‘Parking Bomb’ Coming to Downtown San Jose

A rendering of San Jose's future "City View" development. Image: Jay Paul Co.
A rendering of San Jose's future "City View" development. Image: Jay Paul Co.

“City View is a new landmark and catalyst for growth, invigorating the heart of downtown San Jose,” boasts the marketing copy on developer Jay Paul Co.’s web page about San Jose’s coming development near Rod Dirodon Station. “Within walking distance to future Bart stations and existing Lightrail as well as San Jose’s ever expanding downtown residential housing opportunities, City View is ideally located in the urban environment forward thinking companies need.”

What it doesn’t boast about, is how much of that “urban environment” will still be dedicated to private automobiles.

“It’s a monumental project for 3 million square feet of office. It has some wonderful bike and pedestrian elements – really really wonderful like a pedestrian paseo and an elevated bike lane,” wrote the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s Shiloh Ballard in an email to Streetsblog. “AND, it has a parking bomb.”

That parking bomb consists of over 6,000 spaces, all a short walk from a redeveloped train station that’s soon to get BART, electrified Caltrain, and High-speed Rail, in addition to VTA, ACE and Amtrak, which already serve the station.

“The issue isn’t parking or not…it’s where the parking will be located (underground and not taking valuable vertical or open space); whether major emphasis is placed on sustainability including abundant chargers and free parking for electrics and creating parking access that avoids negatively impacting bicycles, pedestrians, etc.,” wrote Rod Diridon, politician, transportation advocate, and namesake of San Jose’s station, in an email to Streetsblog. “And especially, how much can be negotiated downward from the City’s standard formulas?”

“This is a mile from Diridon station. We jeopardize our investment in transit if we continue to make it easy to drive,” wrote Ballard. “The parking means they have to have more ingress/egress which they are placing on San Fernando, the city’s best bike boulevard.” She added that the city has a grant to improve San Fernando but that this is at cross purposes. “If San Jose wants to achieve its mode shift goals that are quite aggressive in the general plan, they need to act much differently than this. Accommodating the car at this level, in Downtown and a mile from what will be an incredible transit station is insane.”

She added that this is in sharp contrast with Google which also has development plans for the area, “where they want no parking.”

Streetsblog emailed Jay Paul but did not receive an immediate reply.

The Mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo also didn’t get back to Streetsblog by press time, but the San Jose Mercury News quoted him last year saying of the development: “This is no small investment in the future of our city.” Liccardo, meanwhile, is seen as one of the most bike-friendly mayors in the Bay Area.

And “Our ambition is to retrofit a city that has been built for cars into one that is built for people,” he told Streetsblog back in 2012. “The vibrancy that we hope and expect it will bring to our streetscape will start to change perceptions of San Jose throughout the region.”

Another look at the development. Image: Jay Paul
Another look at the development. Image: Jay Paul

“My understanding it was approved before VMT,” wrote Vignesh Swaminathan, a consultant who helped design San Jose’s bike lanes, also in an email to Streetsblog. Swaminathan is referring to Vehicle Miles Traveled–new state rules that require developments to reduce driving in the community. “It is really affecting the circulation, but they are paying for the biggest protected intersection at Park and Almaden.”

“San Jose talks the talk but when push comes to shove and economic development gold comes to town, they sacrifice their commitment to achieving all the goals in the general plan in favor of one goal – job creation,” said Ballard.

Diridon, meanwhile, wonders how much the COVID-19 work-from-home orders will impact the need for so much parking–or the office space itself–in the long run. That said, “Ideally we might begin to learn from the most beautiful and desirable European cities such a Florence, Rome, Paris, and others where parts of their downtown areas are off limits to most cars,” he concluded. “But that, sadly, may be a way off for us.”

Initial completion of the City View, according to the developer’s website, is 2024.

Update 4:30 p.m. from a spokesperson for the City of San Jose: Currently, the project is proposing 6,230 parking spaces. Given the size of this project (over 3.5 million square feet of office space), this is actually 19 percent below the baseline requirement for parking. In its recent approval of the project, the planning commission recommended that our city council consider ways to further reducing parking at the development.

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