In downtown San Jose, there are signs on many streets that read: “Notice of Development Proposal.”
This notice is from the local municipality, and it explains to local businesses and residents the huge, 85-acre mixed-use development created by Google. This forthcoming ‘Google Village,’ as we know it, starts construction next year. But any kind of urban change brings opinions, both for and against such a mega venture.
The Google Village is a mixed-use campus that will combine office space with living units for workers. It isn’t as dystopian as it sounds; lush greenery surrounds the minimal spaces (at least in its renderings), alongside 4,000 new housing units and 15 acres of open space as part of this $1B project.
Google’s development, known to San Jose locals as “Downtown West,” was first proposed in 2019. It covers over 80 acres of space in the Diridon Station area, with 7.3 million square feet of office space alongside the housing units.
Retail is part of the project, too. Google is developing 500,000 square feet of retail space alongside cultural and education studios, too. Ever since Google started buying property in the area in 2017, it has paid over $191 million for the land to construct the campus.
It’s what one local realtor calls an activity booster. “When the Google campus comes to downtown San Jose, we can expect to see increased commerce activities, improved restaurant traffic and new entertainment activities,” said Sandy Jamison, a San Jose-based realtor with Tuscana Properties.
“You’ll also see more bike riding and bike lanes, as a result,” Jamison added. “Google is a very bike-centric company, so there may be some changes to traffic patterns in the downtown area. Property values within one mile will rise. We should expect to see downtown continue to show signs of revitalization.”
Right now San Jose is among the wealthiest cities in the country. With a population of a million people, it’s among the largest cities in California after Los Angeles and San Diego. The median family income is roughly $88,000 and over 56% of the population live in owner-occupied housing units.
Other developments are already following Google’s footsteps. Two office towers from regional commuter rail company Caltrain are looking to build at the entrance of Diridon train station. The ground floor of the towers would have a retail plaza at its main floor of its three-acre development site.
Jeffrey Buchanan, the director of policy at advocacy group Working Partnerships USA, said that there’s an opportunity for trailblazing how tech can partner with a city.
“This project is has the opportunity to be a real model for how tech development can address issues of residential displacement, job quality and racial justice, thanks to an unprecedented investment in community investments, the creation of a community stabilization fund led by those in the most impacted communities and creating a path to over ten thousand family-supporting union jobs,” Buchanan said. “Already, this project has spurred a number of other developments, raising the need to ensure other developments keep to these higher standards when it comes to building affordable housing, protecting communities of color from displacement and ensuring a pathway to good union jobs.”
But it isn’t peachy to everyone. Some businesses are facing displacement due to the construction, and they’re seeking financial help. Charles Vela, owner of C&C Architectural Glass, recently said Google claims to help local businesses relocate, but the details are not clear.
“They haven’t (told us yet), and they probably don’t want to because then we’re going to want a piece of it,” Vela recently said. “I just hope it’s not all publicity and whatnot — it would be nice to just get some help. It’s so difficult to do that, especially if you have jobs lined up. Hopefully (Google) keeps their word on helping us out.”
In another case, a dive bar called Patty’s Inn is closing to clear the way for the Google campus. This bar, a hub for locals, has sat here for 88 years. “It’s the end of an era,” said the Patty’s Inn owner, Edward Charles Jenkins. “I wish they could have saved it. “It has been a people’s way of life and that’s what makes me sad.”
As of this week, Google has forked over its first round of community benefit funding, paying $3 million of the allotted $7.5 million to support its community stabilizing efforts, so locals and their businesses are not displaced, due to construction in downtown San Jose. It will also help the homeless by using the funding for affordable housing with shelters, while protecting low-income renters.
The city of San Jose is on board to make the transition as smooth as possible. Mayor Sam Liccardo commented that Google is taking a different approach, compared to other large corporations.
“Google has chosen the more enlightened path, making bold commitments to build affordable housing, invest in educational opportunities, and create pathways to better jobs for local residents,” Liccardo said in a statement. “Together, San Jose and Google will establish the national standard for equitable post-pandemic economic recovery.”
According to the city, a ‘Google community benefits package’ will allot a total of $200 million in community benefits toward creating economic opportunity via training, education, jobs and minimizing displacement, with a focus on those most in need. It also commits to a community-based decision-making approach for a fund aimed at addressing community needs (as part of the city’s post-pandemic recovery).
It’s major, to say the least.
“No other private project in the history of this city has come close to the potential community benefits that we expect from downtown,” said Dave Sykes, city manager of San Jose.
The city is intimately involved.
“In working on the Google Project and Development Agreement, scores of city staff across our departments have been involved,” he said. “We have analyzed and improved the project with the goal of maximizing city resources and the quality of life for our residents for decades to come.”