SAN JOSE — Google’s game-changing transit village in downtown San Jose has captured high marks in a “report card” from a key community group that seeks to influence and promote good development efforts in Silicon Valley.

Downtown West, a transit-oriented neighborhood that Google has proposed in downtown San Jose, garnered one of the highest-score report cards for development ever issued by local organization Catalyze SV.

“This is a truly transformational project that will serve as the heart of a brand-new vibrant transit-oriented neighborhood,” Catalyze SV stated in an overall assessment of Google’s project, which is proposed to sprout within a footprint near the Diridon train station and SAP Center.

Google has proposed a village of office buildings, homes, restaurants, shops, hotel rooms, entertainment hubs, cultural centers, and open spaces where the search giant would employ up to 20,000 people on the western edges of downtown San Jose.

Catalyze SV issued a report card with an average score of 4.29 points out of 5 possible points, based on the group’s assessment of how the project addresses seven categories.

The highest score that Catalyze SV has ever issued is 4.6 for the McEvoy residential towers development by First Community Housing that’s located just down the street from the Google village location. Catalyze SV is a nonprofit that seeks to promote community engagement in development projects in the South Bay.

“By building a dense development next to Diridon Station, Downtown West will connect the region’s transit hub with downtown, increasing San Jose’s attractiveness and use of transit,” Catalyze SV stated in its assessment of the project.

Catalyze SV used the categories of community, affordability, transportation, legacy, intensity, sustainability, and vibrancy to create scores for each component and the average overall score.

Intensity and vibrancy received scores of five points out of five. Community, affordability, transportation, legacy, and sustainability received scores of four points out of five. Those all averaged out to 4.29 for the overall score.

Plenty of obstacles loom, however, before Google can achieve the ambitious vision of Downtown West.

Among the challenges: The San Jose Sharks have warned that the development plans for Downtown West could force the NHL team from its decades-long home at SAP Center.

The warning from the Sharks could shove city officials onto a tightrope as they attempt to balance the needs of the city’s highest-profile sports team and their quest to dramatically revitalize San Jose’s small downtown district.

Google’s scores for the individual categories included these highlights:

— Community: “The Downtown West team has engaged in an extensive, often outside-the-box effort to reach out to the community & solicit ideas, including the community’s input on the proposal’s public spaces,” the report stated. “Our members appreciate Google’s genuine effort to design with the community in mind.”

— Affordability: “We are encouraged that Google is committing to build 25% affordable housing, with our preference for these homes to be within the Downtown West development.”

— Transportation: “Downtown West includes pedestrian-first blocks, additional bike lanes, and trails to accommodate biking and walking,” Catalyze SV stated. One area for potential major improvement is “Google needs to be more ambitious in planning for a transportation future,” the group urged.

— Legacy: “Google is making a genuine effort to consider the surrounding area and to preserve and enliven historic buildings,” Catalyze SV said. The group praised Google’s creative re-use of the historic Water Company building. The group added that “Google should do more to make this area an iconic, world-class landmark.

— Intensity: “Google is working to maximize the height and density of the transit-oriented Downtown West, which closely aligns with Catalyze SV’s values.”

— Sustainability: “Downtown West offers a great example of environmental standards by ensuring that the project will not result in any net additional greenhouse gas emissions,” Catalyze SV stated.

— Vibrancy. “With activated ground floors & an extensive network of public open space, our members are excited to spend time in this fun, engaging place,” according to the report.

The backing of the group appears to be a feather in the cap for Downtown West, even in the face of significant issues to remedy such as the discomforts expressed by the San Jose Sharks.

“With our feedback incorporated into the design, we look forward to seeing this project move through the entitlement process and becoming a lively new neighborhood in San Jose,” Catalyze SV concluded in its overview.


By Arlene Huff

Arlene Huff is the founding member of Golden State Online. Before that She was a general assignment reporter. A native Californian, she graduated from the University of California with a degree in medical anthropology and global health. She currently lives in Los Angeles.

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