Tag Archives: downtown

Downtown anticipates major changes from proposed Google campus

By C.M. Bateman

Tahoma Editor-in-Chief

In December, the San Jose City Council agreed to sell over 10 acres of the downtown region to build a new Google campus. The proposed campus aims to positively renovate the infrastructure and strengthen the core of the city; however, the Google village has also sparked fear and anger from San Jose residents and business owners, specifically from those located in or around the land parcels sold to the organization during the negotiations.

The proposed project would stretch from the south tip of the San Jose Market Center to W San Carlos Street, curving along the railways leading to the Diridon Station and Autumn Street on the parallel side. The campus includes plans to open up space to the neighboring communities with cultural walking areas, various entertainment and dining establishments, as well as residential and office space for up to 20,000 Google employees.

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Google’s vision for the downtown San Jose village. PHOTO CREDIT: The Mercury News

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Diridon Station serves as a transit hub for Silicon Valley.

One of the main focuses for the campus is the development of Diridon Station- a central public transportation depot in San Jose connected by ACE, Amtrak, Caltrain and VTA light rail, along with local and regional bus services. BART and the California High-Speed Rail system also plan on adding Diridon to their map. These numerous platforms and public transportation connections define Diridon Station as the gateway to San Jose.

Rick Jensen, communications director for the San Jose Downtown Association, details the long-term effects anticipated for the city as a result of the Google campus: “San Jose is the only big city in the U.S. where there are fewer jobs than homes, which means transit-wise there are more people leaving San Jose to work than coming into the city. That has to be reversed … The Google project and the west side of downtown will become a worldwide model for how to grow an urban center correctly.”

An article from San Jose’s Office of Economic Development stresses the importance of urban villages to increase housing and jobs in the city, which simultaneously would help combat the urban sprawl Jensen mentioned. The Google campus will provide more jobs and housing units for local residents as well as increase ridership to the city itself.

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Infographic on the anticipated changes and affected area as a result of the Google campus. GRAPHIC CREDIT: Maxwell Taniguchi-King

However, many individuals are furious and concerned about the effects of the proposed campus.

The San Jose City Council voted unanimously to sell over 10 acres of land to Google for the project after 10 hours of discussion, testimonies and protests.

According to the Silicon Valley Business Journal, advocates against the campus voiced their worries about rising housing costs, which would push gentrification and displacement as a result of the campus being built. Some protesters held signs condemning the decision to sell the land parcels. A group of activists chained themselves to chairs in the meeting hall while chanting in protest of the sale. Several people were arrested.

The effect of the campus on low-income homeowners, the elderly and homeless has been a key concern throughout the almost two-year negotiations with Google. In May 2018, a public meeting to discuss Google’s proposed campus features at San Jose City Hall faced similar setbacks regarding protesters; after San Jose police officers “briefly discussed the situation with the demonstrators,” they left peacefully.

Many are distressed that the Google campus would only drive up the cost of living in the city, even with the idea of building more housing units as a part of the project.

Angela Nicole Walker, a local teacher at Rocketship Public Schools, lives near the SAP Center and Diridon Station. She began renting an apartment in late 2017 and first heard about the proposal shortly after moving in. Walker emphasized that she felt “upset” upon hearing the news: “I finally moved downtown, and then I felt like my rent was gonna go up.” Walker noted, “People already can’t afford it … and people aren’t gonna be able to live downtown.”

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Rent Trends in San Jose. PHOTO CREDIT: RentCafé

Affordable housing has remained an issue in San Jose over the past several years. According to a survey from Zillow, the median home value has soared up to over 15 percent in the past year (October 2017 – November 2018) and is expected to rise by 15 percent by October 2019. The average price of homes listed in the San Jose area falls under $950,000; specifically in the downtown area, the price is $728,000. Renting in the downtown area varies based on apartment structure, but averages around $2,731, making it the second most expensive area in the city.

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Bay Area housing goals for San Jose are still out of reach. PHOTO CREDIT: The Mercury News

The median household income, taken from a 2017 United States Census, is $96,662. In 2017, the annual salary for a low-income family in Santa Clara County resides at $84,750. This makes it difficult to find affordable housing, which has also become sparse in San Jose. Only 20 percent of the city’s targeted number of building permits for affordable units was reached, while 2,622 homes were built at the market rate, surpassing its target number by 162 percent.

The Google campus risks soaring housing costs and displaced residents; however, the rising housing market in San Jose remains at the forefront of the company’s review. Jensen stated that the parties involved in the negotiations “are all in favor of providing at minimum 25 percent affordable housing, attempts to minimize displacement, [and] offer access to training and local hiring practices.”

While homeowners and other residents face concerns for housing, business and property owners face various challenges from Google’s expansion in the downtown area. Those around the sold land parcels expect more attention and business because of the expected balance of daytime and nighttime traffic.

The SJDA has been working closely with Google management to ensure fair compensation for business owners. Jensen states, “Those being bought out are getting very good prices for their property … Property owners are already benefiting from increased property values.”

Despite fair compensation, local business owners (who are all within the land bought by Google) have mixed responses to the proposed campus.

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Taiko performs in Downtown San Jose.

Wisa Uemura, executive director of Taiko, an arts center focused on the Japanese art form of ensemble drumming, said, “Our interactions with Google have been straightforward, and they seem sincerely interested in listening to the needs of the community and figuring out creative ways to connect their plans to mutual benefit. However, with any development of this magnitude, there are legitimate public concerns that warrant discussion and action.”

The previous owner of Borch’s Iron Works and Welding, declining to state his name, commented on how “the campus should bring in a lot of good changes for this area; I’m looking forward to the way they’re going to clean this place up.”

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Puccio Machine & Welding Works has been located in downtown San Jose for almost eighty years. PHOTO CREDIT: Maxwell Taniguchi-King

Kerry Puccio, the owner of Puccio Machine & Welding Works, is the third-generation owner of the store; the business has been in the family since 1941. Puccio was bought out by Google several months ago in one of the land parcels: “Now I gotta figure out what to do.” Puccio said, “There’s a lot of people who aren’t happy. They’re trying to find places and can’t find places. It’s too much and there’s no property available.” Puccio is among the owners who must relocate their businesses: “Google’s not going to hire me.”

The proposed Google campus remains an exciting prospect for the growth of the industrial downtown area, but it falls short on providing support to local residents and owners. The community of San Jose must prepare itself to take on the upcoming changes once the campus begins major construction as early as 2025.

See below for a video of the community’s response to the Google campus:

Featured Image (at the top of this post): San Jose street art welcomes visitors in the downtown area. PHOTO CREDIT: Maxwell Taniguchi-King

Tahoma Sports Editor Will Butler contributed to this article.

Citizens express their views on street art

By Kainoa Garo, Nethan Sivarapu, Maxwell Taniguchi-King and Ian Vu

Staff Writers

Functioning as a foundation and reinforcing the network of cultures, art is the crucial factor that enables us to express our passions. While walking the streets of downtown San Jose, said art is found on virtually every corner.

In many cases, this art appears in the form of visual art, in which pieces are produced and displayed in public locations. This is recognized as street art, where, oftentimes, positions regarding specific ideologies are demonstrated.

Pieces of art, seen while driving through the streets of countless cities, have influenced a considerably large amount of the world’s opinions. Whatever the effects of street art are, they have occurred for centuries.

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This portrait is one of downtown San Jose’s many examples of street art.

According to Smithsonian magazine, the action of marking walls with art has occurred for more than 35,000 years, making street art a form of art generated from thousands of years in the making. Despite this, the appearance of this type of art in cities is quite recent.

The first signs of graffiti (not to be confused with street art and believed to have been started in 1967) were created by a young man named Darryl McCray, known by his tag name, Cornbread. In an effort to capture a girl’s attention, the Philadelphian high schooler began tagging city walls. KQED claims that only decades later, during the 1980s, did street art get the respect and attention it deserves.

According to Google Arts & Culture, as graffiti became popularized, it spread across the nation and the globe, quickly branching into various genres. From this, modern street art emerged, as it too quickly branched into various types.

Graffiti artists began using stencils for portraits and landscapes and created public murals. Specific names such as Barry McGee, Taki 183 and Keith Haring revolutionized street art, leading and growing street art into the very form it takes today.

Born and raised in San Francisco, McGee “is considered to be one of the most pivotal members of the street art movement.” Invaluable claims he utilized large, bold cartoon figures in ways that drew awareness to the homeless population in the Bay Area.

The new form of expression on the street started spreading internationally in the 1980s. According to Invaluable, Blek le Rat pioneered street art in France; for Britain, it was a man who went by Banksy.

As the years advanced, street art evolved immensely and will continue to do so. Downtown San Jose demonstrates the history of street art, in addition to the ever-changing current state of it.

As residents and visitors walk across the downtown area, they marvel at both the quality and quantity of street art. Pieces include everything from painted electrical boxes to large-scale murals covering an entire wall.   

See below for a look at the San Jose street art scene:

Art directly influences the people who experience it. Whether or not that influence is beneficial depends greatly on how different people receive the artist’s intentions. Nick, (a San Jose pedestrian who asked to be identified solely by his first name), said the positive or negative effects of street art on society depend on its origin.

“I think it depends on the street art. I think it depends on who made the street art; if it’s paid legally, if it’s hired by an artist. I think- I think if it’s hired, I think it’s good. It promotes – different viewpoints,” he explained. “There’s a – the artist has a canvas to convey their thoughts. So it’s good in that it promotes expression. Even if it’s illegal, even if someone is graffiting. So I see it as a benefit, yeah.”

The topic of public street art, especially the illegal aspect of it, has been controversial since the birth of graffiti. While paid murals are completely legal, producing street art on a property without the permission of the owner is not permitted.

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Downtown San Jose street art is often colorful and even whimsical.

The argument that, while this style of street art is considered vandalism it enables artists to express themselves and communicate their viewpoints, is a strong point. Disputes concerning the advantages of criminal street art occur consistently as many hold strong opinions on the issue.

Art, in turn, also affects society, changing the artist and what they are attempting to convey. Nick communicated his thoughts on that as well.

“Looking around I see a lot of street art; I see that street art is big here. So I would say that it promotes it – people seem to be OK with street art and seem to like it and seem to want to want it all over.”

This holds true in nearly every city, as society takes its toll on the surrounding art. Events and attitudes, such as political views, play substantial roles on the exact message artists carry.

Street art seems to weave itself within society, solidifying as an everlasting piece in the network. Subsequently, the society that surrounds street art affects every art piece.

Ethan, another San Jose pedestrian who asked to be identified solely by his first name, summed up the difficulty of categorizing street art: “Street art allows people to have the room to be creative and to express themselves freely … like all things, you could express a positive emotion or express a negative emotion.”

Related:

Art teacher expresses his passion for the visual arts

Expeditions course reveals itself to be more than simply a Visual Arts class

Food builds community

By Jon Garvin, Kai Lock, Ethan Sheppy, Skylar Peters and Malia Vaea

Staff Writers

Walking through Redwood City, you notice a bunch of smiling faces, people quickly getting from place to place, and, most importantly, many restaurants that have become a staple in the local community. These local restaurants have become a major factor in allowing Redwood City to come together as a community.

We decided to spotlight local restaurants in the city’s bustling downtown. We interviewed workers at restaurants such as Teaquation, Quinto Sol, Cafe la Tartine, Cyclismo Cafe and Green Leaf Bistro to answer the question: How have local Redwood City restaurants established themselves and built a community around their food?

Workers offered various perspectives on how difficult it was to build a community and different strategies for reaching out to the customers. For example, the manager of Quinto Sol, Jose Martinez, said he didn’t face many problems in building a community and that “the whole city welcomed us really well.”

Though building a sense of community around a local business can seem like a fun job, there are many struggles that come with the task. Restaurants can face many different types of obstacles related to community needs.

The co-owner of Cyclismo Cafe, Jihan Bayyari, had a lot to say about the difficulties she’s faced while working at her restaurant. Restaurants can face these difficulties because they try very hard to respond to customer feedback and constantly try to improve their sense of community.  

The manager of Green Leaf Bistro, Betty Gayez, has faced some problems involving the food. She stated, “For sure, I’d say not a crazy amount of struggle, but you have people coming in that are allergic to this and that and this and you have to make sure that we take care of these little things. We work on the products more and more so that next time we do work on a new menu, or update it, we make sure that these items are taken care of.”

Different restaurants also help host or contribute to various types of events. Mr. Martinez said that Quinto Sol impacts the community by “helping with every single thing that there is, like things at the plaza, with the community like Dia de Los Muertos and other festivities.”

Ms. Bayyari stated, “We host lots of different events. So everything from a community hike, we do a bike ride; we do bike swap meets; we do a paint night once a month. So hosting different community events is what makes people come and start to meet each other.”

Mercedes Mapua, the owner of Teaquation, has done different things with the community as well, such as working with non-profits. Ms. Mapua also added, “We’ve worked with a school as well. We have yet to [do] one this year yet, but hopefully soon. Definitely want to connect with the Redwood locals.”

After interviewing five local restaurants, we noticed how much pride and love they have for their community. They contribute in all the ways they can and help build the sense of community in Redwood City immensely. They positively affect our community by helping bring more and more people together. Together they build unity and pride within our city.

To experience the five different restaurants mentioned, check out our video here:

Click here to see a story map with all the featured restaurants.