San Jose unanimously moves forward with Google development plan

The issue of Google’s planned expansion into downtown San Jose has so polarized the community, councilman Lan Diep said he woke up Wednesday and realized someone vandalized his vehicle outside his home after he voted in favor of the project.

The driver’s side window was smashed, but Diep told KTVU he didn’t witness the crime, and doesn’t know who did it. Despite the anger and hard feelings by some, many others are asking, “what comes next?”

It took all Tuesday night, and into Wednesday morning, but San Jose’s council took voted unanimously to take the first step toward transforming a section of downtown.

“This is the beginning of a long road we know. This is going to take several years,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo, D- San Jose.

He said that long road has several parallels that need to be traveled over the next two years. Soil studies and an environmental impact review must be done. The city is trying to get the Federal Aviation Administration to lift building height restrictions in place for planes on approach to Mineta San Jose International. That would allow the project to build up instead of out. 

There are also considerations for BART’s planned extension through downtown to Diridon Station and a Caltrain high-speed rail line.

“The development agreement which will be coming between Google, the master developer, and the city, is going to be dependent on a lot of triggers and benchmarks being hit, many of which are out of the control of any of these parties,” said Kelly Snider, an urban and regional planning expert with San Jose State University.

The next phase would be the actual design specifications of the village. City officials say the area plan calls for at least 2,600 units of housing.

The mayor insists 25 percent will be deemed affordable housing, and is also exploring commercial linkage fees to further create affordable housing.

There are a lot of moving parts that experts and interested parties say need to work in concert for the project to rise from the ground.

“I think it really has to come together simultaneously. Because we certainly don’t want the community to feel like they were left out of the process as though there was something already  that was already created,” said Teresa Alvarado, the San Jose director of SPUR.

Passions on this issue ran so high and hot last night that the city council  meeting had to be halted, with at least eight people arrested by San Jose police.

When the vote was finally taken, it was done in an empty chamber with observes relegated to the rotunda overflow. The mayor believes if cooler heads can prevail, those curious or nervous about the project can be reassured.

“We need a plan that’s clearly implementable to insure that we get the affordable housing that we’re committing to,” said Liccardo.

That 25 percent total is for the entire project, not each specific site. City staff will begin exploring the commercial linkage fees – essentially a tax of property owners either in downtown or city-wide – over the next couple of weeks.

In the first few weeks of January, the city will receive a wire transfer from Google in the amount of about one hundred million dollars for purchase of the land.