The Debate between Google Campus and San Jose Community Is Heating Up

Despite conflicting accounts, tensions are rising between Google and San Jose natives over a massive office development.

Tensions are rising in San Jose over a new initiative by Google to build a large, state-of-the-art campus for its employees.  The campus will be a 67 million dollar project culminating in the conception of five large buildings for a total of 6 million to 8 million square feet of offices, some housing and retail nearby the city’s public transit, Diridon Station. Those office towers could accommodate 15,000 to 20,000 Google employees. The completion is scheduled for an unspecified date sometime between the years of 2026 and 2027.

Addressing public concern that the giant complex could force working San Jose families out of their homes, Mayor Sam Liccardo reiterated that the billion dollar enterprise didn’t ask for subsidies or tax breaks and that ultimately the presence of the tech giant would increase what residents would receive by 2 ½ percent.

That didn’t quell locals’ concerns, however.  A paradoxical article by San Jose’s own Mercury News reported that from a 438 person survey 79% were in favor of the project, 16% opposed it, while 5% didn’t have an opinion.  But a significant amount of locals outside those surveyed are expressing concern about the corporate giant not acting in their best interests.  Union leader Connie Chew told Courthouse News Service that she felt it would marginalize many “impacted communities.”

The Scope Weekly spoke today with Maria Noel Fernandez, the campaign director of Silicon Valley Rising, a group devoted to supporting underpaid workers and enabling affordable housing.  “We are concerned with the lack of transparency and community engagement on this project,” she said in an interview by phone.  “Our demand is that Google sits down with our community, hears our concerns, and makes a real plan to address those concerns through making a commitment on a Community Benefits Agreement.”  She stated to ABC7 News that Google refused to “meaningfully” engage with them, and has also stated to The Scope Weekly that Google has not appeared at any community meetings revolving around this issue.

Height limits.
Height limits.

Affordable housing advocates have held protests at Google’s Mountain Valley campus.  Responses from representatives of the tech giant were amicable, but it refused to concede any commitments.  Homelessness advocate Robert Aguirre, with a background in tech, was more optimistic about the company’s intentions.  He stated to CBS San Francisco that given their vast sums of money, Google had great potential to improve their local communities, that it was “just a question of their will.”

Indeed, two days prior to the announcement of the development plans, the San Jose City Council formed the Station Area Advisory Group, a 35-person board representing both the faces of neighborhood associations as well as companies including Google.  But to fully ensure the will Aguirre speaks about is possible, one could argue it ultimately lies in the efforts of advocacy groups like Silicon Valley Rising.  It is ultimately these organizations, on a grass-roots level, without financial or political influence, that lead the fight for the average worker.  ”

At the time of publishing, Mayor Liccardo’s office could not be reached for comment.  Updates will be provided should this change.

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