San Jose is spending millions from Google on economic recovery as the tech behemoth gets ready to start expanding into the city.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved how to spend the $4.5 million Google is dispersing before construction on the Downtown West mega campus begins over the next 12-18 months.
Of those funds, $3.25 million will go to education, job training and scholarships, $1 million to strengthen neighborhood-serving programs and $250,000 to start the advisory committee tasked with dispersing more money from Google.
By the time the project is completed a decade from now, Google will have doled out $200 million in community benefit funds.
“I think this really still stands as the model for what we should try to aim for in terms of a partnership between the city, developer, the technology industry, labor and the community,” said Jeffrey Buchanan, director of public policy at Working Partnerships USA.
Downtown West will span 80 acres near Diridon Station and feature 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 housing units, 15 acres of parks and a 30,000-50,000-square-foot community center. It also boasts 500,000 square feet for retail, cultural, education and arts uses. A quarter of housing units in the area will be affordable.
There was no council discussion, though Councilmember Dev Davis, who represents the area where Downtown West will be built, said she was happy to see the funds come in early and that plans represented community input.
Splitting the funds
Councilmembers allotted $3.25 million for youth and adult job training scholarships, of which $1.5 million will go to SJ Aspires, a program that promotes post-secondary readiness among high-school aged students in East San Jose.
The remaining funds will be split three ways: paid work experience and occupational skills training, child care support for workforce program participants and to fund a college and career pathways coordinator for three years. This role, overseen by the city, will help coordinate which city programs are the best fit for youth.
Several high school students in the SJ Aspires program shared at the meeting how it helped make their career goals and dreams tangible realities.
Overfelt High School Principal Vito Chiala said the program is effective because it awards scholarships to students in each grade level.
“These awards motivate students,” Chiala said. “And this investment, made by the city and really by Silicon Valley corporations like Google, is a clear sign to the students that they’re valued by our community and that their potential is recognized.”
The $1 million in neighborhood funding will be allocated by city officials after conducting neighborhood focus groups and reviewing door-to-door surveys. These dollars will be used for programs benefiting residents living near Diridon Station and operated out of the Gardner Community Center.
Alex Shoor, executive director of Catalyze SV, said he was concerned about the concentration of funds and hoped for a more equitable distribution.
“Awarding (funding) to a single group strikes me as strange,” Shoor said. “With all the organizations we have in our community that do engagement, I think a more open process would be better (so) that a wide diversity of voices are brought into the process.”
The remaining $250,000 is to set up a new fund aimed to minimize displacement from rising costs. The city allocated $3 million from Google last year for anti-displacement efforts, such as preserving the affordable housing that exists already and increasing services and shelter for people experiencing homelessness.
Nanci Klein, the city’s director of economic development, said in San Jose neighborhoods where redevelopment hit the hardest during past decades—new freeway construction, railroad lines and other projects—are targeted to receive these funds.
Google’s Downtown West will subject these areas to even more construction, so the intention of the money is to help offset those impacts.
A fund manager will be tasked with administering the grant-making process and recommending qualified grant recipients to the committee. Klein said the city hopes to have the advisory committee created by the end of 2022.
“One of the coolest parts about this is the advisory committee will be making the decisions and the money expenditures,” Klein said. “Those will be people with lived experience of homelessness or trauma and the technical experts that are working to eliminate (those traumas).”
Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.