Two years of negotiations between San Jose and Google over a proposed $110 million “mega-campus” near Diridon Station came to a head Tuesday at a public meeting to vote on the property sale.
Over a hundred speakers voiced concern, support and opposition to the tech giant’s future in the city. From 2:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., Mayor Sam Liccardo called speakers to the podium in advance of the City Council’s deliberation.
Longtime residents, small business owners, students, teachers, parents and activists voiced distinctly different perceptions of the “Google Effect,” or what would happen after the business set up shop in the center of the city.
Many said its presence would amplify gentrification, clog traffic and spike high rent prices in a city already in the depths of a housing crisis. For others, Google’s mega-campus would bring a revitalized downtown to the “bedroom community” and create beneficial partnerships through a community benefits agreement.
The city made its lease agreements and Memorandum of Understanding public for the first time two weeks ago. The sale includes property that was once slated for a Major League Baseball field for the Oakland A’s, a firefighter training building and additional lots.
The property, which is west of downtown, will be master planned by a single developer, according to the city, and require 25 percent of its 3,000 projected homes to be affordable housing. Google has not yet presented plans to the city, and a yes or no vote applies only to the sale of the property. If the sale is approved, planning, design and review will take at least two more years.
In mid-November, two nonprofits filed a lawsuit against the city alleging a lack of transparency during the negotiation process, which involved 17 city officials and Liccardo signing non-disclosure agreements with Google. Before the documents were made public, the city communicated with residents through several Station Area Advisory Group meetings.
Dozens of speakers raised the issue of the non-disclosure agreements today, though the agreements expired in June 2017 before city officials began discussing costs of the sale. Many thought the advisory group meetings were inadequate and unrepresentative, and felt blindsided by the City Council’s meeting to vote on the issue today.
About 40 individuals staged a hunger strike beginning Sunday in opposition to the sale, and over the course of the meeting, several audience members were removed from the meeting for clapping, booing or protesting during a heated, emotional session of public comment.
At the close of public comment Liccardo said:
“We have an affordable housing crisis regardless of whether Google decides to purchase land here or not … In the meantime, we have to build a lot more housing. It has nothing to do with Google, it has to do with the people who are here.”
The city hopes the development will create a major transit hub connecting BART, high-speed rail, Caltrain and other public transit in the Diridon Station area.
Councilmembers were deliberating over the vote as of 8:30 p.m., and called a recess after council discussions were cut off by protesters in the audience.