It’s been four years since officials unveiled an ambitious proposal to build a world-class landmark in Silicon Valley, but a new dispute over who should manage Plaza de Cesar Chavez may further delay the project.
The organizers of the “The Breeze of Innovation”—a design that would use hundreds of swaying rods powered by wind to light up at night—want to build the landmark at Plaza de Cesar Chavez in downtown. They have the support of the San Jose City Council to potentially construct it there. But the family of Cesar Chavez — who originally supported the plans — is considering stepping back after a conflict over who would manage the plaza and the future landmark.
The Chavez Family Vision, an organization started in 1998 by Cesar Chavez’s family to promote his legacy, is concerned about plans to use a private conservancy to manage the public park where Breeze Innovation would be displayed. The idea to use a conservancy was proposed by developers Urban Confluence, which is leading the plans for the landmark honoring Chavez.
Gabriel Medina, whose grandmother was Cesar Chavez’ older sister, wrote a letter to Urban Confluence on Oct. 11 threatening to withdraw support if there isn’t a more inclusive management plan.
“Our main goal is really to make sure that my great uncle Cesar’s legacy is celebrated in a way that recognizes all that he did for farmworkers and those in need,” Medina told San José Spotlight. “And that park continues his legacy.”
He and the rest of the Chavez Family Vision board worry that with a private entity overseeing it, there’s a higher chance of Cesar Chavez’s legacy being overlooked or overshadowed.
“We want the Urban Confluence and the city to stick to the original plan,” Medina said. “Not have a third party act as a middle man.”
The third-party group that hopes to manage the park is The Plaza Conservancy — modeled after organizations that revitalized Golden Gate Park and New York City’s Central Park. It was started by Dan Pulcrano, owner of the Weeklys media group, which publishes the independent Metro. The goal of the conservancy is to “encourage public use of Plaza de Cesar Chavez and enhance the experience for park visitors through restoration and stewardship, building and maintaining visitor amenities, commemorating history and creating new experiences for the entire community.”
The Plaza de Cesar Chavez is one of San Jose’s older parks located in the heart of downtown — across the street from the San Jose Museum of Art and the Signia by Hilton hotel — but has historically been underutilized. This year, events are only scheduled for 55 days, including a month for Christmas in the Park.
The city is hoping to revitalize the Plaza by building the Breeze of Innovation there. Ideas floated in front of the city council in April include expanding the park by eliminating parking or a traffic lane on Market Street, which surrounds the area. Urban Confluence Executive Director Steve Borkenhagen said there could be a new stage at the park’s southern end along with other features to honor Cesar Chavez, whom the park was named after in 1993.
Borkenhagen did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
The landmark was initially supposed to be at Arena Green at the confluence of Guadalupe River Park and Los Gatos Creek, but was moved because of environmental concerns. City leaders said Plaza de Cesar Chavez is a great location because it could attract more people to the heart of downtown.
Xavier Campos, the president of Chavez Family Vision and a boardmember for Urban Confluence, said the Chavez family is not opposed to having the Breeze of Innovation at the plaza — or against plans to revamp it. They just want to ensure that plans are run by the city, which has not yet been informed of the management proposal, and that it remains accessible to the public.
An update on the Breeze of Innovation’s progress will be presented to the city’s Parks and Recreation Committee on Nov. 1.
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