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Google’s Downtown West Plan Heads to Final Vote from San Jose City Council

Downtown West concept skyline view, illustration via San Jose Planning DepartmentDowntown West concept skyline view, illustration via San Jose Planning Department

San Jose City Council is poised to give final approval to construct the 80-acre Downtown West urban development by Google. The proposal would reshape a significant portion of the Diridon Station Area Plan in Downtown San Jose by replacing surface parking and low-density blocks around the SAP Center with a higher density of housing, offices, and retail. The meeting will be held today, starting at 6 PM.

Downtown West, Google's proposal within the Diridon Station Area Plan, rendering via Sitelab

Downtown West, Google’s proposal within the Diridon Station Area Plan, rendering via Sitelab

Google is operating as the project sponsor, with Lendlease as the development advisor. The project features an exhaustive design and consultant team, with one urban designer, SITELAB Urban Studio, and six architecture firms currently involved. The architecture firms include Heatherwick Studios, Grimshaw Architects, Kohn Pedersen Fox, Fougeron Architecture, Solomon Cordwell Buenz, and SHoP Architects.

Downtown West concept retail and public space, illustration via San Jose Planning Department

Downtown West concept retail and public space, illustration via San Jose Planning Department

It is unclear how involved each firm is and how Lendlease and Google will distribute the design projects. While KPF, SCB, and SHoP Architects have been responsible for many skyline-defining towers worldwide, Heatherwick Studio is best known for showpiece projects, such as the recently-opened Little Island Park in New York City. His previous work with Google includes collaboration with Bjarke Ingels Group on the bespoke new office building at 2000 North Shoreline Boulevard.

Downtown West land use map, illustration via San Jose Planning Department

Downtown West land use map, illustration via San Jose Planning Department

While much of the offices will be for the tech giant, half is dedicated to non-Google uses. This includes the roughly 4,000 housing units, of which a quarter will be priced as affordable. Four sites will see the construction of eight hundred units ranging from extremely low- to low-income affordable housing. Another two hundred units integrated with market-rate housing will be priced as affordable for residents earning the Area Median Income.

Full build-out is also expected to see 7.3 million square feet of offices, 500,000 square feet for active uses like retail or culture, 100,000 square feet for event space, a 300-room hotel, corporate accommodations of up to 800 rooms, and 15 acres of parks and open space. Local infrastructure improvements will connect the project with the surrounding area.

Downtown West concept main street, illustration via San Jose Planning Department

Downtown West concept main street, illustration via San Jose Planning Department

Recent controversy has been spurred as the San Jose Sharks hockey team voiced opposition to Downtown West out of concern about parking access to their SAP Center arena. The traffic review projects travel times between the over four thousand publicly accessible parking spots within walking distance of the arena to be opened at full buildout would provide a similar travel time as compared with 2019 observation of the Arena. The developers have also agreed to have at least 2,850 parking spaces available to SAP Center patrons throughout construction, short of the 4,800 spaces requested by the Sharks.

Overall public benefits include a quarter billion dollars to city requirements such as parks, transit improvements, and inclusionary housing. An additional $200 million is being spent on negotiated community benefits focused on equity and community needs. The lion’s share of the community benefits, $154 million, is for community stabilization and an opportunity fund.

North Bayshore street view, rendering courtesy Google

North Bayshore street view, rendering courtesy Google

Google’s San Jose master plan comes as one of several major construction projects led by the tech giant to provide new housing and office space in the Bay Area, such as with the North Bayshore project in Mountain View.

The development has come to form after extensive community engagement with dozens of public meetings, nine online feedback, pop-up community events, and meetings with community groups and stakeholders. The proposed $200 million in community benefits recently announced has helped galvanize support for the single largest single development deal leading up to today’s meeting.

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