San Jose officials voted early this morning to approve a $110 million public land sale to Google, a key step to advance the tech giant's expansion plans that would transform the city's downtown, despite vociferous protests that led to the rare closing of the council's chambers.
After hours of debate that began Tuesday, the City Council after midnight voted unanimously for a plan by Google to bring around 20,000 jobs near San Jose Diridon Station by 2035, which would make it the city's largest private employer. Specific buildings haven't been proposed, and final approvals are expected to take years.
Dozens of residents expressed opposition, eloquent and profane, to Google's arrival in San Jose at a public hearing preceding the vote, underscoring the tension over tech's enormous growth in the region. Opponents said Google would exacerbate the city's high housing costs and displace residents. They also criticized the company's lack of minority workers and questioned whether the company would benefit local residents. Google said in its diversity report that 2.5 percent of employees are black and 3.6 percent are Latino.
The meeting was adjourned for an hour Tuesday after opponents began chanting against the plan as the City Council prepared to vote. Some chained themselves to seats until police officers used bolt cutters to separate them from the furniture. It wasn't clear if there were arrests.
City officials said the development would bring much-needed jobs to the city and boost tax revenue, without requiring public subsidies. The city council is seeking 25 percent affordable housing as part of the project.
"San Jose is still technically a bedroom community," said Kim Walesh, San Jose deputy city manager. "Our job growth has not kept pace."
Walesh said the city has 0.81 jobs for each employed resident, the lowest ratio among any major U.S. city. Over 60 percent of employed San Jose residents commute out of the city for work, to destinations including Google's headquarters in Mountain View.
She said having Google as the single master developer would give city more leverage in negotiating community benefits.
San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said at the hearing that the expansion would "revitalize many dark corners of our downtown" and that Google was a "model community partner."
Mark Golan, Google vice president of real estate and workplace services, said the company has been talking to community groups for 10 months and supports a deal with no tax subsidies and payment for additional community benefits.
Diridon Station is one of the Bay Area's largest transit hubs, with service to Caltrain, Amtrak and light rail, and a planned BART connection by 2026. The city passed its Diridon Station Area Plan in 2014, calling for over 5 million square feet of office, over 2,600 housing units, 420,000 square feet of retail, and 900 hotel rooms. It isn't clear how many housing units that Google will build, but the company has said residential development is a priority.
The project is expected to generate $8.5 million to $12.5 million in annual net tax revenue, plus $45 million to $69 million in new property tax revenue, according to a city-commissioned study.
Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a nonprofit trade association whose members include Google, found that 68 percent of San Jose residents supported the project in a September poll.
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