SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — The San Jose City Council approved a controversial sale of city-owned land to Google early Wednesday after hours of debate, boisterous opposition and the arrests of at least eight protesters.
The landmark unanimous vote wrapped up more than 10 hours of contentious debate over the sale of more than $100 million in land to the tech giant Google for a mega campus near the Diridon station in downtown San Jose.
Moments after it ended, protesters were escorted out of the building by police as they chanted ‘San Jose is not for sale.’
Mayor Sam Liccardo called the sale an important first step toward achieving a vibrant mixed-use development, but housing advocates claimed it was another step toward limiting access to affordable housing.
“This is how people win the fight,” 23-year-old San Jose resident Samirah Shri, a member of Serve the People, a grassroots organization fighting gentrification, told the San Jose Mercury News. “Sam Liccardo can pretend we’re not here, but we’re clearly here.”
Police arrested eight protesters who disrupted the meeting and chained themselves to chairs in the council chambers. The mayor stopped the meeting around 8:30 p.m. after protesters interrupted. It resumed just after 10 p.m. in empty chambers with protesters and others were forced to watch the proceeding on a big screen in another room.
“We should proceed with a vacant chamber, the public got to comment,” Liccardo said. “Under the law, the media has to be in the room with us.”
Police directed people to an overflow room to watch a livestream of the council debate. People voiced their frustrations to officers about the city operating behind closed doors.
Many critics are afraid the land sale will push rents higher and displace them.
“I personally have to pay rent by myself, I don’t have anyone supporting me and it’s going to become an even bigger issue for me and youth like me,” said San Jose resident Danitz Cedillo.
18-year-old Cedillo works as a waitress and pays $875 a month to share a one-bedroom near the proposed site. Google could bring as many as 25,000 jobs to the new site, but Cedillo doesn’t think those jobs will be for San Jose residents.
“Those jobs aren’t going to be for us, those jobs are going to be for people who live not in San Jose, but for the people who are going to be moving to San Jose for those jobs,” she added.
Mark Golan, VP of Real Estate Development and Investment, told the council the company has learned a tremendous amount about the local landscape.
“We’ve heard first and foremost that we need to prioritize housing at varying levels of affordability, and we’re committed to doing so,” said Golan.
Google has said that it would pay full market value for any land it acquires and that it is not seeking subsidies or tax abatements.
San Jose officials said the deal will benefit the city.
“The question is is this a good deal for the city of San Jose? Absolutely, and I think this offers the promise of a new way in which we can engage with tech,” Liccardo said.
The deal calls for 25 percent of new housing units to be for low-income residents and a community benefits package.
Longtime downtown resident Jeff Hare said google is already changing things for the better.
“They are inspiring a lot of innovation, new businesses coming in hoping to be a part of it, so we’re seeing a lot of revitalization of the downtown area already, just because they said they were going to come,” Hare said.