San Jose’s recent reworking of its grand vision of redesigning the area surrounding the Diridon train station and SAP center is a massive increase in office space and hotel rooms over previous plans as the city seeks to expand and revitalize its downtown core.
After preparing numerous versions of its Diridon area development plan, the city released a new environmental report this week that extends the boundaries of the inner city and allows for much taller buildings and greater densities on the western edge.
The San Jose City Council first approved the Diridon Station Area Plan in 2014, almost three years before Google proposed its innovative vision for building a walk-through neighborhood in the downtown area. Over the past two years, the city has proposed changes to its original Diridon plan to incorporate Google’s pass-through village and redesign the western fringes of San Jose’s urban core.
The master plan for the Diridon Station Area, which includes the 80-acre area of Google’s proposed Downtown West neighborhood, has been expanded slightly under the latest release and encompasses approximately 262 acres – out of 250 acres. Compared to the draft report of the plan published in October, the new environmental report provides for an increase in office space by 10%, an increase in residential units by 2.5% and more than three times as many hotel rooms.
The updated development plan calls for the Diridon Station Area to experience a wide range of new developments over the next two decades in the form of up to:
- 12,944 residential units
- 14.14 million square meters of office space
- 469,000 square meters of retail space
- 1,100 hotel rooms
The latest updates will be released when San Jose officials put the finishing touches to a draft of the development agreement reached between Google and the city, outlining how much land Google is allowed to develop and how much money will be used to cover the impact of the project will contribute.
The contract, which can be released on March 15, describes how much money the technology giant is offering the city to pay for new parks, transportation infrastructure and improved utilities. It also lists the number of affordable housing units that Google wants to build on its land. The city’s Station Area Advisory Group is expected to discuss the development agreement at its next meeting on March 22nd.
The final draft of the Diridon Station Area Plan, which will be released this spring and which includes the Google Downtown West project, is due to receive initial approvals from the city’s planning commission and city council in May or June. Due to the pandemic, the city council’s examination of the Diridon Station Area Plan, Google’s Downtown West transit village project and the development agreement between Google and the city were delayed by several months last year – from late 2020 to early to mid-2021.
“What a long way we have come in seven years from the original plan (Diridon Station Area),” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. “In addition to the technical components – zoning and environmental sustainability – the San Jose City Council has a great vision of how these 262 acres can represent the best values of our future city.”
The Google Downtown West project and the new development and economic activity expected to arise around the new transit-oriented village, including the ambitious redevelopment of the Diridon train and bus station, will have long-term and far-reaching implications for the urban core of San Jose.
Google’s downtown West development could include up to 5,575 residential units, up to 6.3 million square feet of office space, up to 469,000 square feet of retail space, and up to 1,100 hotel rooms.
Meanwhile, the remaining portions of the Diridon Station area outside of Google’s project space could include up to 7,044 residential units, up to 7.8 million square feet of office space, and up to 424,100 square feet of retail space, the city report estimates.
Open space in a transit village that includes the future BART station Downtown San Jose near West Santa Clara Street and North First Street, concept.Foster + Partners Foster + Partners
Under the latest version of the plan, some of the new buildings could be built up to 295 feet tall, with the tallest being concentrated in the southern portion of the Diridon Station Area footprint near San Carlos Street. Other sections of the planning area – mainly on the western and southern fringes – have limit values for building heights of 65 feet or 90 feet according to the plan.
Bob Staedler, a land use and planning expert who consults with the Diridon Area Neighborhood Group, advocates lower height restrictions near residential areas and higher heights elsewhere in the planning area to compensate for any loss of development space.
“The surrounding neighborhoods have been some of the most supportive in the city in terms of development,” Staedler said in an interview on Wednesday, “but the devil is in the details in terms of how they are implemented.”