Statistics show that the number of people under 25 who have drivers licenses has decreased steadily over the last 20 years. This may seem like random trivia on its face. But a closer look reveals a social trend that has significance to San Jose and other metropolitan areas across the country.
The trend among Millennials, or Generation Y, is to locate in a city that offers convenient access to all key aspects of life—work, home and social venues. Having all these in proximity to each other means life is livable without a car. This saves money, of course, but more than that it saves them time on a daily basis that can translate to a better quality of life.
Where young people once dreamed of living in the suburbs, complete with a nice car and a job some distance away, younger urbanites prefer to skip the daily commute in favor of spending time with friends and colleagues, relaxing at a restaurant or bar instead of crammed in a car, slogging through traffic with anonymous commuters.
Downtown San Jose is actually well positioned to provide a desirable city center for Gen-Y and those who will follow. A recent lunchtime program presented by SPUR San Jose featured a look at how other cities are working to create urban environments. What makes downtown San Jose attractive to developing this future core is that light rail and the Guadalupe River Trail offer alternative, clean, green transportation between living quarters and corporate campuses.
Guadalupe River Trail is a corridor for bicycles, skateboards, inline skates or a healthy walk between downtown living spaces and North San Jose jobs. The recent development of downtown restaurant/bars (Blackbird Tavern, Café Stritch, Vyne Bistro) that offer reasonably priced food, jazz and other lower-volume music is, I hope, a hint of what is beginning to be a truly great, walkable urban center.
The downtown parks form a wonderful greenway to compliment the urban core, and it behooves us to connect them, both conceptually and physically, to emphasize that they are key places for exercise, contemplation, or just a refreshing change of pace for urban dwellers.
Discovery Meadow, Arena Green, and the lower Guadalupe are literally connected, but I would add St. James Park, Plaza de Cesar Chavez, and Gore Park/Parque de Los Pobladores (now less of a green space, more of a plaza) to the suite of parks parallel to Guadalupe River Park.
It’s my hope that more cafés, galleries and similar entities will form around these parks to offer a relaxing meal or a drink with a view. Connecting St. James Park to Guadalupe via San Pedro Market Square also creates a vibrant East–West urban corridor that holds much promise for the many who live downtown.
James P. Reber is the executive director of San Jose Parks Foundation, a veteran nonprofit entrepreneur and experienced special event planner and producer. He can be reached at [email protected] or 408.893.PARK