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Early Groundbreaking For Google’s Downtown West In San Jose Hinges On SB7 Passage

Tech giant Google’s plan for Downtown West, a major mixed-use endeavor near San Jose’s Diridon Station, could get built sooner provided it gets approved by the city council in an upcoming hearing on May 25 and Senate Bill 7, which would continue the streamlining of the California Environmental Quality Act process for certain projects, is signed into law.

Mayor Sam Liccardo testified before the California Assembly Natural Resources Committee on April 28, speaking in support of SB7, which would grant a five-year extension of Assembly Bill 900. AB900 allows projects that provide environmental benefits such as greenhouse gas emissions reductions and bolster transit infrastructure to undergo a streamlined CEQA review process, thus accelerating the timeline for project approvals and the conclusion of any subsequent litigation that can stall projects for months. 


“This bill will enable San Jose's transformative Downtown West project to move forward — bringing thousands of units of affordable housing and tens of thousands of jobs to our city — just at the moment amid our recovery when our community needs it the most,” Liccardo said in a statement.

Discussion about the project kicked off between Google and the city in 2017 and resulted in a proposed development agreement released on April 6. Plans call for an 80-acre mixed-use district with 4,000 housing units, 7.3M SF of office, 15 acres of parks, plazas and open space, up to 500K SF of retail, cultural, education and other active uses, and 100K SF of event space including a 300-room hotel.

Proposed benefits of the project include 25% affordable housing units, buildings targeting LEED Gold and development near major transit systems like BART and Caltrain. When the project is complete, Google’s community benefit contribution is expected to total $200M in addition to $1B in infrastructure improvements.

Downtown West is not the only project that could get a jump-start from the passage of the legislation. The Balboa Reservoir project in San Francisco and the Oakland A’s proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal, among others, also fall under AB900. SB7 passed the Natural Resources Committee and has been referred to the Committee on Appropriations.

“We hope that with legislative approval, we’ll be able to get shovels into the ground after my city council’s approval on May 25, so that we can realize the most transformative investment in the history of Northern California’s largest city, and so that many other cities can get their affordable housing projects underway,” Liccardo said during the testimony.

If approved, vertical construction could begin as early as 2023 and take more than a decade for full build-out. Lendlease is serving as development adviser for Downtown West and SITELAB urban studio is conducting master planning and design for the project.