Planning at San Jose Diridon Drawing to a Close

 In Great News

Written by Michele Beasley, Regional Director, Greenbelt Alliance

Greenbelt Alliance has been engaged in the Diridon Station Area planning effort for several years, having spent considerable time and resources crafting a plan that will lead to a dense, walkable, green, bike-friendly, equitable and dynamic transit district. Diridon Station is a priority site for the Great Communities Collaborative with Greenbelt Alliance as site lead, and we have worked in close collaboration with our partners, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Working Partnerships USA.

On February 13, the 60-day comment period on the Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (DPEIR) for Diridon Station came to a close. A DPEIR discloses environmental impacts that result from a project and identifies ways to avoid damage. We are in the final stretch of the plan process and then the hard work begins: implementing the community’s vision; bricks and parks. Leading to this point, the Great Communities Collaborative has, among other things,

  • Invited UCLA Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup to speak to a crowd of 200 people on The High Cost of Free Parking
  • Served on the Diridon Good Neighbor Committee, crafting a framework for implementation
  • Hired Nelson/ Nygaard to draft a Parking and Transportation Demand Management Plan
  • Partnered with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Urban Land Institute to present our vision for Diridon Station to the San Jose City Council
  • Held a Diridon Station Area Plan refresher course during the lull in planning activity
  • Organized the fourth PARK(ing) Day along San Fernando Street in Downtown San Jose

Our goals for the area include a strong mix of uses, including homes affordable to a range of incomes, and a variety of parks and open spaces, especially access to a restored Los Gatos Creek. We have also pushed for progressive parking policies coupled with complete streets designed for those ages 8 to 80 so all people feel it is safe and convenient to walk, bike and take public transportation.

Most recently, we organized a DPEIR 201 workshop for Diridon Station stakeholders and residents, giving people the tools to feel comfortable writing a comment letter.  In addition to submitting our own comments, Greenbelt Alliance brought on Public Advocates to comment specifically on the lack of strong affordable housing language in the Draft Plan. Below are a few of our suggestions that can make the project more equitable and environmentally sustainable.  Everyone’s comments can be found on the City of San Jose’s website.

San Jose must ensure that the Innovation District does not give way to large format commercial uses, such as Coleman Marketplace. Big box retail might sometimes be referred to as land-banking, but the lifespan of big box retail is likely the same as that of the Diridon Plan. We encourage the City to hold firm to a more compact industrial and commercial neighborhood, with smaller block sizes.

In the process of updating its Housing Element, the City of San Jose must identify sites that serve a range of incomes and especially identify affordable housing opportunity sites within Priority Development Areas (PDA), like at Diridon Station. We strongly suggest that the City site affordable housing locations within the Diridon Station Area to maximize Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) potential.

It should be noted that the number one implementation priority for parks and trails from the Diridon Good Neighbor Committee is to “restore the natural setting of the waterways in the urban areas, including Los Gatos Creek as it passes under Montgomery Street and Park Avenue.” Day-lighting this segment of the creek has multiple benefits, such as increasing habitat for wildlife, providing flood control, improving water quality and creating a neighborhood sense of place.

Bay Meadows Phase 2 in San Mateo is under construction, and one of the first elements to go in was the 12-acre Bay Meadows Park. At Diridon Station, San Jose should prioritize building high quality parks and/ or the civic plaza first to attract new development and create a complete community.

The Autumn Parkway Extension has long been planned to accommodate additional vehicular capacity. San Jose should design a multimodal corridor, especially for cyclists, and perhaps look to Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco as a model.  Any improvements to Autumn Parkway must consider negative impacts to the creek corridor, such as nighttime lighting.

Transit times can be better coordinated with SAP Center events and discounted transit passes should be offered to event attendees and employees, perhaps bundled into the cost of a ticket.

San Jose must create a Parking Benefits District at Diridon Station. Market or performance based pricing can ensure curb space is available and that parking revenues return to the community to fund neighborhood improvements, such as an attractive pedestrian environment.

Other groups who submitted comments include the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Sierra Club, Friends of Caltrain, SAP Center, California High Speed Rail, Caltrain, among others. Stay tuned for dates when the Final Plan heads to the Planning Commission and City Council later this spring.

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