In a bid to get San Jose’s final blessings on its broad downtown vision, Google has offered to pony up $200 million in community benefits as part of its plans to build a transit-oriented village where as many as 20,000 people could work.
The proposal includes money for anti-displacement efforts and affordable housing, two urgent concerns that have galvanized the community. Some previous critics of the project said the new proposal is a significant step forward.
“While working in collaboration with the city and our community to transform our western downtown into a vibrant urban village, Google has also crafted a new national model for transforming the relationship between tech and the surrounding community,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said in an interview.
Google has proposed the development of a transit-oriented neighborhood near the Diridon train station and SAP Center that would include office buildings, homes, shops, restaurants, activity hubs, cultural centers, hotel facilities and open spaces.
The details, released Tuesday, mark the first time the Mountain View-based search giant has outlined specific efforts it will undertake for the community, after months of closed-door negotiations with the city, including:
- Several hundred affordable homes that Google would pay to build on company-owned land within the San Jose project. Additional affordable homes would be funded through special fees paid by the search giant or by Google providing the land for housing development at sites near the transit village.
- A $150 million community fund that would include programs to preserve affordable housing and fight homelessness. Also included are homeless services, education initiatives, workforce development and programs for small-business resilience and entrepreneurship.
- A 30 percent local hire goal for on-site construction, and a commitment to paying state prevailing wages to all on-site construction workers.
- On-site field trips, career days and computer science workshops for students from underserved communities who have an interest in technology and technology-based careers. These would be offered once Downtown West is opened.
The remaining $50 million in the fund would be spread throughout these other efforts, including local hiring, career exploration and awarding design and construction contracts for the office buildings to local, small and diverse businesses.
The funding package is “a major component for the city and for the community” to address concerns about the project’s causing displacement and exacerbating the housing crisis, said Council Member Raul Peralez.
“City staff and Google did a really great job at trying to balance our immediate needs with our future needs," said Council Member Dev Davis.
The community benefits package is in addition to $250,000 in public benefits such as park fees that the city mandates, Liccardo said.
Separate from the community benefits package, Google estimates the value to the city of other features in the project will be at least $1 billion. Among these benefits are a more walkable, connected city with multiple modes of transportation and transit, cutting-edge infrastructure upgrades, 15 acres of new parks and open spaces, on-site solar generation in Downtown West, no increases in greenhouse emissions, and widescale use of recycled water.
The tech titan says that it hopes to break ground on the first new buildings in 2023, and that it is aiming to launch construction of streets and other crucial infrastructure in 2022 if the city approves a project that will reshape a wide section of downtown. The San Jose City Council is expected to make a final decision on the development agreement by the end of June.
(c)2021 The San Jose Mercury News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.