Residents Call for Mix Uses, Parks and Other Upgrades in San Jose’s Blossom Hill/Snell area

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By Neil Gonzales

For sure, Lani Ballard doesn’t want to see the future look of her South San Jose community to resemble the old Hitachi site off Cottle Road.

“It’s like huge Lego blocks on top of each other,” Ballard said. “I want something interesting [with] different levels.”

The vision she and other residents see for their busy, vehicle-oriented and charm-challenged area centering on the intersection of Blossom Hill Road and Snell Avenue involves plenty of public and green spaces, residential and commercial projects that are well integrated into the fabric of the neighborhood and pedestrian-friendly traffic corridors, among other improvements and amenities.

For the past year, the city has been engaging residents about ideas for their neighborhood in an effort to develop a long-term plan for the Blossom Hill and Snell Urban Village, which stretches down to the light-rail station along Highway 85.

This planning area is just one of several urban villages proposed by the city to encourage and promote walkable, transit-oriented and mixed-use environments throughout San Jose.

For the most part, recommendations from Blossom Hill/Snell area residents have been in line with the concept of urban villages based on the two community meetings held so far at the Southside Community Center.

During the latest meeting on September 17, which was attended by about 60 people, residents expressed favor for gradual building height increases along Snell, apartments next to commercial development and housing with ground-floor retail. They also would like to see lots of trees along Blossom Hill, pocket parks and other green spaces.

City planner Matthew VanOosten told the crowd that their urban village would allow new development heights of up to seven stories and make sure private projects include access to public parks or plazas.

Possible circulation-related improvements include removing pedestrian islands, adding protected bike lanes and widening sidewalks, VanOosten said.

“We’re trying to create that main street and have people more comfortable walking around,” he said.

All these elements are not set in stone and are subject to residents’ feedback, he said, adding that the buildout of the village could take 30 to 40 years.

In VanOosten’s summary report of the first meeting about a year ago, he said residents generally agreed that commercial development “would be a preferred use throughout” the Blossom Hill/Snell area with large office projects possible on the southwestern section.

But some residents during that meeting expressed opposition to increasing residential density across the planning area, citing too much traffic congestion already and other concerns.

Traffic issues were a priority concern for James Patterson, a resident who attended the second meeting.

“Blossom Hill is the main vein to (both Highways 85 and 101), and anything they do to that [could have] an adverse effect to getting on the freeway,” Patterson said. “The road is bad enough as it is.”

He was also concerned that new development could obscure scenic views of hills in the distance. “Whatever they put, I like the idea you can still see those hills,” he said.

Rendering courtesy of scottwalkins.com

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