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San Jose to vote on Google's huge new transit-oriented development

Deal would be three times the size of nearby Apple Park

The Google logo on the side of its headquarters. Photo by John Marino

The San Jose City Council will consider today whether or not to offer Google a plot of city-owned land near Diridon Caltrain station. The tech giant has a planned downtown development in the works, one that could redraw the lines of Silicon Valley’s transit network.

According to a memo from the city’s deputy city manager and managing director:

Preliminary discussions with Google indicate interest in planning and building a master-planned, transit-oriented development that includes between 6 and 8 million square feet of office/R&D space and retail/commercial amenities.

This development could support more than 20,000 new Downtown employees, significantly aiding the City's need for local jobs and supporting ridership on existing and new public transportation investments.

[...] No development applications have been submitted to the City, nor are expected to be submitted in 2017.

Today’s resolution would authorize the city manager “to negotiate and execute” an agreement with Google. The company already owns several relevant parcels downtown and has its eye on four more city-owned ones.

A memo by Mayor Sam Liccardo and five other council members in support of the resolution cautions:

“We appreciate that many are looking for the City to mandate conditions on the development and for Google to make commitments on potential amenities. However, there are no conceptual plans yet for this development, and we have yet to commence negotiations.”

Via Twitter, TechCrunch’s Kim-Mai Cutler notes that a potential eight-million-square-foot building would be three times the size of Apple Park.

Negotiating rights over the land is potentially a pretty sweet plum for Google, just as much as the development could be a huge boon for San Jose, depending on the details.

Like Liccardo said, stake holders are already sizing up any potential deal. A dozen of groups ranging from the labor unions to affordable housing activists sent the San Jose City Council a letter on Monday demanding:

“Any rental or for sale housing developed to include additional on-site affordable units or equivalent alternatives [...] to develop additional affordable, accessible housing for low income and very low income residents.”

Diridon Station.
Photo by Grey3k

The San Jose arm of the urban design non-profit SPUR encouraged the city to “remove barriers to building housing in the urban villages.”

The Silicon Valley Organization, a tech-based chamber of commerce, chimed in to express support for Tuesday’s resolution, calling the potential development “a bridge for the Alameda and Downtown core, with the potential of driving job creation beyond its development footprint.”

As the New York Times notes, by the time any eventual plan becomes reality, “Diridon station would host BART trains and, if fierce opposition by the state’s Republican Congressional delegation is overcome, a high-speed rail line,” bringing relatively fast and traffic-free commutes right to Google’s new doorstep, no shuttles required.

Photo by WC Taiwan