SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — San Jose City Council is set to vote Tuesday on an agreement that would enter the city into exclusive talks with Google to build a 6 million-square-foot office and retail development on the western edge of downtown.
Since December, Google and the Trammell Crow Company, a development firm with offices in 10 states, have acquired several parcels around the Diridon station, including a property on Montgomery Street
formerly owned by AT&T.
The Mountain View-based search giant is also seeking to acquire the city’s Fire Training property at 255 S. Montgomery St. and the four properties owned by the Successor Agency to the Redevelopment Agency that were included in the site that was previously considered for a ballpark development for the Oakland A’s.
Mayor Sam Liccardo announced earlier this month that the mixed-use, transit-oriented site would accommodate between 15,000 and 20,000 jobs and include public plazas and paseos, retail shops and a public
greenbelt and park along Los Gatos Creek.
Unlike many other tech developments, San Jose is staying away from the word “campus” to describe the proposed office, which can sound insular, said Nanci Klein, San Jose’s Assistant Director of Economic Development and Director of Real Estate.
Klein likened the new development to the Samsung complex in North San Jose, which features dining options for the public.
As a transit hub with train services from Caltrain, Amtrak, light-rail, the Altamont Corridor Express and bus agencies for three counties, city officials expect the development to accommodate and encourage
The station is also planned as a future stop on the California High-Speed Rail line and Phase II of the San Jose BART extension, slated for completion in 2026.
Currently Diridon sees about 900 transit trips per day, but when the high-speed rail and BART move in, city officials expect that number to shoot up to 1,600.
Heavy construction in the area will mean that, if the Google plan moves forward, development likely would not start until after 2020 at the earliest, Klein said.
Liccardo, Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco and council members Dev Davis, Raul Peralez and Sylvia Arenas signed a memo on Friday in support of the exclusive negotiating agreement while calling for a fair market value for the sale of any publicly owned parcels, not subsidizing the development with taxpayer dollars and implementing a “transparent community engagement process” involving local residents, small businesses and local organizations.
Activists from some of those organizations, including Working Partnerships, Silicon Valley Rising, Unite Here Local 19, the South Bay Labor Council and Latinos United for a New America delivered a letter to council staffers at City Hall this morning, calling on the council to oversee a “broad and inclusive community engagement process” to mitigate displacement caused by the potential development and protect low-income workers involved with it.
Union leaders voiced their support for the community benefits and influx of jobs that could be made possible by the Google development, but are pushing City Council to require Google, Trammell Crow, other tenants and
their contractors to “at least” meet the city’s living wage policy and to meet with labor organizations about the recruitment and training of local workers.
The letter cites research from the University of California at Berkeley suggesting that the site’s proximity to transit, huge increases in office space and the arrival of a mass of highly paid employees could trigger
displacement and gentrification downtown.
Ben Field with the South Bay Labor Council said, “There’s a substantial risk that it will exacerbate income inequality. There is a substantial risk, that will make the housing crisis even worse.”
The groups want union construction crews to build the campus and Google bus drivers, food service people and janitors to be paid well enough to live in San Jose.
But some city officials say housing is not the issue in San Jose.
“San Jose has a tremendous amount of housing and not enough jobs,” Klein said, calling San Jose “the bedroom community.”
Neighboring cities like Cupertino, Mountain View and Santa Clara have more jobs than they do housing, but in San Jose, it’s the other way around, Klein said, citing that the city has 0.83 jobs per employed resident.
Over the last decade, neighboring cities have built one housing unit for every nine jobs created while San Jose built one for every three, according to Klein.
“Jobs coming into the community is extremely good,” Klein said.
But affordable housing advocate Rose Wallace is among those with concerns.
“I am concerned about those who are low-income. I am concerned about those who are on disability. I don’t want them to be displaced while Google comes in and builds,” Wallace said.
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