San Jose’s Cambrian Park Plaza inches toward redevelopment
The 1950s-era Cambrian Park Plaza will be redeveloped as an urban village, but the iconic carousel sign will remain. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Cambrian Park Plaza is a step closer to redevelopment with the release of its draft environmental report.

Located at the intersection of Union and Camden avenues in San Jose with its iconic carousel sign, the reimagined single-story shopping center, which dates back to the 1950s, is a long way from approval. An estimated completion date for the proposed urban village design is not expected until June 2026. 

The project is complex and complicated. It requires annexation from Santa Clara County into San Jose, which will begin review in mid-2022. This will place the development into District 9, represented by San Jose Councilmember Pam Foley. The 18-acre development also requires an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) to address noise and air pollution, traffic and the impacts on land, vegetation and wildlife. Residents have 45 days for public comment between Nov. 12 and Jan. 3.

The design will include 305 apartments, 48 single-family homes with 27 attached accessory dwelling units and 25 townhomes. The village will also provide a 229-room hotel, a senior living center and four acres of open space. Foley has requested the developer build affordable housing.

Retail, housing and open space is planned for the reimagined Cambrian Park Plaza in San Jose. Rendering courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Pam Foley.

Alex Shoor, executive director of Catalyze SV, which advocates for sustainable, equitable and vibrant places, said its members would like to see the village include a sports facility, public Wi-Fi and more open space. Although the group appreciates the vibrancy it will bring, it strongly objects to the lack of affordable housing.

“A project this big, this important, with this much land and this many different types of buildings absolutely needs and should have affordable housing on-site,” Shoor told San José Spotlight.

Cambrian Park Plaza will become an urban village with parks, housing and retail. Rendering courtesy of the Office of Councilmember Pam Foley.

The draft EIR found “no significant and unavoidable impacts” to the environment or utility systems from this project. It states all impacts can be reduced to “less-than significant” under California Environmental Quality Act standards by implementing proper mitigation measures.

Some residents remain skeptical. Marylyn Anderson, who has lived in the area for 38 years, said the complex will overwhelm the neighborhood and utilities.

“Every unit requires more electricity and water,” she said. “We don’t have enough water now and have constant brownouts.”

Other residents in the area worry about traffic and the overall aesthetics of the neighborhood. 

Peter Clarke, a member of Friends of Cambrian Park Plaza, said residents would like to see lower building heights and have concerns about increased traffic from commuters. He said it’s unlikely people who can afford to live at the village will choose public transportation rather than drive. Clarke also doesn’t agree with the city’s plans to add a cut-through street through the proposed park.

“We’d like families to be able to let kids run around without worrying there’s a speeding car coming,” he said.

Jolanta Kobylinski, owner of Heartbeat Cafe, would like to recreate her shop—which opened in 1996—in the redeveloped shopping center. She’s concerned there won’t be enough water available for the planned hotel, houses and apartments. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Monica Mallon, chair of the Cambrian Community Council and San José Spotlight transportation columnist, said the planned retail and park will attract people in the surrounding areas, creating traffic issues. She said residents are also unhappy with the proposed height of the buildings and want them to be one or two stories.

“In Cambrian, there aren’t a lot of tall buildings,” she said. “I live in a two-story building, and it stands out.”

The purpose of the EIR is to have a conversation, Foley said. She’s hosting a virtual town hall at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 13, and will be joined by city staff and the project’s developers to provide information and answer questions.

“It’s an opportunity to gain feedback,” Foley told San José Spotlight. “It’s important we listen to our community and work with them on what they’d like to see. We need to be thoughtful and hear people’s concerns.”

Customer Jeni Tayrien enjoys talking with Alfonso de Tagle, owner of De Tagle Jewelers, as much as his service. De Tagle said he’ll stay at Cambrian Park Plaza as long as possible and wants to return when the redesign is completed. Photo by Lorraine Gabbert.

Cambrian Park Plaza is under new ownership as Weingarten Realty was recently acquired by Kimco Realty Corp., but Kimco has retained Weingarten to continue the plaza’s revitalization.

Since 2019, Weingarten has worked closely with Foley’s office on redesigning the plaza based on resident feedback, Foley said. This includes moving taller buildings to the corner, creating underground parking for 1,000 cars to make the space more inviting and preserving the beloved carousel sign.

Foley envisions the redeveloped Cambrian Park Plaza as a walkable community gathering place.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to create housing and commercial uses in a signature project,” she said. “It’s going to be the gateway to Cambrian.”

Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]

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