On a specific day, take a stroll along the main boulevard on Santana Row. There are people who dine in expensive restaurants, sip decadent beverages, shop in luxury stores, and enjoy a safe, neat, and undisturbed sunny afternoon. Some people think this carefully manicured Silicon Valley fantasy is the best that San Jose has to offer.
The problem is, it was a dream meant for the few, not the many. And almost 20 years after the construction of this 42 hectare “village within a city”, it is still a place that – at its core – should be excluded. Affordability, accessibility, and inclusion simply weren’t part of the blueprint decades ago and are still conveniently ignored today.
It is the biggest challenge in the privatization of public space: there is also someone who decides who is allowed in and who is left out.
With thousands of people on the streets and many more on the verge of losing their homes, we need every square foot of land to best serve the needs of those who primarily have the least. The “live, work, play” lifestyle that so many of our city planners aspire to mean doesn’t mean much if you can’t even afford to pay the rent.
For this reason, the current plans around the Diridon Station Area and the vision for Downtown West actually offer hope. The vastness of the country is a future hub for transit, parks, jobs, and housing, and it truly promises to be the center of so much opportunity for San Jose. And thanks to the work of bitter supporters, committed leaders and neighbors who are ready to say yes for all more, it will not be a closed community of privileges.
While the numbers in Downtown West are staggering – over 4,000 residential units, 7.3 million square feet of office space, 15 acres of parks, and subsidized space for nonprofits and other local, small businesses – what stands out most is the commitment to creating some real affordability. The region’s 25% affordable housing target exceeds the city’s basic requirements and opens more doors than it closes to hardworking people who might one day want to call this place home.
Once the ink is dry, there is a fear that goals will sometimes be remembered. But with a dedication of four parcels that will yield approximately 800 units, 200 middle-income homes integrated into new market-driven housing developments, an estimated $ 87 million from the new commercial connection fee and a city housing investment policy calls for a 45% cut Investment of all housing funds in the creation of new homes for households with extremely low incomes. It is safe to say that the prerequisites have been created for affordable living space to arrive at the train station.
And with extremely low-income housing, we will avoid the homogenized, inaccessible future that so many of us fear. We will create an inclusive community where the people who drive San Jose can grow and thrive without the threat of homelessness lurking around every dark corner.
However, the specter of gentrification, displacement and heightened inequality is still very real. We all must continue to pressurize to ensure that the most affordable homes are built first and that the proposed $ 200 million in welfare benefits are used to improve the lives of the people struggling to make it today.
There is still a long way to go before the dirt in this corner of the world really begins to move. Let’s all keep working together to make sure what we have on paper today becomes the best downtown that we all know has the potential to do.
San José Spotlight columnist Ray Bramson is the Chief Impact Officer for Destination: Home, a nonprofit that works to end homelessness in Silicon Valley. His columns appear every second Monday of the month. Contact Ray at [email protected] or follow @rbramson on Twitter.