Almaden Valley residents mull the future of downtown San Jose

From left, Matt Mahan, Gary Dillabough, Teresa Alvarado and Josh Burroughs discussed updates on downtown development in Almaden Valley Monday night. Photo by Katie Lauer.

 

by Katie Lauer

Article courtesy of San José Spotlight

Despite its distance from the city’s downtown core, Almaden Valley and its residents will experience far-reaching impacts from massive plans for downtown redevelopment – both in quality of life and tax dollars.

A panel of local nonprofit and development leaders met with about 50 residents of Almaden Valley on Monday to discuss the future of downtown San Jose during a meeting hosted by the Almaden Valley Community Association.

The speakers included Gary Dillabough, founder of Urban Community, which has purchased 21 parcels of downtown land, Teresa Alvarado, the San Jose Director of local urban planning research organization SPUR, and Josh Burroughs, the COO and SVP of development for real estate development fund Urban Catalyst.

Hosted by the Almaden Valley Community Association, the two-hour discussion led by the association’s planning and zoning chair Matt Mahan​ started broadly: what can be expected in a decade?

Burroughs answered by focusing on pure density, saying that he wants an additional 100,000 people within the downtown core daily at that point in time. “That’s 100,000 people to frequent our small businesses, restaurants, theaters, museums or farmers markets,” Burroughs said. “When you have that, people change everything.”

Alvarado agreed that more people living in downtown can create a dynamic atmosphere, but emphasized that having that investment in the city’s urban core does not mean the end of suburban neighborhoods like Almaden Valley.

“I think it’s about giving a compliment to the city and giving options for residents,” Alvarado said. “Downtown San Jose is the downtown for the entire city. How do we create a space that invites us all to be part of it, makes us feel safe and makes us feel like we’re doing something fun and exciting?”

This is a concept of development that Dillabough said is not new around the world, but it’s “just something that we missed here.”

Undoubtedly, Dillabough said Google’s proposed plans for a megacampus in the heart of downtown plays a major role in that dialogue. Dillabough said he lives near Stanford in Menlo Park, and the large presence of residents there has spurred growth in areas like medical care and roads.

“You don’t have to be afraid of these bigger companies, we just have to hold them accountable with milestones that we can track,” Dillabough said, adding that he thinks Google has learned from its experience in Mountain View.

Alvarado agreed, citing her time with the city’s community engagement task force which studied development plans around Diridon Station, where Google plans to set up shop.

“Google has been so engaged and really has been part of co-creating a vision for their downtown developments,” she said. “They understand the scale and the impact that they’re going to make it downtown. I’ve been really impressed at how they come to the conversation. It isn’t just for them.”

Attendees also received updates about ongoing efforts to improve public transit systems in downtown San Jose, financially support the growth of arts and culture amenities, “build up” to accommodate more residents, create sustainable, environmentally responsible buildings and engage the communities that are already downtown, such as San Jose State University.

One resident asked how any of these changes could benefit the Almaden Valley community.

Citing her own time living in and out of the Valley, Alvarado said cities change every day and that’s how services are brought to all.

“Everyone wants to have increased services, whether it’s garbage pickup, no potholes, or safer neighborhoods,” Alvarado added. “The money to pay for those increased services has to come from somewhere else, outside of just taxing yourself. It comes from new taxes from new real estate projects, the money those new employees bring to the city and sales taxes. We all create change in this city.”

Contact Katie Lauer at [email protected] or follow @klauer77 on Twitter.

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