Planning process started: 2009
Plan and EIR scheduled adopted: June 2014
Campaign team: Greenbelt Alliance, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, Working Partnerships USA
Location on Transit Line: Caltrain, VTA light rail, future BART extension, future high speed rail, future BRT
See the campaign platform here.
In 2009, Great Communities Collaborative (GCC) launched a campaign to influence the San Jose Diridon Station Area Plan funded by MTC’s Station Area Planning Program. The GCC campaign was led by Greenbelt Alliance, an environmental planning advocacy organization dedicated to livable communities, and includes partners Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Working Partnerships, USA, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of working families in Silicon Valley. Our goal has been to establish the foundation for future development that is walkable, bike-friendly, affordable and green.
Located in Santa Clara County, the City of San Jose is at the crossroads of significant current and future transportation investments. Diridon Station includes Caltrain, VTA light rail and bus service, Amtrak, ACE commuter rail and is anticipated to serve BART, high speed rail and Bus Rapid Transit in the future. SAP Center (formerly HP Pavilion) is a major stakeholder and immediately north of the station. Just a bit further north is San Jose International Airport. Highway 87 is the Plan’s eastern boundary, beyond which is downtown San Jose. Established single family home neighborhoods flank the plan area to the west and south.
The GCC Campaign
San Jose has long been a housing leader and has more homes than jobs. Greenbelt Alliance decided that while housing would be a part of our campaign plan, it would not be the central piece. It made more sense to advocate for other elements of great communities, such as complete streets and parks. We wanted to transform an auto-centric area into a place designed for people. A couple of years into the campaign, Working Partnerships, USA (WPUSA) was added to our team. The timing was great, as our main tools for providing affordable homes in the plan area, the redevelopment agency and an inclusionary zoning policy, were either gone or stuck in limbo. New tools were needed to ensure affordable homes at Diridon Station, and WPUSA is a strong partner to help bring these online.
Our goals for San Jose Diridon include:
- A minimum of 3,000 housing units, with 15% of the units affordable and built at Diridon Station. To address the affordable housing funding gap left by the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, we are seeking the passage of a Housing Impact Fee.
- The incorporation of innovative parking policies, including shared, reduced, unbundled and market-priced parking. This will result in no more than a combined total of 16,000 parking spots within a ½ mile radius of the station.
- A safe and robust bicycle and pedestrian realm that includes bike parking, sharing, signage and lanes from all directions to and from the station, as well as pedestrian boulevards.
- Language calling for the restoration, enhancement and completion of the Guadalupe and Los Gatos Creek trails and riparian corridors.
- A strong mix of uses throughout and the exclusion of big box uses north of the SAP Center.
Fall 2013 Update: some of the highlights of our work include:
- The Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition getting a seat on the Downtown Parking Board, part of our plan to turn it into a Downtown Access Board instead.
- Inviting Professor Donald Shoup to present on The High Cost of Free Parking to a room of 200 people. The next day, we held a more intimate Masters Level class for San Jose planners and transportation engineers.
- Partnering with the Silicon Valley Leadership Group in a meeting organized by Greenbelt Alliance that included two councilmembers and top level staff from Economic Development, Planning and Transportation to push back against big box uses north of the SAP Pavilion.
- Bringing PARK(ing) Day to San Jose four years in a row where we now have 20 groups participating. This event has led to at least one downtown business transforming the curbside parking spot into a permanent pop-up park.
- The Draft Plan calling for “green fingers”, park-like pedestrian paths that connect various parts of the plan.
- Our mantra, “Design for People, not Cars” making it into San Jose’s parking code update.
- San Jose’s Director of Transportation calling regular roundtable discussions with Greenbelt Alliance, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and others as a result of our involvement.
- The Great Communities Collaborative and Urban Land Institute having been invited to give a joint presentation at a San Jose City Council study session on our vision for Diridon Station.
This past June, the San Jose City Council unanimously approved the Diridon Station Area Plan, which calls for 2,588 new homes near the Caltrain, Amtrak, light rail, and bus hub.
This marks the end of a five-year process that started with the City hoping to lure a Major League Baseball team to San Jose. Whether or not baseball eventually comes to San Jose, the city now has a plan that lays the foundation for a world-class community. Here are some highlights from the newly approved plan:
- -At least 15% of all housing will be affordable, with the possibility of up to 20%; councilmembers Don Rocha and Sam Liccardo both called for trying to achieve a minimum threshold of 20%
- -Significant improvements to bicycle infrastructure in San Jose, some of which—such as Bike Share—have already been implemented as a result of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition’s advocacy
- -An emphasis on the public realm, including a grand civic plaza, neighborhood parks, and “green fingers”—wide linear parks that link together the various sub-districts
- -Day-lighting Los Gatos Creek by freeing it from its underground culvert and restoring the riparian corridor; neighborhood champion Larry Ames and others successfully fought to keep this in the plan
What comes next will be critical to ensuring this vision becomes reality.
The City Council has already taken an important next step by approving the formation of a Transportation Management Association, which will include stakeholders such as neighborhood groups and the SAP Center. This body will work toward the City’s ambitious goal of having 20% and 15% of all trips be by transit and bicycle respectively by 2040.
Greenbelt Alliance would like to see San Jose also move forward on issues we outlined in our San Jose Mercury News op-ed including new funding mechanisms for affordable homes plus implementation of its Art Master Plan [PDF] for Diridon Station.
There is still plenty of work ahead to transform this area into a walkable, green, dynamic, and inclusive community. It will take visionary leaders and cross-departmental, cross-jurisdictional collaboration to make it happen, but San Jose is a city that thrives on innovation—this innovation can extend to how the city grows. And Diridon Station is the perfect place to start.
Thank you to the many organizations and neighborhood groups that played a role in the successful passage of the Diridon Station Area Plan including the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition, Working Partnerships USA, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, TransForm, Friends of Caltrain, the Great Communities Collaborative, the Sierra Club, Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, Shasta Hanchett Park NA, Delmas Park NA, Burbank Del Monte NAC, Willow Glen NA, and the Good Neighbor Committee.
Councilmember Don Rocha praised the level of participation from the community as the highest he has ever seen and Councilmember Sam Liccardo called it “crowd-sourcing at its finest.”