Anticipating Change, SPUR Prepares San Jose for Growth

SiliconSage, San Jose, Willow Glen, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, Fremont, 1821 Almaden Road, Silicon Valley housing

By Sharon Simonson

Housing and job growth in San Jose, particularly downtown and North San Jose, signify wholesale change in the city’s built environment in the next 25 years.

San Jose real estate The RegistryDevelopment density across thousands of acres in North San Jose is expected to climb by as much as 24 jobs a net acre while housing density in the same area should increase by as much as 30 homes a net acre, according to research for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments.

Housing and jobs density should rise even more in downtown San Jose.

For urban planners and the community at large, the transition for Silicon Valley’s largest city will be the challenge of the next three decades: “How do we change the suburban land-use to make it a place you want to walk around?” said Leah Toeniskoetter, director of SPUR San Jose.

Under the mental rubric that lots of heads are better than one, on Sept. 12 the San Jose branch of the San Francisco Planning + Urban Research Association formally opens its new downtown San Jose office.

A public policy think-tank focused on the development of cities, SPUR seeks to promote good planning, including economic development, and good government. SPUR has been active in San Francisco for 50 years and is seeking to push its mission Bay Area wide.

With 1,750 square feet at 76 S. 1st St. directly facing the Valley Transit Authority’s light-rail line, the new space is intended as a laboratory for ideas and inspiration to address Silicon Valley’s evolution. SPUR has been operating in San Jose in the last year in borrowed offices.

“When we first came, we asked people what they wanted us to work on, and there was demand for programming,” Toeniskoetter said. “We held maybe 35 programs and events and drew about 2,000 people, and we were still in start-up phase, and the venue changed every time.”

The new space changes that dynamic, giving SPUR an opportunity to develop a fixed identity within downtown, creating exhibit space to accompany events—a real “urban center,” Toeniskoetter said—and drawing people downtown who might not ordinarily go.

San Jose and San Francisco will absorb the largest share of the region’s new jobs and housing between now and 2040. Of the 1.12 million new jobs expected in the nine-county Bay Area, 191,000 are to go to San Francisco, mostly downtown, and not quite 150,000 are to go to San Jose, mostly to North San Jose but also downtown.

San Francisco will increase its housing stock by a quarter, or not quite 100,000 units; San Jose is to increase its supply by 41 percent, not quite 130,000 units.

SPUR has engaged in San Francisco political and land-use discussions for decades. Its ideas are premised on the relationship between land use and human and goods transport from cars to bikes to public transit and walkable streets. It is a member-supported nonprofit.

ABAG and the MTC have acted under the California Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, by allocating the lion’s share of the new jobs and housing to San Francisco, San Jose and the East Bay suburbs closest to San Francisco: Emeryville, Berkeley and downtown Oakland. Smaller but significant concentrations of new housing and jobs are allocated to spots along the Caltrain line from San Francisco to San Jose and to a lesser extent on the East Bay BART line.

Toeniskoetter credited the regional real estate and building industry for creating the SPUR office in the South Bay: “We had about 25 partners come together and donate labor, services and materials,” she said.

 1  |  2  [btn link=”” target=””]NEXT PAGE[/btn]

West Coast Commercial Real Estate News