Google is negotiating with the City of San Jose about building offices for up to 20,000 employees, with retail and services, in the entire area covered by San Jose’s Diridon Station Area plan.
Next Tuesday, San Jose City Council is scheduled to authorize negotiations for properties previously controlled by the Redevelopment Authority. The schedule in the agreement calls for creating a Memorandum of Understanding by March 2018, covering price and the general scope and timing of development.
Google ultimately intends to buy all the parcels in the roughly 240-acre area that is covered by the Diridon Station Area Plan, according to an anonymous quote in the Mercury News.
Google has been buying up privately owned properties in the Diridon area (see the Mercury News’ map). With planned construction for BART and High Speed Rail, Google would need to work closely with the transit agencies on a construction schedule that would work with the rail projects.
Driving demand for Caltrain
In Mountain View, less than half of Google employees currently drive alone to work, mostly taking private company buses (see North Bayshore chart below, where Google is the largest employer). Google’s new location right at Diridon is likely to greatly increase Google’s use of public transit in San Jose.
Caltrain ridership at Diridon has grown to be the third highest in the system, with about 4,700 average daily boardings, edging ahead of Mountain View in 2016.
If Google adds 20,000 employees at Diridon, and 40% of them take transit, with 3/4 on public transit, that would be 6,000 transit users. With half on Caltrain and half on future BART, that would be 3,000 riders and 6,000 daily trips. This would more than double Caltrain ridership at Diridon, not counting additional growth in the rest of San Jose downtown.
The additional ridership will put pressure on Caltrain to move ahead with the plans for longer platforms, longer trains, and level boarding that will add capacity and speed following initial electrification.
With foresight, Santa Clara County has already raised its share of the funding to upgrade platforms and buy more electric trains with Measure B in November 2016. San Mateo County has an opportunity to cover its share in a 2018 ballot measure. In 2016, San Francisco did not succeed in passing a ballot measure that might have covered a smaller share of the Caltrain capacity expansion; SF are considering another try.
The 6,000,000 square feet that Google is considering for San Jose is more space than Google has now in Mountain View, but would be similar to Google’s planned expansion in Mountain View, if the company keeps growing in both places.
In Mountain View, Google has been working closely with the city on transportation improvements to reduce the share of driving as employment grows. Hopefully San Jose and Google will develop a similar partnership.
Will Google build extra parking for the Sharks?
Part of the San Jose plans for the Diridon area is a commitment from the city to provide parking for the SAP arena. Part of the existing plan entails having developers of office buildings in the Diridon area to build enough parking to share with the entertainment venue, the vast majority of whose fans currently drive.
Since less than half of Google’s employees drive alone in Mountain View, and that share would be, if anything, even less at Diridon, we wonder how eager Google will be to build thousands of extra parking spaces that it doesn’t need, in order to accommodate fans for an entertainment venue that hasn’t yet adapted to its new role as an urban arena, much closer to San Francisco’s AT&T Park, where half the fans take transit, than to Candlestick park, where 90% of fans drove.
As negotiations and plans for Google’s Diridon site move ahead, we hope that Google might bring their transportation expertise to help the Sharks adapt to their newly urbanized and increasingly transit-rich setting.
Keep Trammel Crow office building as is or change it?
One of the properties that Google bought was the site for a an office building already planned by Trammel Crow and approved by the city – one logical question is whether Google will go ahead with that site plan as it is, or will want to change it to fit with other parts of the potential future campus.
How does housing fit into the picture?
The city’s plans for the Diridon Station Area called for about 2,500 units of housing, in an area that was predominantly planned for employment and entertainment. With Google potentially bringing up to 20,000 employees to downtown San Jose, this could put even greater pressure on San Jose’s housing prices unless the city also allows more housing. The city currently plans for about 14,000 housing units downtown.
Historically, San Jose has been relatively housing rich and jobs-poor. But if the Google developments go forward, San Jose will need to consider the jobs/housing mix in the area reachable by transit to prevent displacement, since Google employees will look for convenient homes, and will have the ability to outbid many current residents.