San Jose City Council approves the new downtown landmark

What was meant as a gift to attract positive attention and create an iconic downtown destination in the country’s tenth largest city has become a point of division and contention for some San Jose vocalists.

Despite the backlash from dozens of residents and environmental officials, San Jose officials have decided to advance plans for a new downtown landmark that they hope will greatly improve the area for Silicon Valley residents and visitors alike.

The proposed structure, known as the “Breeze of Innovation,” was voted first out of three in March by a 14-person jury selected by Urban Confluence Silicon Valley, the nonprofit group created to drive the effort forward Finalists selected. A total of 963 proposals from 72 countries worldwide were submitted.

The 200-foot-tall planned structure, designed by Fernando Jerez and Belén Pérez de Juan of SMAR Architecture Studio and located at the southern end of Guadalupe River Park, is made up of 500 steel bars swaying gently in the wind, creating power at night illuminate. The public art exhibition will have several levels of walkways, a café, an exhibition space and an observation deck that will offer expansive views of the valley.

SMAR Architecture Studio wrote that its design aims to create a landmark that encourages the harvest of clean energy, “to trigger perception, to change, to question reality … to inspire”.

The building is being donated to the city by the San Jose Light Tower Corporation, an organization that began building an artistically inspired landmark nearly five years ago, based on the former San Jose lighthouse that stood downtown from 1881 to 1915, To Pay Tribute With the unanimous approval of the city council, the company will launch a fundraiser to help cover the cost of building and maintaining the structure – a price estimated at up to $ 150 million.

Officials hope the fundraiser and project build-up will be completed by 2025.

The project has to return to the city council several times before shovels are in the dirt. City officials must also include the fundraising plan for the project, a gift acceptance agreement that outlines the expectations of the San Jose Light Tower Corporation, approval of the final project design, an environmental impact report, and a business and maintenance management plan will sign.

A rendering of “Breeze of Innovation” by Fernando Jerez and Belén Pérez de Juan from SMAR Architecture Studio, which was selected as the design for the planned landmark of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley in Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy Urban Confluence Silicon Valley)

Opponents of the proposed landmark wrote and called the city council meeting Tuesday night to urge city guides to reject the proposed design, calling it an “ecological disaster,” a “despicable gift,” a “noxious source of light pollution,” and a ” Waste of Philanthropy ‘dollars. “They argued that the nighttime lighting would cause light pollution that would be harmful not only to local wildlife but also to the community members living nearby.

Dashiell Leeds of the Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter said if built the structure would “become a symbol of environmental degradation”.

“In building a structure that sheds light at night against the will of the community and scientific experts in one of the most environmentally sensitive areas of the city, I wonder what message that will send,” he said.

Although the construction of the project is funded by private donors, efforts have required and will require some public funding. To date, the city has spent an estimated $ 43,000 on the project, and city officials estimate that additional costs of up to $ 150,000 in staff will be required over the next year, according to the city.

Pamela Campos, a lifelong San Jose resident, argued that philanthropic dollars could be better spent, especially as residents try to recover from the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

“I see that the city of San Jose has long pacified the interests of the rich and that the blacks are oppressed, especially in East San Jose,” she said. “We urgently need to invest in this community in order to tackle the future economic inequality of our citizens.”

A rendering of “Breeze of Innovation” by Fernando Jerez and Belén Pérez de Juan from SMAR Architecture Studio, which was selected as the design for the planned landmark of Urban Confluence Silicon Valley in Guadalupe River Park in downtown San Jose. (Courtesy Urban Confluence Silicon Valley)

However, the city council stressed that the proposed artwork in public spaces was a gift and that environmental concerns would be addressed in an upcoming environmental impact report, which will be monitored by city staff.

Mayor Sam Liccardo said the landmark “is something that will greatly improve our skyline” and “makes a statement” the city has been looking for. Councilor Dev Davis called it an “iconic structure” that would give the city “positive attention”. Both argued that the city could end up making a better decision if they pushed the project forward and looked at the environmental concerns fully.

“We are going to learn about the effects and I think through this process we are going to learn how to mitigate some of those effects,” he said during the meeting. “I will certainly follow the science, but it is important that we ask the questions so that we can get to this point.”

Resident Arthur Weissbrodt agreed with the city council and called the structure a “wonderful gift” and a “beautiful design”.

“We offered the city this wonderful project with no tax costs, and I think the only right thing is to accept it and enjoy it for many generations to come,” said Weissbrodt.

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