Diridon Station Area Plan: Impacted Communities Need a Seat at the Table
Since its inception, GCC has focused on uplifting community voices and pushing for higher density, more affordable housing, and equitable outcomes in station area plans across the Bay Area. One important example of this work is Diridon Station in San Jose, an area with over $8 billion planned in public infrastructure investments over the next decade.
In April, we led a tour and conversation at the Diridon site to explore the multi-dimensional impacts the project will have on housing, jobs, and local investment. We also encouraged funders and the advisory group to emphasize deep community and public benefits aligned with the community’s vision, which included a set of agreements to ensure the project does no harm when it comes to rising rents, displacement, and inequality. We listened to personal stories from local residents and contract workers and heard from representatives at Silicon Valley Rising, Working Partnerships, USA, Greenbelt Alliance, SPUR, the City of San Jose, PICO Bay Area, and Google.
This event came after years of work at the San Jose site. From 2008 through 2014, GCC supported local and regional partners to engage in the Diridon Station Area Plan process and committed over $300,000 from multiple funders in grants and technical assistance. The final plan included diverse community voices and many promising components, including an affordable housing goal, creek trails and restoration, bicycle and pedestrian access improvements, innovative parking policies, and mixed land uses. Some of these elements have been implemented since the completion of the station area plan, but in 2017 an announcement from Google dramatically shifted the context of planning for the neighborhood.
In the summer of 2017, Google declared its intention to build 8 million square feet of office space on a combination of private and publicly-owned land in the area, bringing in up to 20,000 jobs. Later in the year, the City of San Jose and Google entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement for a group of city-owned parcels near Diridon Station. Soon after, they began a civic engagement process, convening a Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG) of approximately 35 public, private, and non-profit partners. We decided to host an event for members of the SAAG and other community stakeholders to better understand how this project could be a catalyst for equitable and inclusive development.
This important event helped illuminate the priorities of those most impacted by local land use policies and what is possible in San Jose and across the region. People are more engaged and communities are maintained and strengthened when residents, workers, and other stakeholders have a meaningful role in decision-making.