Google has been on a real estate purchasing spree in San Jose, buying up properties proximate to the Diridon Station. Their intent is to eventually build another hub of Google offices.
The large number of new employees and development would undoubtedly change the immediate neighborhoods, San Jose and Silicon Valley. Planning for that ripple effect is the task of the Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG), a forty-member group of Council appointees. Specifically, their mission is to help advise the City of San Jose regarding the terms of a deal with Google.
Yours truly, the Executive Director of Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition has a seat on the SAAG. Now that the group has met a few times, I thought it would be worthwhile to highlight some of the ripples that are making waves.
Here are a few of the ideas that are being talked about at the SAAG, at least the ones that are sticking for me.
Housing: There appears to be wide consensus around the need for more housing and more affordable housing. People are supportive of taller buildings that provide a range of housing for a mix of incomes.
Displacement: Related to housing, there is a lot of concern about how to prevent poor people and existing residents from being displaced as more and more investment flows into this area.
Bikes! Oh my are we popular. As the official advocate for bicycling on the task force, I often don’t have to say anything. Everyone else is saying it, unprompted! People on the task force don’t need any convincing that great places are ones in which people can walk and bike safely.
Within that conversation, there are many suggestions for how to make the area better for people who bike including:
- Trail Gaps: At present, the Guadalupe Creek Trail and the Los Gatos Creek Trail do not meet. There is a plan to finish the LG Trail and while we’re really happy that plan has been completed, it routes people to the street instead of following the riparian corridor as a separate and dedicated bike path. With Google in the mix, there has been discussion about whether we might “daylight” the creek under Autumn/Bird so that the trail is an actual trail connecting to the Guadalupe.
- Bike Parking: Wouldn’t it be cool is we had a couple of these. Safe and secure bike parking is a number one concern we hear from you all.
- Connectivity: Not only do folks want to make sure that there is good connectivity in the area, specifically, people don’t want the Station to continue to be a barrier. For example to connect to San Fernando, the City’s wonderful green bikeway, (well wonderful if the lights were timed so that you didn’t get stopped every ten pedal strokes) you have to walk your bike through a tunnel under the station. Bikes should have a route through the station that doesn’t require dismounting or slowing down.
- TDM/TMA: Google will be a future neighbor of the Shark Tank, also known as SAP Arena, where hundreds of events are held each year. For big events like Disney on Ice or a Sharks game, traffic in the area is horrendous despite being adjacent to the trail and across the street from the Diridon Station. SVBC has been knocking on SAP Arena’s door for three years now to encourage them to promote bicycling. Those suggestions have been met with indifference and we’re fairly certain that they believe people are more likely to swim like a Shark to an event than ride a bicycle. Thank goodness Google has a different mentality. They have numerous staff employed solely dedicated to getting folks to ride bikes, walk and take transit. Which brings me to the point. Folks have talked about requiring a Transportation Management Agency, (TMA). Mountain View has one, Moffet Park has one, Stanford has one. Under a TMA, businesses would band together to figure out for themselves how to keep the number of single occupancy drivers to a minimum. They would use TDM, transportation demand management strategies, like bicycling, carpooling, and transit through creative means that they come up with. Like, how about if you show up by bike to the game you get bumped to the front of the beer line?
- Parking: No one wants to see more surface parking lots. They are ugly and don’t use our prized real estate assets well. And, there are questions about how much parking we’ll really need in the future. Let’s understand the real need today and how to transition to a future that likely requires much fewer parking spaces. Developers can then use the money they would have spent on building a parking garage that costs $20k plus per space and pump that money into better design, affordable housing, parks and historic preservation.
As SVBC continues to participate in the process, we’d like to hear from you all and start to prioritize what we should push for. Join us at the next San Jose Team Meeting to share your thoughts.