By Meghan Hall
The largest development in downtown San Jose’s history has just cleared a huge milestone on its journey to becoming a reality: City Council approval. In a unanimous vote Tuesday night, the San Jose City Council voted 10-0 to approve Google LLC’s plans for Downtown West. The 80-acre project is expected to replace a collection of parking lots, single family homes and industrial buildings with more than 7.3 million square feet of office space and other new development.
“Tonight, our council unanimously made a historic decision, one that will enable San Jose to lead the nation not merely in economic recovery from this pandemic, but in an equitable recovery,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo. “With tonight’s vote, Google will make the largest private sector investment in San Jose’s history–and just about any other city’s history–while also delivering more than $1 billion in public benefits, ranging from affordable housing to parks to job training and college scholarships.”
The project has been in the works for several years and has undergone numerous rounds of evaluation and modification to reach this point. In April of 2021, the San Jose Planning Commission voted unanimously to approve the project, setting Google and its development team of Lendlease, SITELAB, Heatherwick Studio and many others, up for Tuesday’s City Council vote.
“The unanimous vote by the Planning Commission is an acknowledgement of the proactive work Google is doing within the San Jose community and its commitments to equity, diversity, and representation in their plan,” said Ahmad Thomas, CEO, Silicon Valley Leadership Group in a statement after the vote. “Google’s plan has strong targets for hiring locally and ensuring 10 percent of local contracts – including continuing services commitments – are going to small and diverse businesses. These moves show that they are literally building an impactful diversity commitment into their plans – right from the ground up.”
Google envisions a massive mixed-use hub, with 7.3 million square feet of office along with 500,000 square feet of community, retail and cultural uses. Additionally, 15 acres of parks are planned, including a flexible plaza that can host pop-up programming and events that will anchor Downtown West and provide access to adjacent neighborhoods and creekside walk.
The project is anticipated to include 4,000 new homes–25 percent of which will be designated as affordable–and a $200 million community benefits package that will fund education opportunities, local job training and other programs. As much as $1 billion of value in voluntary project features are also part of the project.
In recent months, the project has received backing from a wide array of city officials and local organizations. At the end of last week, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, along with councilmembers Raul Peralez and Dev Davis issued a statement offering their support for the project.
“The entire city came together to make sure this project is the best it can be for our current and future residents, workers and visitors,” said the trio in a recent memorandum. “It will be truly transformational.”
Google’s ultimate goal with the project is to create a “15-minute city” in which San Jose residents can work, play and live all within a walkable zone. With approvals in hand, Google can now make that vision a reality. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2022 or 2023. Full buildout of the project could take more than a decade.
Additionally, large-scale development is unlikely to stop there. With Google’s approval in hand, City officials are also working to update plans for the Diridon Station Area, which surrounds Google’s project. The Diridon Station Area includes 262 acres, and the City hopes to amend the plan to accommodate 14.1 million square feet of office space, up to as many as 12,600 residential units and 1,100 hotel rooms. The City anticipates that much of this development could take place over the next 20 years, building upon Google’s vision for a walkable, urban core in downtown San Jose.