Opinion: Google plan will help San Jose fix 42-year-old problem

In 1976, Mayor Janet Gray Hayes announced that the biggest
challenge facing San Jose was the city’s jobs-housing imbalance.
42 years later, little has changed.  San Jose only has .85 jobs
per employed resident, while neighboring cities have as many as 3
jobs per employed resident.

The number of jobs a city has directly translates into tax
revenue for residents. For example, Palo Alto rakes in $407 per
capita tax revenue, while the same calculation for San Jose equals
only $140. Cities cannot provide services based on goodwill and
good intentions, and instead must rely solely on tax revenue to
pave roads, deploy police officers and keep libraries open.

San Jose has historically excelled in one area in particular, to
our own economic detriment: It is the most generous city in
providing housing stock for the entire region. Other cities built
scant housing and instead focused on commercial development, which
brings in substantial tax revenue to pay for city services.

For most of my own career, I have commuted outside of San Jose
for work, as do 60 percent of our employed residents.  Not only
does commuting take away from family life and contribute to traffic
congestion, when consumer spending occurs in other cities, San Jose
also loses out on tax revenue to help our neighborhoods.

In 1984, the San Jose Redevelopment Agency sent a representative
to visit my school to present a three-dimensional, visionary model
of what downtown would look like in the future. The goal was to
create a job-centric downtown, so people could live and work in the
same city, and future buildings would be thoughtfully designed to
coalesce around a true city center, adjacent to mass transit. As a
middle-school student, I found the vision to be inspiring, and
still support such goals today.

Presently, San Jose has an opportunity with Google to enable
what has been envisioned for decades. Unlike other companies,
Google is requesting absolutely no taxpayer subsidy from our
city.  This is unprecedented, and we’d be foolish to pass up a
partnership with such an established, forward thinking, well
capitalized company. The proposed downtown office development would
be accessible to the public, and would combine thoughtfully
designed, environmentally mindful architecture with landscaped
pedestrian and bike paths connected to the rest of downtown and
mass transit.

Despite the symbiotic, smart growth opportunity that the Google
partnership presents, some have been trying to raise fear,
uncertainty and doubt about this project for a myriad of reasons.
Google has many viable options for expansion locally, nationally
and globally, and vilifying the company only serves as an incentive
for them to go elsewhere.

Google has approximately 4 million square feet of entitled
unoccupied office space in Mountain View and Sunnyvale. If San Jose
is perceived as too difficult, Google will simply expand
elsewhere.  Our neighbors will still have long commutes, we will
forgo additional tax revenue, and downtown will continue to limp
along with piecemeal development.  When Adobe, Cisco and IBM
located to San Jose, they ultimately employed thousands of our
residents, to our great collective benefit.  These companies
contributed mightily to San Jose, as would Google.  Why should San
Jose treat Google any differently?

So the question remains: if not now, then when?  If not Google,
then who?  There is no other company that could bring about such a
positive economic and environmentally beneficial development
without taxpayer subsidies.  If we miss this opportunity, the land
may remain vacant for decades, and the next generation of San Jose
middle school students will be doomed to an adulthood of long
commutes and lackluster city services.

Pierluigi Oliverio is a former member of the San Jose City
Council.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
Opinion: Google plan will help San Jose fix 42-year-old problem