Rico: A vision for the Diridon Station Area
The Diridon Station in downtown San Jose is pictured in this file photo.

    South Bay YIMBY’s vision for the development of the Diridon Station Area is of a vibrant, diverse, affordable and sustainable new neighborhood in the heart of San Jose. Making the most of this opportunity will require bold and proactive leadership from the city of San Jose to address key challenges with the current land use in the Diridon area.

    Growth of the Diridon area should benefit all San Joseans, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status. It should be a place where everyone feels welcome and at home. This is an opportunity to establish an iconic place representative of the larger San Jose community, reflecting the cultural history and rich diversity of the city’s population.

    We believe that a bold, inclusive and equitable neighborhood plan can meet the needs of San Jose and Santa Clara County, address the extreme housing crisis and need for an integrated transit plan to connect the city to the rest of the Bay Area.

    The city must double-down on its efforts to address the housing crisis in its Diridon Station Area Plan. Housing insecurity is already high and will continue to rise if job creation grows without housing growth to match. Currently, the 2014 Diridon Station Area Plan only contains 2,588 new homes – nowhere near enough to meet current needs, let alone the greater demand for housing in the area that Google’s arrival will bring. A plan for so many new jobs without new homes is a plan for displacement.

    There must be enough housing to meet San Jose’s needs. We recommend a minimum of 20,000 homes between Diridon and surrounding connected transit corridors, with at least 10,000 in the station area itself and at least 5,000 at below market rents, to meet the demand for housing in the area. The city must work to ensure that housing built in the Diridon Station area accommodates a range of needs, including accessible homes for disabled residents as well as supportive housing and extremely low-income affordable housing to help end homelessness. Simultaneously, the city should act to protect people already living in the station area (and elsewhere in San Jose) from displacement due to rising costs.

    The station area needs to be a vibrant community and an active neighborhood. Housing built in the station area should be integrated throughout and should be mixed-use, to include not only housing but services oriented toward residents, transit users and visitors to the area. People should feel comfortable moving through the area to access downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, Guadalupe River Park and the SAP Center. We urge Google to build a permeable, fully integrated campus, and recommend maintained public restrooms for use by the general public, including our homeless neighbors.

    We strongly urge Google and others to maintain a transparent and responsive dialogue with community members and develop an engagement process that considers the needs of the community.

    Development of the Diridon Station Area presents San Jose with the opportunity to create a world-class transit hub. With Caltrain electrification scheduled to come online in 2022 and the eventual arrival of BART and California High Speed Rail, studies indicate there will be more transfers in 2040 than there is transit ridership today. It’s critical to the success of Diridon Station that transfers between modes are as seamless as possible.

    We want to see a station design allowing fast and easy transfers, with safe and convenient access to the station by walking, biking and other active modes. We support the development of integrated fares across agencies and encourage the city to work with MTC and Clipper to support regional fare integration. We encourage Caltrain, VTA and BART to coordinate scheduling for easy transfers.

    Integrating the station area into the rest of San Jose should also mean integrated planning. As jobs are added around the transit hub, the city should plan for increased housing capacity in surrounding transit-linked neighborhoods. Proactively planning for how the Diridon area connects to, affects, and is affected by the rest of San Jose will help the city meet its housing needs and ensure the transformation of the Diridon area brings shared prosperity rather than rising housing costs and displacement.

    Given the rich infrastructure for transit, active transportation and a mix of uses, we support a mode share goal that reduces dependency on private automobiles and encourages biking, walking and use of public transit connections. We recommend that vehicle parking policies further this goal and do not encourage more driving than is needed. We support shared parking between uses that attract drivers at different times of the day and week.

    We support unbundled parking for both residential and commercial development, allowing residents without cars to save on rent and commercial tenants to provide incentives to employees who choose not to drive. We oppose fully subsidized parking and support parking fees to encourage non-driving transportation modes.

    We strongly encourage local entertainment businesses to borrow lessons from San Francisco’s urban sports/entertainment venues and take advantage of the improving transit and active transportation options. Encouraging fans to use transit can help local businesses like bars and restaurants.

    If you want to help make this vision come true, join us in the fight.

    Proactive planning from the city focused on housing for all, seamless integration of the Diridon area into the city and creating a people-centered place, can allow San Jose to make the most of the opportunities presented by the transformations underway in the Diridon Station Area. South Bay YIMBY is committed to supporting the city in achieving these goals – and pushing back when we see them straying from these priorities.

    Alli Rico is a recent transplant to San Jose and a volunteer with the housing advocacy group South Bay YIMBY. 


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