More than 100 service workers protest Google mega campus in San Jose

More than 100 service industry workers and community activists took to the streets of downtown San Jose Thursday. They’re concerned that a proposed Google mega campus will cause gentrification and displace long-time residents.

Chanting “Google listen, we are in the fight" and carrying signs that said “We are in San Jose,” about 100 people from cafeteria workers to community organizers marched from Plaza de Cesar Chavez to City Hall. They fear tech giant Google coming to San Jose will force the working class out.

“This is going to change San Jose forever,” said Maria Noel Fernandez of Silicon Valley Rising. “The community has to be in the front end from day one.”

“It’s already expensive, it's going to get more expensive,” said Alejandra Abonce of San Jose.

Abonce works in the cafeteria at Facebook in Menlo Park. The 25-year-old mother is worried she'll be priced out of her two bedroom home she shares with seven people in West San Jose if Google builds its mega campus. The company is bringing in an estimated 20,000 workers.

“Bringing 20,000 people to San Jose means traffic, a lot more traffic,” said Abonce. “They are going to raise the rent. Everything is going to go up.”

In June, city leaders announced Google's plan to develop a transit-oriented complex on the site of the Old Stephen’s Meat Company. The mixed use development would be at least six million square feet. Commercial Broker Mark Ritchie said Google is eyeing more and more parcels in the Diridon station area.

“Nobody can deny that bringing in a lot of highly paid professional workers could affect real estate values in the area but the idea is they are going to build a lot of housing with it,” said Ritchie of Ritchie Commercial Real Estate.

Some realtors are already seeing what some have called the “Google effect” with home sale prices in the area going up.

“The marchers today are counting their chickens before they hatch,” said Scott Knies of the San Jose Downtown Association. “There isn't a project yet.”

Knies said the city has been planning for high-density growth for decades and is looking at building 12,000 housing units in downtown alone to accommodate the expansion.

“The marchers are trying to solve an important problem but in the wrong place,” said Knies. “To be thinking Google or any one development should solve all of society's ills before it's been proposed is a little bit naïve.”

The debate around the project isn't going away anytime soon. It’s in the planning stages with zoning changes and environmental impact reports that still need to be done. It could be years until the project breaks ground.