San Jose holds neighborhood assembly to develop Diridon Station

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by Sonya Herrera December 3, 2020

A San Jose Planning Commission study session on the Diridon Station Area Plan this week provided a glimpse into tonight’s much-anticipated public discussion of the high-profile development.

Commissioners held a study session on December 2 to discuss San Jose’s development plan for the 250-acre area, including the 80-acre campus project proposed by Google.

Tim Rood, Head of Planning, outlined some of the key changes to the plan, particularly the change in building heights.

The elevation changes have generated criticism as city officials have pushed the tops of the tallest buildings in the area up to the Federal Aviation Administration’s height restrictions – about 295 feet, or about 28 stories. Rood noted that following feedback from the current residents, the heights had been decreased and then increased.

High-rise, mid-rise, and transitional building height restrictions in the latest Diridon Station Area Plan. Courtesy of the City of San Jose.

Nicolle Burnham, deputy director of the parks and recreation division, described the open space features and said if the plan were approved, the city would attempt to acquire land along Los Gatos Creek between Park Avenue and San Fernando Avenues to make up the lot Gatos Creek Trail to be completed.

If the current version of the Diridon Station Area Plan is approved, the city would seek to acquire the portion of land between Autumn Avenue and Los Gatos Creek to complete the river walk. Screenshot by Sonya Herrera courtesy of Google Maps.

Eric Eidlin, the city’s station planning manager, told commissioners that parking privileges for new residents would be “unbundled” from their rental payments – meaning residents would have to buy or lease their own parking spaces instead of providing a space through their housing contract .

The plan provides a 25% affordable residential destination for the area that aims to build ultra-low-income, low-income, and middle-income homes.

Kristen Clements, division head of the Housing Department’s political group, said the city wants to set up a conservation program to buy existing homes and convert them into affordable housing for low-income renters. The city has not yet identified a source of funding for this program.

Commissioner Deborah Torrens asked how concerns expressed by the San Jose Sharks about building new developments, including the Google Downtown West project, the downtown Bay Area Rapid Transit tunnel, and preparations for the California high-speed line, could be addressed.

Google’s 80-acre plan includes 4,000 residential units, 7.3 million square feet of office space, 10 parks, and a 30,000 to 50,000 square foot community center. Around 30,000 new employees are expected to come to downtown San Jose.

The hockey team said it could be evicted from San Jose as constant development, road closures, and lack of parking could put access to the SAP Center at risk. Jessica Zenk, assistant director of the transportation division, said the city is working with the sharks to manage the impact on construction and traffic.

Commissioner Pierluigi Oliverio expressed concern about excluding Asian residents from the racial fair share of the city’s affordable housing plan. Commission chairman Mariel Caballero also asked about racial justice and suggested that the city monitor the percentage, rather than the number, of black and Latino residents in the area.

“Given the increased housing capacity, I would suggest we choose a percentage rather than a number,” Caballero said. “If not, we will lose equity in this area.”

Clements said racial justice was not one of the city’s goals for the Diridon area plan. The city is making no efforts to maintain the number of Black and Latino residents in the area, she said, adding that they just want to track how the numbers of those residents change over time.

Caballero also asked if the area’s affordable residential goals could be increased to 50%, doubling the city’s current goal. Clements said the city is deciding how best to meet the 25% affordable housing goal and that it is “financially difficult” to achieve 50% affordable housing.

The meeting did not include a discussion of Google’s Downtown West project, which will occupy a significant portion of the Diridon area. The planning commission will hold a meeting dedicated to this project on December 9th at 4:30 pm.

San Jose planning director Rosalynn Hughey said the city plans to come up with a final draft of the plan, which the planning commission and city council could approve in the spring.

The Diridon Plan Community Meeting starts tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

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