Lawsuit stalls San Jose food bank development
This digital rendering shows what the planned Second Harvest of Silicon Valley headquarters facility in Alviso could look like when completed. Image courtesy of Second Harvest of Silicon Valley.

    Plans for a nonprofit food bank’s massive new headquarters in Alviso are on hold after a resident filed a lawsuit against San Jose over its approval of the development.

    In a lawsuit filed Monday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, Alviso resident Mark Espinoza claims the environmental review for the 250,000 square foot Second Harvest of Silicon Valley warehouse project is inadequate and leans on two-decade-old information. After a city planning director approved the warehouse project earlier this year, Espinoza appealed the approval to the San Jose City Council, but was rejected in August.

    This is the second lawsuit Espinoza has filed against the city this month over development plans in the North San Jose community, and he has been involved in others in the past, including one against Topgolf.

    While the city has said its environmental clearances for the Second Harvest project meet current state and local requirements, Espinoza is hoping to push the city and the nonprofit to complete a full environmental impact report looking deeper at the possible hazards the project could create.

    “It looks like a lot of developers have tried to avoid that, whether because it’s costly, or time consuming, or they just don’t want to see the true impacts of their development and try to sweep it under the rug,” Espinoza told San José Spotlight.

    The warehouse is planned for a roughly 10.4-acre site at 4553 and 4653 N. First St., which was at one time envisioned as part of a larger 152-acre Cisco Systems development approved in 2000 that never came to fruition. Those plans included up to 2.3 million square feet of office, manufacturing and research and development space, for which the city previously evaluated the environmental impacts.

    Since then, a total of 1.8 million square feet of offices, warehouses and a hotel have been constructed on the 152-acre parcel, using the 2000 report as a basis for environmental assessments, according to city reports.

    City officials disagree with the lawsuit and say the Second Harvest project will not have any new or more significant effects that haven’t already been considered.

    “We do not believe that this lawsuit is well-taken and it appears to be an effort to simply delay a good project,” City Attorney Nora Frimann told San José Spotlight. “The city believes that the planning work and decisions leading up to this project approval are appropriate and defensible.”

    Espinoza said some of his main concerns about the project are that it will operate 24 hours a day and bring in more potentially harmful diesel emissions and truck traffic in the area, across from George Mayne Elementary School and nearby homes.

    City reports said a more recent health risk assessment was completed for the plans that show there will not be any significant health risks to kids across the street from the planned warehouse, nor a nearby temple.

    Second Harvest spokesperson Diane Baker Hayward said the environmental review for the project is “thorough, exhaustive, and complete” and called the lawsuit troubling at a time when the food bank is still serving 450,000 people each month.

    “The number of people who are reaching out to Second Harvest for food assistance is on the rise again, as so many low wage workers in our community grapple with the repercussions of inflation while they struggle to get back on solid ground after the financial devastation of the pandemic,” Hayward told San José Spotlight. “Our new home in Alviso, a neighborhood we’ve served for 30 years, is critical to our ongoing response to the community. This lawsuit stands in the way of getting nutritious food to the members of our community who need it most.”

    Espinoza said he’s not worried about the optics of suing the city over a nonprofit food bank’s development.

    “If they’re so great of a company, then why not do it the right way, and show what the true impacts are, and show how we can mitigate them or avoid them?” Espinoza said.

    Contact Joseph Geha at [email protected] or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.

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