By Lloyd Alaban
Days before San Jose lawmakers are expected to approve Google’s plan to build a massive campus downtown, a new poll shows a majority of San Joseans support it.
A poll sponsored by the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, a prominent tech-driven trade association, shows 70% of voters surveyed support the project overall. When asked about specific elements of the project—the largest development in San Jose’s history—respondents most strongly supported that it will bring 25,000 new jobs to the city, provide 15 acres of parks and open space, and invest $30 million in downtown transportation improvements.
The poll was conducted by Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz and Associates and surveyed 819 randomly-selected voters. They were contacted via phone and online surveys from May 11 to May 16. The survey, which included interviews in English, Spanish and Vietnamese, has a 3.5% margin of error.
In 2019, Google first proposed a draft of the plan that would eventually become the Google West project, the tech giant’s expansion into downtown San Jose. The project spans 80 acres near Diridon Station downtown and 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 the housing units in the area will be affordable.
On Tuesday, San Jose lawmakers are expected approve the project’s development agreement and mixed-use plan.
The poll also found many San Joseans are keeping tabs on the project. It shows 60% of those surveyed are “totally familiar” with the project, including 19% saying they were “very familiar.”
“I think people are excited about the revitalization of a city they already love and a downtown they’re rooting for,” said Jason Baker, senior vice president of transportation, health and housing at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “They see the potential in this area and, right now, we all feel like we’re living in a time where change for the better is possible.”
Pollsters also asked San Joseans what specific elements of the massive project they support. Every element received 75% or more support with options ranging from the new affordable housing units to 25,000 new jobs, transportation improvements and a fund to curb displacement.
“In a way, it’s all part of the fact that this won’t feel like a big tech campus dropped in the middle of the city,” Baker said. “It will feel like a thriving, interesting, community-focused downtown that happens to be where people work.”
Some land use experts are not surprised by the poll’s favorable results more than three years after the tech giant first set its sights on San Jose.
“Google is a Silicon Valley-based international brand that has long ties to the Bay Area,” said Bob Staedler, principal at the consultancy Silicon Valley Synergy and columnist for San José Spotlight. “Google is coming in as a neighbor, as a corporate citizen to San Jose.”
Over the past year, the project has faced raised concerns about gentrification and high rents in the area. In response, Google launched a $200 million community benefits fund to provide grants for programs serving low-income residents, address the causes of displacement and help preserve existing affordable housing in the area.
Google West has already cleared several hurdles, including a unanimous recommendation from the city’s Planning Commission.
“Google didn’t just listen and nod their head and get paid,” Staedler said of the community benefits plan. “They actually made changes to the plan. … It’s a win-win.”
Still, one of the most vocal opponents of the project is the San Jose Sharks, whose home arena, the SAP Center, is just a few hundred feet away from Google West. The Sharks claim the project could force them out of San Jose. because of traffic, street closures and a shortage of parking caused by development. Team officials are demanding the city nearly double the parking spots in the plan to 4,800. The Santa Clara County Airport Land Use Commission is also opposed, citing concerns about building heights in the airport’s path.
The City Council needs a two-thirds majority vote in favor of the plan Tuesday to override the airport commission’s rejection.
State and local officials at a news conference Thursday said the new Google development is expected to bring 5,700 prevailing wage construction jobs. Gov. Gavin Newsom joined San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo and other elected officials to announce the signing of Senate Bill 7, which will expedite any housing development’s environmental review process.
“I’m really grateful that Google stepped in right away, working with the mayor and the City Council and asking, ‘What are you going to bring to the table if we say yes to you coming into our community?” Assemblymember Ash Kalra said early Thursday. “They (Google) not only responded to the community, but they responded to the community in a way no other company has in the history of this country.”
Baker said the city and Google have listened to each other’s demands and included voices from business owners, labor leaders and nearby residents. It’s the reason why he said 7 out of 10 people support the project.
“It’s hard to get 70% of folks to agree on anything, let alone to proactively support something,” Baker said. “If other companies follow this lead, San Jose will be ready for even more great projects to come.”
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This article was originally published by The San José Spotlight.