SAN JOSE – To receive San Jose’s ultimate blessing on its broad vision of downtown, Google has offered to raise $ 200 million in welfare benefits as part of its plans to build a transit-oriented village that could work up to 20,000 people.
The proposal includes money to fight displacement and affordable housing, two pressing concerns that have kept the community on their toes. Some previous critics of the project said the new proposal is a significant step forward.
“While working with the city and our community to transform our western downtown into a vibrant urban village, Google has also developed a new national model for reshaping the relationship between technology and the surrounding community,” said Sam Liccardo, Mayor of San Jose, in an interview.
Google has proposed the development of a transit-oriented neighborhood near the Diridon train station and the SAP center that will include office buildings, houses, shops, restaurants, activity centers, cultural centers, hotel facilities and open spaces.
Gateway section near the Water Company Building in Google’s walk-through Downtown West neighborhood in downtown San Jose, concept. // SITELAB Urban Studio, Google
The details released on Tuesday mark the first time the Mountain View-based search giant has made concrete efforts for the community after months of negotiating with the city, including:
– 1,000 affordable homes that Google would pay to build on company-owned land as part of the San Jose Project. Additional affordable homes would be funded through special fees paid by the search giant or Google to make the land available for housing in locations near the transit village.
– A community fund of US $ 150 million that includes programs to preserve affordable housing and fight homelessness. Also included are homeless services, educational initiatives, human resource development and programs for resilience and small business entrepreneurship.
– A 30% local rent target for on-site construction and an obligation to pay state wages to all on-site construction workers.
– On-site field trips, career days, and computer science workshops for students from underserved communities interested in technology and tech-based careers. These will be offered as soon as Downtown West opens.
The remaining $ 50 million in the fund would be allocated to these other efforts, including local hiring, career exploration, and design and construction contracts for the office buildings with local, small and diverse businesses.
Downtown West location map showing general office, residential, active use, and open space locations. Office buildings are gray, apartments are sand or brown, places of activity (retail, restaurants, entertainment, culture, education) are purple. // Google
The funding package is “an important component for the city and community” to address concerns about the crowding out of the project and worsening the housing crisis, said Raul Peralez, councilor of San Jose.
The city will be reaching out to community leaders for help distributing the funds.
“By putting $ 150 million and real decision-making power in the hands of grassroots executives in displaced neighborhoods, this project is setting a new model for how technology can accommodate families and improve the quality of workers,” said he Maria Noel Fernandez, campaign manager at Silicon Valley Rising, an umbrella organization of community groups.
The San Fernando Street area in Google’s proposed walk-through Downtown West neighborhood in downtown San Jose shows buildings from the project near a light rail line and an existing building concept. // SITELAB Urban Studio, Google
“The city staff and Google have done a really great job of balancing our immediate needs with our future needs,” said Councilor Dev Davis.
The community benefits package includes $ 250 million in public benefits such as parking fees and transportation improvements required by the city, Liccardo said.
Regardless of the Community Benefit Package, Google estimates other features of the project to be worth at least $ 1 billion to the city. These benefits include a more accessible, connected city with multiple modes of transport and transit, state-of-the-art infrastructure upgrades, 15 acres of new parks and open spaces, on-site solar energy in Downtown West, no increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and widespread use of recycled water.
“The Downtown West project is the cornerstone of all developments in the wider Diridon Station Area,” said Bob Staedler, chief executive officer of Silicon Valley Synergy and representative of the Diridon Area Neighborhood Group (DANG). “DANG values Google’s willingness to work with neighbors.”
Google will also preserve several historically significant buildings and structures, including the historic San Jose Water Co. building, the centuries-old Kearney Pattern Works and Foundry building, and the Dance Pig sign that is part of the former Stephen’s Meat Products website.
“Any major US city would turn around and heavily subsidize to create such a job creation development,” said Mark Ritchie, president of Ritchie Commercial, a real estate company. “We are very happy to have a generous Google in our midst. Everyone should be walking in this neighborhood to see how underutilized it is right now. “
The tech titan hopes to lay the foundation for the first new buildings in 2023 and begin building roads and other key infrastructure in 2022, when the city approves a project that will transform much of the city center.
Tributary bridge and natural areas near Diridon train station in Google’s Downtown West project in downtown San Jose, concept. SITELAB Urban Studio, Google
The San Jose City Council is expected to make a final decision on the development agreement in late May.
“Right now in that area you have the Shark Tank, the train station, a collection of old industrial buildings, some shops and homes,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association.
“Downtown West will be a new community,” said Knies. “It won’t be a sealed off spaceship. It will be part of the streets, it will provide open spaces, housing, transit, natural areas. This is how a city should work. “
But beyond the breakthrough aspects of development, city officials suggested that the benefits to the community are of the kind not seen in connection with a project in San Jose.
“Google’s commitment to build thousands of residential units and ensure that a quarter of them are rent-restricted for real affordability is more tangible than ever from a major employer looking to expand their presence in a city. Liccardo said.