Photo of Diridon Station at night, Courtesy of Amtrak

What Google Means for San Jose’s Future

Sam Liccardo


About a year-and-a-half ago, the City initiated discussions with Google about how we could work together to realize our community’s collective vision for creating a vibrant, architecturally iconic, transit-focused village near Diridon Station complete with public plazas, retail, restaurants, world-class architecture. The stakes are huge: such a partnership offers the potential to bring tens-of-thousands of jobs to our city, generate millions in annual tax revenues to improve underfunded city services, and build a more sustainable future by co-locating offices, housing, and retail downtown near public transit.

While much has been said in the media and the community about the proposed Google development in recent months, fast-moving conversations about subjects of wide public interest — whether in social media or around the water cooler — can often outrun the facts.

With the Council considering a significant vote on December 4th, it seems an appropriate time to offer a few key facts as a starting point for our conversations ahead, and to answer some common questions.

1. What is the Council deciding on December 4th? What will be decided in the future?

On Dec. 4, the City Council will consider approval of land sale agreements, an option agreement on three more parking lots, and an MOU that broadly defines the parties’ intentions, expectations, and responsibilities in the months ahead. Yet, much remains to be decided — namely what exactly would get built. So, the City and Google plan to spend much of the next few years negotiating over a development agreement, which will outline exactly what Google can build and what Google will be required to pay in fees, impact mitigation, and community benefits. Read more about what is and isn’t happening at the Dec. 4th Council meeting.

2. Will the taxpayers be subsidizing an anticipated Google development in any way?

Google will pay full freight for land, taxes, fees, and additional community benefits like affordable housing, in stark contrast to other cities handing out billions in local tax dollars to attract big companies. We offered Google no subsidies, and they didn’t ask for them. Read more about how this deal stands in contrast to examples seen in other parts of the country.

3. Why should San Jose strike any deal with Google? What’s in it for San Jose residents?

Whether it’s the tens-of-thousands of new jobs available to our residents, the roughly $10 million in net annual City revenues available to enhance public services, or the community benefits that Google has committed to provide, above-and-beyond the impact fees and mitigations that will be required of them, San Jose residents have much to gain if this project ultimately comes to fruition. Read more about how San Jose residents will benefit from this proposed development.

4. How do we know whether the public will get a good deal on the anticipated land sales?

On December 4th, the Council will decide whether to sell several parcels of publicly-owned industrial land to Google and option agreements for several other parcels. The agreed price of $237.50 per square foot not only exceeds what Google paid for other properties in the area, it’s 2.5 times more than what some neighboring properties were appraised at just a year ago. Read more about the value San Jose residents are receiving for their land.

5. In light of Google’s plans, how will San Jose continue to address high housing costs?

We know that the largest community concern relates to housing affordability, and we have much work to do to make sure San Jose remains a place where we all can afford to live. Google has long committed to working with us to address our housing crisis, and at my urging, we’ve proposed that 25% of all housing built in the Diridon Area be affordable, rent-restricted housing.

But we must remember that our housing crisis was not caused by Google moving into San Jose, nor will it be suddenly solved when they get here. The truth is that the causes are much deeper and complex than that — and that’s why the Council has many other efforts underway to build more affordable housing. Read more about Google and Our Housing Crisis.

6. How transparent has the City been in making these decisions, and in these negotiations?

Despite the protests of some critics, we’ve charted a very open public process for exploring this unique opportunity. The proposed agreements, to be voted on December 4, were all publicly posted 17 days in advance of the County Meeting, and we initiated a robust community engagement process with dozens of public meetings before the applicant (Google) has even formulated a proposed project. Read more the public transparency and vetting that the City has provided for this proposed development.

I encourage you to read more about these important issues by clicking the links above or by reading my entire blog post here (please forgive the length).

This is a unique opportunity for our downtown and our community, and I remain committed to ensuring that we get the best deal possible for our residents. I look forward to sharing more in the days and weeks ahead.