Sunday, June 19
Let San Jose Grow
I don't see much reason to disagree with this Mercury News editorial:
In a small pocket of Edenvale, a time-worn Silicon Valley industrial campus is about to be transformed. Hitachi will consolidate its workforce in taller buildings on about half of the 330 acres along Cottle Road. On the rest, a new neighborhood will take shape -- a village, really -- with about 3,000 condominiums and apartments, some over shops, and shady sidewalks leading to nearby light-rail and Caltrain stops.
It will be more than one good neighborhood. It's a prototype for what should happen in much of Silicon Valley, where housing is badly needed while valuable land is hogged by low, sprawling, often empty industrial buildings that no longer fit many companies' needs.
. . . . . . . .
People who want to live in the suburbs will still have the vast majority of San Jose to choose from. Companies that still are happy with big flat buildings can find them all over town.
Some might say denser development does not match the existing character of San Jose, and in many areas of town it wouldn't, but this policy would be applied to a few selected places, not to all of San Jose.
What about traffic? As the editorial notes, the proposed restrictions on intersection expansion is especially controversial. Yes, car traffic would grow, but commuters would also have other options. One, light rail, could be a bit faster (that is, it would be more useful if it ran faster than it now does), but it still runs in right-of-way mostly separate from other traffic. Buses might also become more attractive as economic and population growth provides more riders, thus prompting VTA to run its lines at higher frequencies and possibly in a more streamlined manner, as with the coming Line 522. And hopefully the South Bay will finally have invested in more convenient regional transit connections, be it BART or much simpler and more cost-effective conventional-rail trains.
And what about open space? Would a more intensive inward urbanization create a treeless, concrete "dead city"? Hardly; even in Downtown San Jose you can find parks, greenery, and sunshine among the taller buildings. And while parkland within cities is important, it's windowdressing if it's uselessly excessive. Anyway, if this development doesn't occur in concentrations within San Jose or another city, where will it go? Places where it will consume truly important open spaces like pristine wilderness and prime agricultural land (such as that of the Central Valley).
To summarize, San Jose can live well with the proposed changes in development patterns. This city is in a position in which it can and should grow for the benefit of itself and for the region. And it should not be afraid to grow inward and upward.