Google San Jose village panel ponders jobs, economic, housing impacts

SAN JOSE — Google’s proposed transit village in downtown San Jose provides both opportunities — and poses challenges — for a wide array of jobs and affordable housing in the Bay Area’s largest city, according to presentations during a meeting Monday night of an advisory group that’s studying the game-changing project.

Jobs for all income levels and affordable housing for local residents were themes that dominated a meeting of the Station Area Advisory Group. The panel is gathering community input to guide development of a Google transit-oriented community of offices, homes, shops, restaurants and open spaces near the Diridon train station where the search giant would employ 15,000 to 20,000.

“There has been a lot of discussion about the links between jobs and housing,” Dave Javid, principal executive with Plan to Place, and a consultant to the Station Area Advisory Group, told the panel. “The idea is to be sure that lower-wage workers can find a place to live here.”

The Monday night meeting was the first public airing of a laundry list of issues and demands in connection with the Google village proposal. Amid a brutal housing crisis, more affordable residences connected to the Google development clearly emerged as a vital issue.

“We need to maximize high-density housing in the Diridon Station Area,” said Lori Severino, civic engagement program manager for the Diridon Station Area.

High-density housing should also be built, according to Severino’s presentation, in corridors well-served by transit, including east San Jose.

“At least 25 percent of the new  housing units should be affordable for moderate-, low-, very low- and extremely low-income residents,” according to recommendations presented to the advisory group.

The stakes are enormous, to be sure. San Jose officials, along with Google, must navigate a political tightrope as they attempt to fashion a project to bolster the city’s economy without harming residents.

“We are very excited for the jobs to come,” said Nathan Ho, a Silicon Valley Leadership Group official and an advisory group member. “We are excited about the opportunities for an already vibrant downtown San Jose.”

Yet those same remarkable changes, if they materialize, could also shove some people out of downtown San Jose due to gentrification, rising home prices and jobs whose wages are skewed towards highly paid tech workers, some panelists and community advocates warned during the meeting

“The first six months of the city’s public engagement, and our own community meetings, have clarified the aspirations and concerns for future development as it relates to housing, displacement, and job opportunities in San Jose,” Javier Gonzalez, a Google public affairs manager, said Monday. “We’ll continue to participate in these open dialogues and work with the community and city over the coming years to address these priorities together.”

Some panelists warned that unfair expectations are being placed on Google simply because of its massive size and profits.

“It’s absurd to put all of these things on Google,” said Charlie Faas, chief financial officer with San Jose State University.

Others agreed that Google can’t be a panacea.

“It’s not fair to ask Google to solve all of our problems,” Gillette said. “The city needs to step up too.”

Nevertheless, some skeptics in the audience said the real problem is the lack of details, more than one year after the city of San Jose took its first votes to launch negotiations with Google regarding the development.

“People are not opposed to Google, they are opposed to Google without a plan,” Huy Tran, a San Jose resident, said.

Jeffrey Buchanan, director of policy and research with Working Partnerships USA, and an advisory group member, believes it’s entirely possible to balance the often-conflicting goals of a development that benefits local residents, workers, the city and the company alike, and to ensure the project doesn’t create a community of haves and have nots..

“We don’t want a tale of two cities in San Jose,” Buchanan said. “Yes, people want to see Google come here, but we also want a good project. The two don’t have to be pitted against each other.”

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Google San Jose village panel ponders jobs, economic, housing impacts