Staedler: Downtown San Jose needs groups like Urban Vibrancy Institute to improve
A shuttered store in downtown San Jose. Photo by Eli Wolfe.

Over the last several decades, there have been various opinions and political handwringing on what is wrong with downtown San Jose.

In the past, San Jose officials have blamed the lack of downtown vibrancy on business cycles and other over simplistic issues such as daytime or nighttime population.  The city of San Jose presented its Downtown Annual Progress Report to a City Council committee last week. As with many cities throughout the country, the COVID-19 pandemic hurt downtown San Jose. The reduction in convention business and tourism has had a significant impact on the vitality of downtown.

The health and vitality of downtown San Jose is not a single-issue situation. The building of more housing will not automatically solve the issues that it faced pre-pandemic. It is a complex issue that needs a data-driven and collaborative approach to improve it.

A nonprofit that is looking to move the needle and have a more grassroots approach is the Urban Vibrancy Institute, or UVI. It’s a nonprofit that is looking to revitalize and support downtown San Jose by working with others to collectively “make San Jose clean, safe, vibrant, collaborative, and one of the most sought-after cities to live in America.”

The group says it envisions a city full of life—a city where residents feel safe and open to enjoying themselves and their neighbors to the fullest.

Its leadership has brought a collaborative approach to bringing stakeholders together to work in improving downtown.

One of its successes is getting funding for a downtown foot patrol program.  The institute’s aim is to create a cooperative system with the community, critical agencies along with a full-time walking patrol and homelessness response teams. This approach is needed now more than ever as we begin to enter the end of the COVID-19 pandemic.

UVI has a famous quote from Margaret Mead on its website: “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Let us all support and cheer on the power of people coming together. Onward and upward.

San José Spotlight columnist Bob Staedler is a principal at Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose-based land use and development consulting firm. His columns appear every first Monday of the month. Contact Bob at [email protected] or follow @BobStaedler on Twitter.

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