Will Google hire San Jose workers? It might be too early to tell
A rendering of Google's Downtown West project. Image courtesy of SITELAB Urban Studio.

    Two weeks ago, San Jose approved the largest development in its existence: Downtown West, Google’s 80-acre campus near Diridon Station.

    Google estimates that up to 25,000 people will work at the downtown offices. Just how many of those will be local hires is still unclear.

    According to Google spokesperson Michael Appel, it’s too early to tell exactly what teams will work at Downtown West, but there will be a variety of employees working there within the next decade. The project committed to offering 5,700 prevailing wage construction jobs, or public works jobs that are paid on an hourly wage to a majority of workers, with a local hiring goal of 30%, according to a city presentation.

    Although the tech giant hasn’t established what types of jobs will eventually be offered at Downtown West, there are breakdowns of Google’s existing job types. According to a 2017 Securities and Exchange Commission report, of the company’s 72,053 full-time employees, 37.5% worked in research and development, 28.8% in sales and marketing, 19.7% in operations and 13.4% worked in general and administrative functions. As of 2019, the company had 118,819 full-time workers.

    “There’s always going to be people who have to commute to work,” said Nick Goddard, senior vice president at Colliers International’s Silicon Valley office, an investment and management company. “Not many people can walk to work. But (Downtown West) will be one of the few places where you would have the density that would allow that.”

    Goddard added that the project’s thousands of residential units could house more residents near a workplace than other developments.

    The project, first proposed by the tech giant in 2019, features 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 housing units, 15 acres of parks and a 30,000-50,000-square foot community center. It also boasts 500,000 square feet for retail, cultural, education and arts uses. A quarter of housing units in the area—approximately 1,000—will be affordable.

    Construction could start as early as next year.

    A look at Google’s proposed land uses for its massive development in downtown San Jose. Photo courtesy of Google.

    While local organizations ultimately don’t have control of who Google will hire, groups such as the Silicon Valley Organization (SVO), San Jose’s chamber of commerce, are hopeful that the company will consider hiring within the area.

    “We’re very committed to making sure the talent pipelines and career pathways that exist for hiring local stay strong and that folks from our community have the opportunity to go through the pipeline to get the high-quality, high-paying jobs that Downtown West is likely to provide,” SVO CEO Derrick Seaver told San José Spotlight.

    Vice Mayor Chappie Jones, just minutes before the council voted to approve the Google project on May 25, said he wanted to challenge Google to support more minority-owned businesses and include them in the planning process as the project builds out.

    “The amount of money that’s going to be produced and spent on small businesses and large businesses, but particularly small minority businesses, can really make a difference in terms of the viability, sustainability and growth of our community and really create wealth,” Jones said at the time.

    According to a poll conducted last month by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, of which Google is a member, San Joseans are overwhelmingly in favor of the project. Of the respondents surveyed, 87% said they were most in favor of the project because it would bring 25,000 new jobs to the city.

    Appel said Google is committed to bringing diverse jobs to San Jose. Silicon Valley’s tech companies have been criticized in the past for their lack of diversity—so much so that the Congressional Black Caucus paid a visit to the region in 2018 to find out why white men dominated the tech industry.

    Diridon Station in downtown San Jose is at the center of massive redevelopment plans, which includes Google’s proposed megacampus. Photo by Carly Wipf.

    Numbers from 2019 show that Google has not done much better: Since 2014 the company’s share of U.S. technical employees who are Black or Latino rose by less than a percentage point.

    The company tried to expand diversity efforts in its hires over the last decade and hopes to carry over those efforts in hiring people at Downtown West. Appel said the company’s aim is to make everyone feel that they belong at Google and are proud to work there.

    Survey results courtesy of FM3 research and Silicon Valley Leadership Group.

    In June 2020, Google CEO Sundar Pichai shared the company’s commitments to advance racial equity and recently announced a goal to improve leadership representation of underrepresented groups by 30% by 2025.

    Seaver believes that local hiring will not only cultivate talent but will also bring diversity to the workplace in one of the region’s most diverse cities.

    “When you hire local, what you tend to find is an employee base that is probably more committed to the community around it, to the kind of traditional existing downtown businesses and organizations that have been here before Downtown West and more likely to frequent those businesses and come downtown,” Seaver said.

    Seaver said that the SVO doesn’t currently have any initiatives that speak specifically to local hiring.

    Still, community activists have concerns that the amount of housing and jobs won’t be enough to sustain low-income workers or workers of color. In response, Google and the city negotiated a $200 million community benefits agreement plan, which includes a $154.8 million fund for aiding unhoused residents. The money will be used for job training programs, addressing displacement and affordable housing.

    “There are so many mom-and-pop shops in the area that are hanging by a thread already,” Stephanie Avila, a local activist, told San José Spotlight hours before the council’s vote two weeks ago. “Here we are erasing the culture of San Jose to implement something new versus integrating Google into the city.”

    Contact Lloyd Alaban at [email protected] or follow @lloydalaban on Twitter.

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