Mercury News: Community groups issue demands to Google over downtown San Jose village

April 12, 2018

By: George Avalos

SAN JOSE — A coalition of community groups issued an array of demands to Google on Thursday regarding the search giant’s plans for a transit-oriented development in downtown San Jose near the Diridon train station.

The groups, operating as Silicon Valley Rising, demanded Thursday that Google step up efforts to address displaced residents and homelessness; bolster jobs geared toward low- and middle-income residents; give San Jose residents first crack at new Google-related employment; support tenants’ rights; ensure legal defense for tenants facing eviction; support local schools to promote education and career opportunities for children; widen access to mass transit; and ensure oversight of community benefits.

The organization presented its demands at Google’s iconic headquarters in Mountain View.

 “As Silicon Valley Rising engaged residents across San Jose, we heard again and again how the Google development could exacerbate gentrification, displacement, inequality and traffic,” according to a report released Thursday by the coalition. “This raises serious questions about how Google’s proposed mega-campus will affect working families in San Jose.

On Feb 28, the 38-member Station Area Advisory Group — including political, business, labor, civic and community leaders — kicked off a series of wide-ranging meetings to engage the public regarding Google’s development. Silicon Valley Rising and one of its community allies, Working Partnerships USA, are among the members of the advisory group. Google also is a member.

“We all share the goal of creating a more affordable and equitable community, and I appreciate Google’s willingness to work with us to confront these challenges,” San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo said Thursday in comments emailed to this news organization. “In fact, we’ve already seen Google engaged in our community, including recent grants of $325,000 to Catholic Charities and $500,000 to Somos Mayfair to help broaden opportunity for low-income children and families.”

Mountain View-based Google plans a transit-oriented community totaling 6 million to 8 million square feet of offices, residences, shops, restaurants and open spaces where 15,000 to 20,000 of the company’s employees would work in a development integrated with nearby neighborhoods.

“We want an open dialogue with the San Jose community surrounding our proposed development and look forward to discussing the points raised in this report throughout the public engagement process,” said Javier Gonzalez, Google public affairs manager.

An estimated 79 percent of San Jose residents favor the Google development in the Diridon station area, while 16 percent oppose it, according to a poll by Silicon Valley Leadership Group this year.

“I’m surprised Silicon Valley Rising left out world peace in their demands, but it sounds like it’s the only thing they left out,” said Carl Guardino, president of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. “Google coming to downtown San Jose is overwhelmingly supported by 79 percent of the taxpayers and voters who actually live in San Jose. But I’m sure that Silicon Valley Rising is well representing the 16 percent who do not.”

Maria Noel Fernandez, an official with Working Partnerships, questioned whether Silicon Valley Leadership Group is concerned about ordinary South Bay residents.

“I’m disappointed that the largest business association in the region is mocking the very real needs of working families in Silicon Valley,” she said. “The expectations that we have of Google address the crisis far too many people are facing Silicon Valley every day.”

Silicon Valley Rising surveys have determined that 82 percent of those it polled believe Google has a responsibility to provide jobs with livable wages for residents and that 73 percent think Google has a responsibility to protect current residents from being displaced.

“We look forward to our continued discussions of how we can work together to address these serious issues and build a vibrant, world-class development that will help generate millions in public revenues to support police patrols, library hours and other important city services,” Mayor Liccardo said.

Silicon Valley Rising said it hopes Google doesn’t follow the approach taken for other major tech campuses.

 “If Google follows the technology industry’s status quo and largely ignores the impacts of its development on the community, our working families, seniors and future generations could be dealing with the negative consequences of this project for decades,” Fernandez said.