After over three years of community wrangling, Google will have a home in downtown San Jose.
On Tuesday, the San Jose Council voted unanimously to approve the tech giant’s Downtown West project. Remarkably, the downtown West project is a multi-billion dollar plan to expand into downtown San Jose.
However, Google’s path to its massive tech campus planning in San Jose started with eight activists in 2018. They chained themselves to chairs inside City Hall over the city’s decision to sell public land to Google. In 2018, local media reports uncovered non-disclosure agreements between public officials and Google. It intended to sell all the parcels in a nearly 240-acre area.
Another big concern was displacement, which the city had faced as tech employees from Apple, Google, and others moved in over the years. Additionally, within one week of the news breaking that Google was coming to town and taking most of downtown with it, home prices in a three-mile radius of the site surged 7% and continued rising.
After such displays, the firm reported a $1 billion housing pledge to build 20,000 Bay Area homes over the next decade. However, citizens still held off on their excitement. They feared it was throwing money at the problem without providing details or plans of how exactly it would be spent.
It ended with some of its most prominent opponents signing its praises.
Google first proposed the project in 2019. It pans 80 acres near Diridon Station. It features 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 housing units, 15 acres of parks, and a 30,000-50,000-square foot community center. Additionally, it boasts 500,000 square feet for retail, cultural, education, and arts uses.
Google Started to Understand Residents Needed More Transparency
In 2019, Google put together a diverse group of community liaisons to talk with local residents. They listened to their concerns and highlighted their stories. Significantly, community members announced that these open-door conversations eventually led to them having a seat at the table when it came to decisions.
By 2020, Google started to understand that residents needed transparency and wouldn’t settle for a partial view of the plans. Therefore, it made a series of updates to its plans, including a community-based governance committee for certain funds.
Google also hired a local agency to design a website. The site will display updates, timelines, expectations, and other details of the campus plans.
By 2021, the firm had conducted over 100 listening sessions. The company designated over half of its campus to public use to win over critics. They offered up a $200 million community benefits package that includes displacement funds, job placement training, and power for community leaders to influence how they spend it.
Although some critics remain, organizers say the project has created a positive pathway for future organizing on real estate projects and more.