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Editorial: Diridon plan: San Jose should heed recommendations of the community

This article was originally published on June 6, 2014 by the San Jose Mercury News.

By Michele Beasley

After several years of preparation, the San Jose City Council is about to vote on the Diridon Plan.

At its core is the new Diridon Station, poised to become a world-class transit hub — the Grand Central Station of the West Coast, where future transit investments, such as BART, meet current systems, such as Caltrain.

The plan also calls for creating a dynamic world-class community next to the station that’s designed around people, rather than cars, to create an attractive urban village in the heart of San Jose. It envisions more homes, jobs and shops linked with bike lanes, wide sidewalks and linear parks — all anchored by a grand civic plaza.

This new neighborhood will help knit together many threads to create a more vibrant urban fabric, linking people to downtown and San Jose State. It also will provide a connection to The Alameda, which is already becoming a more pedestrian-friendly place, with attractive condos and apartments and, soon, a Whole Foods.

The Diridon Plan provides one of San Jose’s best opportunities to carry out many of the goals from its Envision 2040 General Plan, especially increasing walking, biking and transit trips.

Now the hard part: Making the vision a reality. This will require strong leadership and cross-jurisdictional collaboration. The San Jose City Council should start by approving the Diridon Plan, then address the following:

  • Efficient mobility. Establish a Transportation Management Association that brings together all stakeholders, like SAP Center, to manage parking and traffic issues and encourage transit use. The goal is to move people (not just cars) safely and efficiently by giving them more travel choices, including the choice to live car-free.
  • Safe pathways. Reconsider Autumn Parkway’s design so that it does not inhibit safe pedestrian and bike crossings. The city has a goal to encourage more trips on foot, bike and transit. Autumn Parkway, as currently envisioned by the city, could easily become an unpleasant barrier. Careful attention to this potential pitfall can ensure safe access for people too.
  • Leverage diamonds in the rough. When people arrive at Diridon Station, the civic plaza and views of the city will be their first impression. The public realm and buildings that frame it must be designed well. This also means dusting off that diamond in the rough, Los Gatos Creek, and elevating it as a natural amenity to be restored and celebrated.
  • A home for everyone. The Diridon Station area has a higher percentage of renters who earn less than the city average yet use transit twice as much. Ensuring an affordable mix of homes in this location makes smart use of public transportation investments and can allow those who currently live there to continue doing so. The city must commit to finding new tools to ensure an inclusive and equitable community.

San Jose is the capital of Silicon Valley, a city that thrives on innovation. This innovation must extend to how it grows and develops. San Jose can create great, memorable places that live up to its title, and Diridon Station is the perfect place to make that happen.

Michele Beasley is a regional director at Greenbelt Alliance. She wrote this for this newspaper.

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