SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a Thursday a streamlining of environmental review procedures that will greenlight the largest private sector investment in San Jose history.

Newsom signed SB 7, which allows the governor to extend expedited environmental review for key developments and further streamlines the process to include small-scale housing projects. The legislation paves the way for the city to partner with Google to create an urban village around San Jose’s Diridon Station.

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Artist rendering of a portion of Downtown West project in San Jose. (Google)

The project known as Downtown West will include 7.3 million square feet of new office space, plus a billion dollars in shops, plazas, parks, trails, and open space, as well as 4,000 units of housing, with 25% categorized as affordable. Google has also pledged to preserve iconic older buildings within the project’s borders.

“California’s recovery from the pandemic must tackle the housing shortage that threatens our economic growth and long-term prosperity,” said Newsom in a press statement. “Cutting red tape to save time and remove barriers to production helps us meet the urgent need for more housing while creating good jobs and preserving important environmental review.”

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Thursday the Downtown West project negates some of the misconceptions about big projects in Silicon Valley.

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“[Misconceptions] about California not being able to get red tape out of the way to make big things happen, to build the affordable housing we need, about tech somehow or another being complicit in some dystopian future,” said Liccardo.

Plans have been in the works for about four years, and Google has been pressured every step of the way by community groups and homeless advocates who fear poor people will be displaced by wealthy tech workers.

“SB 7 will enable San Jose’s transformative Downtown West project to move forward –bringing thousands of units of affordable housing and tens of thousands of jobs to our city – during a time our community needs it the most,” said Liccardo.

“This bill is a win for the environment, the economy, and California as a whole,” said Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins. “It speeds up the costly and time-consuming review process without compromising California’s strict environmental standards. With our economy in recovery mode from the impacts of COVID, high-wage jobs are needed, and this bill meets that demand.

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