San Jose’s dilapidated elevators to get much-needed upgrades
Elevator cabs at the 95 N. Third St. parking garage in San Jose. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    San Jose will spend millions to upgrade dirty and dilapidated elevators at three downtown parking garages.

    The San Jose City Council unanimously approved a $4.5 million contract yesterday to refurbish 11 elevators at three city-owned parking garages. About half are more than 50 years old, with two built in 1965. The typical lifespan for elevator equipment is approximately 25 years.

    The project has been languishing in the city’s maintenance backlog of needed work due to understaffing, increased calls for maintenance and non-functioning equipment across the city. But after several interruptions in operations, the city is recommitting to the much-needed upgrades.

    The elevators at 45 N. Market St., 95 N. Third St. and Fourth Street/San Fernando Street have endured more than just a little routine wear and tear over the decades. Many are slow and make creaking noises as they descend—if elevators are even operating that day. They are also poorly lit and appear dirty inside, even if they were recently washed, because of fading linoleum floors, outdated lighting and vandalism.

    Floors in the elevator cabs ruined by fire damage. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Arian Collen, acting manager of parking and downtown operations with the city’s transportation department, said people often start fires in the elevators. Smoke damage has changed the interior from the original shiny chrome to dusty blackened walls. The floors have brown burn marks and lights are also often broken by vandals, he said.

    “Particularly post COVID that they’ve been vandalized a little more frequently. The parts have been less readily available to fix and they’ve been offline more than we would like,” Collen told San José Spotlight. “The timing was right to undertake this big project.”

    Collen said the city determined it would be more cost and time efficient to upgrade all three garages at the same time.

    In 2022, San Jose’s public works and transportation departments evaluated the garage elevators after numerous pauses in operations. They assessed that all 11 elevators needed immediate upgrades due to unreliable operation and poor conditions, according to city documents.

    San Jose has $1.7 billion in deferred maintenance on city infrastructure, and the elevator repairs fall into that category of spending.

    Upgrades will include refurbishing the existing elevator machines and replacing the doors and mechanics.

    The inside of an elevator cab at the 95 N. Third St. parking garage. Photo by Jana Kadah.

    Matt Leosch, public works director, wrote in a July 31 memo to council that because elevator cabs have been exposed to reoccurring vandalism, elevator flooring will be replaced with diamond steel and “vandal proof” lighting will be implemented in an effort to prevent future vandalism.

    “Generally, ‘vandal proof’ is harder or break or cause damage,” Leosch told San José Spotlight. “They are just a bit tougher than standard lighting.”

    Walnut Creek-based company W.E. Lyons Construction Co. won the construction bid for the project with $690,000 contingency. Total city cost is slated to be $6.3 million because of design, construction management and inspection services.

    Construction will start in September and is expected to finish by October 2025. Garages and some elevator operations will remain open during construction.

    “The repair and maintenance of any facility is important,” Collen said. “(These upgrades) are just one piece of it—whether it’s power washing on a regular basis or maintaining them in a way that welcomes the public.”

    Contact Jana Kadah at [email protected] or follow @Jana_Kadah on Twitter.

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