East of Diridon Station, San Jose, CA 95110
Project Type: Housing + Office + Retail + Hotel + Public Space
Presented to our members: January and October 2020
Re-scored by our members: May 2021
Catalyze SV evaluates project sustainability, equity, and vibrancy. Learn about our project review process.
For more information, please refer to our scorecard below or the following links:
* Projects go through several phases. Developers submit applications to the City, get their design reviewed, do redesigns based on City & community feedback, resubmit proposals for review, and get approval (though can even redesign after approval)
Downtown West Project Scorecard
Downtown West by google comprises 84 acres of land with 4,000 (up to 5,900) residential units, up to 7.3 million sq ft of office space, & up to 500k sq ft of active uses. It also includes up to 300 hotel rooms, up to 800 overnight accommodations for corporate employees (which will be taxed like a hotel), an event center (up to 100,000 sq ft), & up to 7,160 parking spaces. Google is committed to building the infrastructure for this project without City subsidies & providing community benefits valued at $200 million, in addition to voluntary features that will benefit the community. The development is focused around the Diridon Station transit hub, adds bike lanes throughout the plan, & creates 15 acres of parks set aside for open spaces & riparian habitat.
Downtown West scored 4.43 out of 5 overall from our Project Advocacy Committee members.
Community Score: 5/5
May 2021 Update: The pioneering $154.8 million Community Stabilization & Opportunity Fund will support the community as the Diridon Station Area transitions into a high-density transportation hub for the South Bay. The Community Advisory Committee not only responds to community feedback requesting greater input into the development, it actually enables some of those same community members, including marginalized folks, to decide how millions of dollars in public money will be spent. Here in Silicon Valley, that’s all-too-rare, yet very welcome. This collaborative compact achieves one of Catalyze SV’s central goals: enable the community to shape development that works for everyone, especially those most in need. Of the various ways the funds could be spent, our members want the Fund to emphasize creating & preserving affordable housing. We also anticipate Google continuing its outstanding community engagement throughout the project implementation phase.
The Downtown West team has engaged in an extensive, often outside-the-box effort to reach out to the community & solicit ideas, including the community’s input on the proposal’s public spaces. Our members appreciate Google’s genuine effort to design with the community in mind & continue outreach during COVID-19 through videos, surveys, & online meetings. We’re glad Google has continued to engage the community through youth outreach, a conversation series, & walking tours.
October 2020 Score = 4
Vibrancy Score: 5/5
With activated ground floors & an extensive network of public open spaces, our members are excited to spend time in a fun, engaging place. Google’s emphasis on celebrating art, local culture, & river activities weaving through Downtown West could serve as an international example of placemaking. We’re glad that Google is looking at operational models that will support the activation of parks, plazas, & public space with events, markets, & pop-up small businesses. We are also glad the ground-floor plan includes space for local small businesses & non-profits. Our members suggest a significant number of small footprint retail shops to promote entrepreneurship. Finally, we hope Google helps to support better trail connections with other parts of San Jose & create ample open space & sports fields accessible on foot/bicycle from Downtown West.
Transportation Score: 4/5
May 2021 Update: We encourage VTA transit passes for service workers, contractors & residents to be explored using the $22.3 million in unallocated Community Benefits commitment.
Downtown West includes pedestrian-first blocks, additional bike lanes & trails to accommodate biking & walking - all part of Catalyze SV’s initial feedback. We’re glad Google is promoting sustainable transportation through TDM measures & encouraging its employees to use transit through employer-paid transit passes. Our members maintain our call for Google to provide free transit passes for contractors & service workers too, as well as enable the residential buildings to buy discounted VTA Smart Passes in bulk to reduce driving.
The shared street network & 20-minute city focused on cyclists & pedestrians is great, yet we believe there is still too much focus on driving. While we’re glad there are penalties if Downtown West’s drive-alone mode share is higher than 35%, 7,160 parking spaces (only 15% EV) at the region’s transit hub isn’t nearly forward-thinking enough. Understanding that the San Jose Sharks are pushing for additional parking, we appreciate that Google & the City have not increased the number of spaces. Our members believe that the Sharks should look into ways of helping fans adopt alternative means of accessing games that enrich the experience & positively impact local businesses. Especially next to a major transit center, Google needs to be more ambitious in planning for a transportation future with less parking, additional transit use, & new solutions for people’s transportation needs.
Sustainability Score: 4/5
May 2021 Update: We’re encouraged to see a number of our members’ original suggestions included as part of the district system, such as recycled water & on-site power generation. We look forward to the system’s use as an educational tool. A number of our members recognized Google’s additional sustainability commitments in their updated proposal, yet some members continued to urge Google to commit to higher standards such as LEED Platinum, so the average score remained the same.
Downtown West offers a great example of environmental standards by ensuring that the project will not result in any net additional GHG emissions under its AB 900 mandate. We also appreciate the bird-safe building, efforts protecting the riparian corridor that runs through the site, & the use of electric construction equipment. Google is looking beyond the site to integrate with the surrounding area (its term is “a 20-minute city”) while increasing walkability through access to the Los Gatos Creek & Guadalupe River Trails. Finally, while we appreciate the neighborhood & all office buildings will be certified as LEED Gold, we believe Google needs to pursue even higher standards. As plans are refined, we hope Downtown West builds most of the office & residential buildings to LEED Platinum throughout the development.
Intensity/Zoning Score: 5/5
Google is working to maximize the height & density of the transit-oriented Downtown West, which closely aligns with Catalyze SV’s values. We are especially pleased with the dense housing & jobs near Diridon Station with ground-floor commercial & that the hotel with less need for transit access is located in the North end of the site. These considerations, plus maximizing housing, were part of the feedback Catalyze SV provided in February 2020. We recommend Google explore ways of further increasing housing toward the 5,900 units possible, like converting some mid-rise residential to high-rise buildings.
Affordability Score: 4/5
May 2021 update: On one hand, with this revised proposal, our members appreciate that the Community Stabilization & Opportunity Fund will likely help fund affordable housing projects. We also commend Google on its important role in financing some of the most promising affordable housing projects in San Jose.
When our members initially evaluated this project, affordability was an area where, out of the gate, Google expressed a desire to fulfill the goal of 25% affordable housing, despite few details on how to achieve it. At that time, we hoped Google would commit to build the most deeply affordable homes by integrating 25% of affordable homes into its market-rate residential buildings or build dedicated affordable buildings itself. It turns out, our assumption was off when Google & the City revealed their new plans for getting to 25%. There’s no getting around it: many of our members were disappointed. They saw many unknown, complex, atypical variables still in play for reaching that number. Creative math & solutions are often needed in real estate development, yet they can also easily get folks into trouble.
As a result, some of our members lowered their Affordability score to a 3 out of 5. But the majority maintained a 4, so the prior score holds. Our members recognize the City is committed to building deeply affordable units (30-80% AMI), while our analysis suggests Google is meeting the requirement of the City’s Inclusionary Housing Ordinance (IHO) & Commercial Linkage Fee. While we’re excited to see deeply affordable units, our members are concerned - having reviewed dozens of past Silicon Valley projects - about the ability to build 800 affordable homes on 2.96 acres at mid-rise building heights (90-150 feet). We encourage increasing height limits on parcels set aside for affordable homes to 290 feet (which align with Google’s adjacent buildings). Our members were also concerned that the Community Stabilization & Opportunity Fund combined with Commercial Linkage Fees might not cover the subsidy for the 800 units at 30-80% AMI. We hope Google is able to support the financing of these projects, so the City can spend its resources on other affordable housing projects in the City.
Legacy Score: 4/5
May 2021 Update: A number of our members recognize & appreciate Google’s additional recent efforts to preserve more historic buildings & signs. They also appreciate the inclusion of maker space. On the other hand, some members believe the legacy of this project should be forward-looking. They believed more details of how Google will create an iconic, world-class landmark are needed. The average score remained the same.
Google is making a genuine effort to consider the surrounding area & to preserve or revitalize historic buildings. We especially appreciate the creative reuse of the San Jose Water Company Building. We are excited to see Google including maker space as part of its ground-floor activation. Our members also like seeing historic signs preserved or included in the development. We hope to see detailed designs incorporating elements of the Valley of Heart's Delight or historic canneries & emphasize the history of the Lost Gatos Creek & Guadalupe River. While we understand that the historic station building is not part of the site, we encourage Google to help with any effort to move & preserve this landmark building as part of the planned new station.