Our comments on San Jose’s Diridon Station Plan
UPDATE (4/23/14): Come to the Sierra Club’s upcoming EIR workshop for the Diridon Station Area Plan! Learn how this transit hub can be more environmentally friendly with affordable homes and accessible streets for all. Details below:
EIR Workshop for Diridon Station
Date: Tuesday, April 29, 2014
Time: 7 p.m.
Place: Martin Luther King Library, 150 E. San Fernando St.
This workshop comes ahead of two important dates for the Diridon Station Area Plan: The plan will be heard at the San Jose Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, May 7 and at the San Jose City Council meeting on Tuesday, May 20.
Greenbelt Alliance has been engaged in the Diridon Station Area planning effort for several years, having spent considerable time and resources shaping a plan that will lead to a dense, walkable, green, bike-friendly, equitable, and dynamic transit district. Diridon Station is a priority site for the Great Communities Collaborative with Greenbelt Alliance as site lead, and we have worked in close collaboration with our partners, the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Working Partnerships USA.
On February 13, the 60-day comment period for the Draft Program Environmental Impact Report (DPEIR) for Diridon Station came to a close. A DPEIR discloses environmental impacts that result from a project and identifies ways to avoid damage. We are in the final stretch of the planning process, and then the hard work really begins: implementing the community’s vision. Leading up to this point, Greenbelt Alliance has, among other things:
- Invited UCLA Urban Planning Professor Donald Shoup to speak to a crowd of 200 people on The High Cost of Free Parking
- Served on the Diridon Good Neighbor Committee, crafting a framework for implementation (September 2010)
- Hired NelsonNygaard to draft a Parking and Transportation Demand Management Plan (Sept. 2010)
- Partnered with the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Urban Land Institute to present our vision for Diridon Station to the San Jose City Council (April 2011)
- Held a Diridon Station Area Plan refresher course during the lull in planning activity (October 2012)
- Organized the fourth PARK(ing) Day along San Fernando Street in downtown San Jose (September 2013)
Our goals for the area include a strong mix of uses, including homes affordable to a range of incomes, and a variety of parks and open spaces, especially access to a restored Los Gatos Creek. We have also pushed for progressive parking policies coupled with complete streets designed for those ages 8 to 80 so that all people feel it is safe and convenient to walk, bike, and take public transportation.
Most recently, we organized a DPEIR workshop for Diridon Station stakeholders and residents, giving people the tools to feel comfortable writing and submitting a comment letter. In addition to submitting our own comments, Greenbelt Alliance brought on Public Advocates to comment specifically on the lack of strong affordable housing language in the draft plan. Below are a few of our suggestions that can make the project more equitable and environmentally sustainable. Everyone’s comments can be found on the City of San Jose’s website:
- San Jose must ensure that the Innovation District does not give way to large format commercial uses, such as Coleman Marketplace. Big box retail might sometimes be referred to as land-banking, but the lifespan of big box retail is likely the same as that of the Diridon Plan. We encourage the City to hold firm to a more compact industrial and commercial neighborhood, with smaller block sizes.
- In the process of updating its Housing Element, the City of San Jose must identify sites that serve a range of incomes and especially identify affordable housing opportunity sites within Priority Development Areas (PDA), like at Diridon Station. We strongly suggest that the City site affordable housing locations within the Diridon Station Area to maximize Low Income Housing Tax Credit potential.
- It should be noted that the number one implementation priority for parks and trails from the Diridon Good Neighbor Committee is to “restore the natural setting of the waterways in the urban areas, including Los Gatos Creek as it passes under Montgomery Street and Park Avenue.” Day-lighting this segment of the creek has multiple benefits, such as increasing habitat for wildlife, providing flood control, improving water quality and creating a neighborhood sense of place.
- Bay Meadows Phase 2 in San Mateo is under construction, and one of the first elements to go in was the 12-acre Bay Meadows Park. At Diridon Station, San Jose should prioritize building high quality parks and/ or the civic plaza first to attract new development and create a complete community.
- The Autumn Parkway Extension has long been planned to accommodate additional vehicular capacity. San Jose should design a multimodal corridor, especially for cyclists, and perhaps look to Octavia Boulevard in San Francisco as a model. Any improvements to Autumn Parkway must consider negative impacts to the creek corridor, such as nighttime lighting.
- Transit times can be better coordinated with SAP Center events and discounted transit passes should be offered to event attendees and employees, perhaps bundled into the cost of a ticket.
- San Jose must create a Parking Benefits District at Diridon Station. Market- or performance-based pricing can ensure curb space is available and that parking revenues return to the community to fund neighborhood improvements, such as an attractive pedestrian environment.
Other groups who submitted comments include the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the Sierra Club, Friends of Caltrain, SAP Center, California High Speed Rail, Caltrain, and more. Stay tuned for dates when the final plan heads to the Planning Commission and City Council later this spring.
If you have any questions or would like to get involved, contact Michele Beasley at firstname.lastname@example.org.