SAN JOSE — Google’s proposed downtown San Jose transit village encountered its first major community scrutiny at a town hall meeting Thursday night, a gathering that indicated the tech titan will be under pressure to provide wide-ranging benefits to local neighborhoods.
About 200 people crowded into the Mexican Cultural Center in San Jose to express their views, hopes and fears related to the planned transit village, which is planned for an aging part of downtown San Jose near the Diridon train station and the SAP Center.
“Google will be bringing one of the biggest projects, if not the biggest project ever, into San Jose,” the city’s Vice Mayor Magdalena Carrasco said in remarks to kick off the meeting. “San Jose will be changing” because of the project.
The vice mayor added that these big changes can present a challenge for the Bay Area’s largest city.
“This has the potential to be a campus like we have never seen,” said Salvador Bustamante, director of Latinos United for a New America.
Attendees at the meeting urged each other to be certain that their views are known to both Mountain View-based Google and San Jose political leaders.
“We cannot leave it up to Google to determine a community process for us,” Bustamante said. “We cannot leave it up to the city officials.”
Mountain View-based Google and its development partner Trammell Crow have spent about $141.7 million in property purchases for the proposed Google transit village. The project is expected to consist of 8 million to 10 million square feet of offices and the company could employ 15,000 to 20,000 workers in what some have dubbed a Google Village.
Attendees gave some hints about what sort of financial benefits they might expect from the search titan. Maria Noel Fernandez, director of organizing and civic engagement with Working Partnerships USA noted that Google provided $240 million in community benefits for a project in Mountain View, a development that speakers estimated is half the size of what it is planning in downtown San Jose.
“We have to make it really clear what our community wants,” Fernandez said.
Google and the city of San Jose have begun negotiations for the sale of 16 city-owned parcels to Google as part of the properties the company seeks to own for the project.
Representatives of Google didn’t attend the meeting Thursday night.
“I think it is disrespectful for Google not to be here,” said Patricia Palomares-Mason, a San Jose resident in attendance at the gathering.
However, in comments during the San Jose City Council vote in late June, Mark Golan, a Google vice president of real estate services for Northern California, acknowledged the importance of community interaction.
“Google understands that we are an important part of the community,” Golan said. “We all share an interest in getting it right.”
The vice mayor encouraged community members to think big.
“I want you to be very provacative,” Vice Mayor Carrasco said. “Google will have a domino effect. You have to think about what will be the community benefits east of 101.”
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