San Jose City Council Approves Google’s Downtown West Project

Finally, it’s a done deal: Google will partner with San Jose to dramatically transform 80 acres around Diridon Station just west of downtown with apartments, stores, offices, parking and parks around a massive campus for the tech giant.

Tuesday night’s unanimous vote by the city council followed nearly four years of planning, hundreds of community meetings, protests and an 11th hour agreement with the San Jose Sharks and the SAP Center.

The historic decision was hailed in public comments before the council actions by business, labor and community leaders, as well as environmentalists, housing advocates and historic preservationists as transformative.

The project will add jobs, housing and scenic settings in an overlooked largely industrial area once considered as a site for an Oakland Athletics ballpark. The Downtown West plan will allow the construction of up to 5,900 residential units, and guarantee that 25 percent of the first 4,000 units built by Google will be affordable for low- and middle-income residents.

Google will be allowed to build up to 7.3 million square feet of office space, and the plan allows up to 500,000 square feet of retail and arts space, up to 300 hotel rooms; up to 800 limited-term corporate accommodations; up to two event and conference centers, plus warehouse space and approximately 15 acres of parks and open space along Guadalupe Creek.

The extends approximately one mile from north to south, and Is generally bounded by Lenzen Avenue and the Union Pacific railroad tracks to the north; North Montgomery street, Los Gatos Creek, the Guadalupe River, the Almaden Expressway, Barack Obama Boulevard, and Royal Avenue to the east; Auzerais Avenue to the south; and the Caltrain rail corridor and Cahill street to the west.

The 495-page agreement for Downtown West approved Tuesday, May 25, commits Google to fund a $200 million community benefits package and about $1 billion in other “features” in exchange for the green light for its new offices.

Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc., this month had a market capitalization value of nearly $1.6 trillion, fifth largest in the world. The Google campus in San Jose could employ as many as 25,000 people, dwarfing other downtown payrolls.

Mayor Sam Liccardo last month told San Jose Inside; “This makes San Jose a national model for how we can rebuild equitably after this pandemic, as cities throughout the country will be struggling mightily to address epic levels of unemployment and dislocation in their communities.”

The project will likely take more than a decade to build, but a unique “predevelopment” payment scheme could have Google send $3 million to the city for community development projects as early as next month. A new committee made up of residents would advise how the money should be spent, focusing on things like historically underrepresented communities, affordable housing, homelessness prevention or services and small business assistance.

The development agreement also comes with a promise to use local and diverse businesses to construct the project.

The tech giant also has promised to host field trips, career days and computer science workshops for students that come from underserved communities to promote STEM careers to students.

9 Comments

  1. Without sufficient water and electricity for those of us who are here, why are they bringing more users to compete for the incresingly limited resources?
    Empty new office buildings and housing blocks already exist throughout the valley.
    What is the local population saturation number?

  2. Not so worried about electricity, which can be created many ways (e.g. lots of sun), but water is a puzzler. How will San Jose avoid becoming a giant concrete mess? Developers love concrete and, when forced, plants in pots, but hate making space for greenery or for children & pets. – True, greenery also needs water, but if the area is drier long ter, there are still a lot of California desert cacti, yucca, as well as semi-arid plantings that make a dry environment healthier for people and their children/pets. These developments will make room for children and pets? One hopes housing and offices are not solely boxes for 20’s-something single tech-workers … BTW, have you read about the LA architectural contest for remaking part of LA higher density by concentrating on existing (gasp!) residents? See https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2021-05-17/an-architectural-competition-imagines-density-done-in-an-l-a-way

  3. YES! I have said a number of times that some low-rise garden apartments that so many of us know and even lived in, in earlier times, along collector streets, at junctions with arterials in particular, would be the kind of density increases more people might be willing to accept or tolerate. (The same is true for ADUs and subdivisions involving “complete” second houses on large enough parcels.)

    Instead we get large mid-rise blocks, even reaching “out of touch” heights, as some claim.

    Some who want bungalows are interesting, too, but thanks again for the garden apartment revisitation. This makes so much sense for more tolerable growth to many.

  4. If by “saturation number” you mean “carrying capacity,” as the environmentalists say (who often now want infill as well as more-dense, smaller-unit housing), it’s not on the minds of activists, developers, or politicians.

    Understand we have plenty more water supply, if that’s your primary concern like many people’s, though the people listed in the previous paragraph are likely ignorant, just assume it’s someone else’s problem. Most water use in the state is environmental. Just tap and send south more water from farther north.

    On the other hand, what’s sought also for the Diridon Station area is deliberate, substantial shortage of parking (and charging for it), plus road changes that decrease, not increase, capacity. Not everyone will ride Caltrain.

  5. @Better Before, Here’s today’s stream flow in California, courtesy USGS. Note the red=low flow dots all over but especially in NorCal. One can’t ship water, from the north, that isn’t there to anywhere. Unless you’ve got a desalination card up your sleeve (and then you’d need a good answer as what to do with the left over, concentrated salt), potable water is a real problem.

  6. The unanimous City Council vote giving final approval to the Downtown West project effectively cedes to Google inordinate power over the lives of San Joseans. Not only has the City surrendered “sovereignty” over an 80 acre plus segment of its spatial core, but should the project be ultimately realized, Google will have transformed San Jose to something resembling a company town, taxing the city administration’s attention, time, energy and resources to “feed the beast.” Google-fueled capital accumulation will both transform the face and feel of central San Jose and fuse what is essentially a lackey city government to its own public relations team.

    After all, Google’s worldwide revenues in 2020, at about $181 billion (https://www.statista.com/statistics/266206/googles-annual-global-revenue/), were about $38 billion more than the combined estimated revenues to be collected by the State of California ($131 billion), the County of Santa Clara ($7.8 billion) and the City of San Jose ($4.7 billion) in fiscal year 2020-2021 (State: http://www.ebudget.ca.gov/2020-21/pdf/Enacted/BudgetSummary/SummaryCharts.pdf; County: https://data.sccgov.org/stories/s/9zet-k73q; City: https://www.sanjoseca.gov/home/showpublisheddocument/72315/637557168199830000). With such resources, and with their gaggle of fawning groupies in City government, San Jose will be marketed and promoted as Googletown. CISCO and Adobe–both domiciled in San Jose–never achieved such status, not because their lobbyists are slouches, but due to their more modest corporate profiles and revenues (CISCO at $49.3 billion and Adobe at $12.8 billion in 2020).

    But neither Google, nor the hundreds of corporations collectively assembled in the Silicon Valley Leadership Group and the Silicon Valley Organization–our local version of Washington, DC’s K Street (https://thehill.com/business-a-lobbying/top-lobbyists/529550-the-hills-top-lobbyists-2020)–can or will deliver affordable housing, livable wages (other than to its own employees), efficient public transport or better public amenities. Who among the neoliberal City (or County or State) leadership will fight to tax the behemoth just to remedy the increases in economic and social inequalities–not least of which will be rising housing costs and heightened wage/salary disparities–that will result from the Googletown project?

  7. S.E. Hinton,

    You may be aware of what’s happening upstream around Klamath Falls, too.

    Ugly dry year or no (with more such years anticipated a generation, then two, from now), the north is where the most rain is and where best to get more. Were the North Coast rivers exploited for water use, there would be storage, not just year-to-year dependence. The North Coast rivers (and district) is worth something like forty (40) per cent of the state’s runoff annually, at least under normal conditions.

    (with hints of outsiders who are farther right making trouble, possibly)

    If more warming resulted eventually in the North Coast and Sacramento River districts “permanently” drying after the south was changed, there would likely be some kind of larger water transfer scheme set up, because the whole of the Northwest isn’t destined to the same fate. (A increase in summer dry period, and shifting north of its extent beyond southwestern BC, yes, though.)

    Public nukes to drive desalinization and pump it to where people are would be one alternative. That’ll be fun give history and tradition and increased demand internationally now from globalism for where the people are and want to be, plus will the Coastal Commission manifest warped politics to stop nukes in particular or desalinization or other use of the coast in general, even if needed.

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