As it moves forward with building out a large swath of land in San Jose around Diridon Station, Google is vowing to be part of the fabric of San Jose — playing a key role in addressing homelessness and other issues — and not just an isolated tech campus.
“We decided to come to San Jose because we very much wanted to be part of the city,” Alexa Arena, Google’s real estate development director, told a gathering of city officials, residents, community organizations and others Wednesday night that also included an overview of how the station itself might be reimagined. “We are not here to build a campus in the city.”
Without providing specific details of how the Google development — expected to include offices, shops, restaurants and public space — might look, Arena said the project “has to be underpinned by social infrastructure…it’s more than about buildings.”
“There’s so much opportunity here to connect in and grow from our context,” she added, noting that San Jose has a rich culture and history from which to draw.
The city is set to review Google’s proposed development as it reworks its guidelines for development around the station, a process that should be completed by the end of 2020. Originally created in 2014, the Diridon Station Area Plan, as it is officially known, needs to be updated. The City Council recently voted to allow taller buildings around the station, and an Athletics baseball park previously expected to be built in the area never materialized.
Before it can break ground, the tech giant’s project will need to get approval from the City Council and undergo an environmental review. And Google must work out a development agreement with the city, which will include a series of community benefits such as affordable housing or educational resources for local schoolchildren.
“We’re really focused on creating the right kind of place,” said Google’s senior director of development, Joe Van Belleghem, designing for the “urban experiences that people crave.”
But the lack of specifics on Wednesday left some attendees skeptical.
“I really have no idea what to imagine,” said one attendee.
“There were a lot of community members who felt like they were unheard” when the city sold the land to Google in late 2018, said Nadia Aziz, with the Law Foundation of Silicon Valley.
And Jeffrey Buchanan, with the labor group Working Partnerships USA, raised concerns about the city moving too fast to adequately address issues like housing displacement and gentrification.
“The area around Diridon Station has become one of the hotspots for displacement,” Buchanan said. “I’m just really worried we’re pushing ahead on this timeline…before we really understand the impact of the housing issue.”
“We know we have to be a player in housing and affordability,” Van Belleghem said. “We’re listening and we’re very excited about entering this next phase.”
Google is set to come before the same group — officially the Station Area Advisory Group — later this summer with more specifics, such as where it wants to position different elements, like offices. The company, Arena said, wants to work with and support local businesses and nonprofits that can “grow as we grow.”
“We have to really keep learning and keep reflecting with you all and people in the community,” Arena said. “We’re in for the long haul.”
As Googles moves forward with its own project, the city — with partner transportation agencies — is beginning to debate how the station itself should change.
Regardless of how the station design ultimately shakes out, the number of passengers it serves is likely to increase dramatically. Caltrain electrification is already underway, and BART should arrive by 2026. High speed rail could connect to San Jose in the future, too.
Officials say they want a station that makes it easy for people to get from one mode of transportation to another, and to move downtown and into the surrounding neighborhoods easily.
One of the first parts of moving forward with the station redesign will be deciding where exactly the main station should be located, along with where entrances to the forthcoming BART station should be and where buses and taxis should pick up riders. Right now, there are three options up for consideration — positioning the station on San Fernando Street, putting it on Santa Clara Street, or setting it at Stover Street.
And not everyone is pleased.
A law firm representing the Sharks, who play at the SAP Center on Santa Clara Street, filed a letter in mid-May outlining concerns with putting the station on that street, including the loss of parking lots used by fans and possible gridlock on the road in front of the station entrance.
“The resulting losses to the business and goodwill of the Sharks could require payment of tens of millions of dollars in condemnation damages to the Sharks, and could jeopardize the long-term operational success of the SAP Center,” the letter read, urging the city to maintain the parking.
But a letter from SPUR — the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association — argued for the opposite: getting rid of rows and rows of cars near the transit hub and prioritizing access for people who walk or bike instead.
The City Council and various agency boards will meet in June, and there will be a couple more community meetings in English and Spanish before a draft is finalized.
As Teresa Alvarado of SPUR noted of the work around Diridon Station and the Google campus, “there are so many pieces of this incredible puzzle that have to be addressed.”
- Police, SWAT Officers In Standoff With Suspect At San Jose Home
- Grambling St. pays visit to San Jose St.
- San Jose St. squares up against UCLA
- Sharks’ Hertl scores twice as San Jose win streak stretches to 5 games
- Key Housing Announces Option for VIPs on the Hunt for Corporate Apartments in San Jose via New Featured Listing for NorCal
- The Scanner: Jury sides with family of San Jose teen shot by police in 2016
- Suspicious death shuts down main street of downtown San Jose
- Body found in car in San Jose, search for Utah tech CEO called off
- Court says San Jose can’t make its own rules when it comes to housing
- Hit-and-run victim identified in San Jose