this intensely zoned (196 du/acre) development situated close to transit access. The prospect of an eight-story structure stands out as an opportunity to set a precedent for increased density and vertical development in San Jose. Some of our members would like to see the project be even taller and wonder if innovative building materials like modular construction or mass timber could achieve this important aim. Underlining the significance of addressing local housing requirements and the need for more homes, our members voiced their preference for maintaining the existing height and density without making any reductions.


Sustainability Score: 4/5

Our members emphasize buildings that go above and beyond on sustainability. The project is in a transit-rich urban infill site promoting a walkable environment. The project proposal includes an all electric building with solar photovoltaic panels and Energy Star appliances. Additionally, 10% of parking spaces would include electric vehicle charges. Our members appreciate the consideration of native, drought-tolerant landscaping. We applaud the development team aiming for Green Point Rating Gold and recommend striving for LEED Gold as well. Our members appreciate the inclusion of sustainable features such as solar panels, water conservation measures, native plants, and bioswales. One of our members urged the consideration of sustainable and renewable materials, as well as low-off gassing materials in the design. The member emphasized the importance of high R-value windows, preferably triple pane, for sound attenuation given the airplane flight path. Another member suggested providing shade on south/west exposures to reduce tenant AC bills. Overall, our members appreciate the project's green initiatives, particularly highlighting the solar panels and the pursuit of a gold standard.


Affordability Score: 5/5

Our members are staunch supporters of including on-site affordable housing in residential projects. We appreciate the 100% affordable project proposal serving 30%-60% AMI. The bedroom mix was well received by our members. Our members support the inclusion of 13 special needs units at 30% AMI receiving rental assistance from the County Office of Supportive Housing and Section 8 Project-Based Vouchers for the remaining units. We appreciated the project's commitment to addressing housing affordability across various income levels. We specifically commend the inclusion of mid-range affordability and the incorporation of disability housing, expressing enthusiasm for the creative housing types introduced in the project. Overall, the members voiced strong support for the comprehensive and inclusive nature of the affordable housing initiative.


Legacy Score: 3 /5

Admittedly, our members scores were unusually all over the map on this category. There was consensus though from our members emphasizing the importance of making a full commitment to honoring the Tamien Nation and acknowledging that the development is situated on unceded lands. We express a desire for a comprehensive effort in recognition and education on this matter, suggesting the creation of budgeted plans for educational materials and signage for pedestrians and tenants. One of our members proposed the integration of this theme into public art to honor the legacy of the site and the surrounding area. There was an overall agreement that while there were positive considerations, stronger commitment and execution on the presented points were desired. We encourage follow-through on the intention to recognize Native American history in the development.

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