With more than one million residents, San José, California (where REVITALIZATION editor Storm Cunningham lived many moons ago) is one of the most diverse large cities in the United States. It’s also northern California’s largest city, and the 10th largest city in the nation.
San José’s transformation into a global innovation center has resulted in one of the largest concentrations of technology companies and expertise in the world. In 2011, the City adopted Envision San José 2040, a long-term redevelopment plan that sets forth a vision and a comprehensive road map to guide the City’s anticipated growth through the year 2040.
Now, on October 7, 2020, a key early milestone in that plan was reached when Google, Inc.’s approximate 80-acre Downtown West Mixed-Use Project when the City published the next iteration of the project plans and related draft environmental impact report (DEIR).
“The Downtown West project, combined with our investments in transit nearby, will catalyze the revitalization of our city’s core and transform a city built for automobiles into a city built for people,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo.
“Particularly amid all the challenges of this pandemic, I’m grateful for the persistent collaboration between Google and City staff to enable our community to benefit from thousands of jobs, affordable apartments, vibrant retail and restaurants, public plazas, and park space,” he added.
Google originally submitted a development application to the City on October 10, 2019. Now, Google has submitted updated plans and the remaining documents that enable further public input as well as enabling the City to complete its review process. This puts the project on track to reach the City Council for their consideration and possible approval in Spring 2021.
“Google and City staff have worked incredibly hard to keep the project moving forward through the pandemic, which delayed the project review and related outreach by a few months. We are elated to reach this milestone and publicly share the Downtown West Updated Submittal and DEIR,” said Rosalynn Hughey, director of the Department of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement.
Hughey noted that Google’s submittal a year ago was very conceptual, and the community has been eager to see the concepts fleshed out. Google and the City have held numerous community meetings and informational fairs on the original concept and have used that public feedback to shape and make refinements to the project.
In 2018 as then-Director of Economic Development, Walesh led the launch of a significant community engagement initiative for both Google’s proposed Downtown West project and the Diridon Station Area Plan update. “I want to thank our community members for getting involved. We now have updated, more specific information to share and welcome the continued public feedback that will shape the project to reflect our community’s needs and aspirations,” she continued.
The community engagement process is continuing with an invitation to view and give feedback on Google’s updated plans and DEIR, and a community meeting on the project is scheduled for October 19, 2020 at 6:30 p.m. Both the City’s Google Project website and the Diridon Station Area website provide links to finding documents, meeting details, project videos, and a feedback form: www.sanjoseca.gov/GoogleProject and www.diridonsj.org
Updated Submittal & Review Process
As is common for projects on a large site and entailing multiple buildings that may take many years to build out, there is a somewhat complex review process for the Downtown West Updated Submittal, entailing several planning documents. The project – subject to City Council approval – is proposed to come together through the following elements:
- A Planned Development (PD) Zoning district specifically for the Downtown West project site. This establishes allowable land uses and development standards, such as maximum building heights;
- A Planned Development Permit, which is a regulatory document that implements the PD zoning. The PD Permit includes design standards and guidelines with chapters on land use, buildings, open space, mobility, sustainability, lighting and signage. In future years, the standards/guidelines apply to any proposed building site or individual building design. As each design is submitted, City staff will review it for compliance with the PD Zoning and PD Permit and hold a public meeting for input;
- Amendments to the City General Plan, Diridon Station Area Plan, and a Historic Landmark District. These proposed amendments would accommodate the project’s proposed mix of land uses and allow much more housing than is currently allowed on the site; and
- Environmental Review – On a separate but concurrent track, the public is invited to give input on the draft environmental impact report (DEIR). Public feedback in 2019 was used to scope the content of the DEIR, and the initial analysis is complete and now available for public comments. The DEIR addresses the potential physical impacts of the build-out of the project, such as impacts to air quality, water quality, transportation networks, historic resources, and more. Public comments on the DEIR must be made in writing by 5:00m p.m. on November 23 to garner a staff response in the final EIR. The City Council must certify the final EIR prior to making a decision on the project, which is targeted for Spring 2021. The DEIR is available at www.bit.ly/DowntownWestEIR.
“This is far from a typical proposed development and both the project and the process around it are extraordinary,” added Hughey.
“In addition to Google’s offices, it proposes housing, a hotel, parkland, open space, active uses including retail, and community features within steps of the Diridon Station, which itself is being redesigned. The Google Project is implementing the community’s vision outlined in the Diridon Station Area Plan for a new, vibrant mixed-use neighborhood district. We look forward to see continued public engagement on this,” she concluded.
All renderings courtesy of Google, Inc.