Downtown San Jose

San Jose was settled originally by the Spanish as a mission town in 1777 called  Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe. The area that now makes up downtown was settled twenty years later, when Pueblo de San Jose de Guadalupe was moved somewhat inland from its original location on the banks of the Guadalupe River. In 1850, San Jose incorporated to become California’s first city and the location of the state capitol (this lasted only a couple years). Before WWII the downtown area was typical of a small, agriculture-based city of under 100,000 residents until city manager A. P. Hamann organized aggressive expansion during the 1950s and ’60s. As the city rapidly expanded into outlying areas, the downtown area unfortunately entered a period of decline.

But this did not last long as Downtown San Jose is the cultural and political center of one of the largest tech clusters in world, Silicon Valley. By the 1980s investment poured back into Downtown with the construction of many office tours, new residential housing, a renewed focus on the arts, and the construction of the San Jose State Event Center. Downtown is now home to Adobe’s World Headquarters, BEA Systems HQ, and numerous facilities and offices of major tech companies, including Amazon Lab126 and Google. Google is planning a 67 Million expansion and develop and will break ground in 2022.

At first glance Downtown San Jose can feel rather sterile and cold. But when one dives into it deeper one discovers that it upholds urban design principles quite well. Downtown has a solid population with just over 12K per square mile, effective public transit and  excellent bike lane system that expends out to most of the City, comfortable street scape, generally good urban design with few surface parking lots, quality parks, and excellent cultural amenities. There are certainly areas for improvement including the need for much better neighborhood retail amenities, more bike rental stations, more interesting high rise buildings, and a larger concentration of the region’s share of jobs. While dedicated affordable housing is highly concentrated dwtn, market prices are very expensive, similar to prices in San Franciso. Fortunately there are many development plans in the works, including the 67 M Google development, which will bring many more residents and jobs to Downtown. I believe this will help tremendously in creating a more bustling and interesting Downtown San Jose.

Click here to view my Downtown San Jose album on Flickr

URBAN STRENGTHS:

* High quality ADA infrastructure in Dwtn San Jose.
* Good density level for a Dwtn at around 12K per square mile.
* Solid public transit within the City of San Jose and good connections to its suburbs. So  public transit connection to the San Jose Airport.
* Likely one of the best dedicated bike lane coverages in the Country is here in San Jose Better than Oakland and San Fran. Network is well connected to surrounding suburbs too.
* Highly level of grid network and streets are generally not too wide and lanes are carved away for dedicated bike lanes. Sometimes feels a bit too easy to drive.
* Very good racial and economic diversity downtown. About 25% of residents are below the poverty line but the medium income is around 75K. Surprisingly around 35% of dwtn households are family ones. Also a Children’s Museum Dwtn.
* Medium rent is around $1,500 helped by the fake that Signiant portion of San Jose’s Total Affordable Housing is Dwtn.
* A decent # of grade schools (both public & private) dwtn and a large Catholic High School.
* Generally a safe dwtn helped with having a BID. Still a fair amount of homeless and panhandling, esp. on the north end of Downtown around St. James Park.
* The office towers are pretty bland but some decent residential in-fill with good urban form.
* Some very nice park spaces especially along the Guadalupe River. Pretty good civic plaza at Caesar Chavez Park
* Culturally Downtown has a great array of theaters, performing arts centers and cineplexes. The symphony, opera, & ballet are all here. Solid array of restaurants, bars, & cafes, live music venues, and clubs. Dwtn also hosts a large Convention Center, and Sharks arena, a good array of museums & art galleries, a major dwtn post office & library, and a great government complex.
* Retail amenities include a bargain supermarket, some nice local stores & boutiques (esp. along San Pedro), plenty of banks & dessert joins, a couple gyms & book stores, and plenty of churches.
* Great college presence with over 30K students attending San Jose State.
* While a bit sterile, Dwtn has a very good streetscape.

URBAN WEAKNESSES:

* Dedicated bike coverage is a bit limited only covering Dwtn and some inner city neighborhoods to the north and west.
* Not many elderly residents residing Dwtn. Its mostly students, young professional, and middle aged adults.
* Market rate housing is very expensive overall. Studios start at 2K, 1-bedrooms, 1-bedrooms in the 2Ks, 2-bedrooms in the 2ks & 3Ks, and few 3 bedrooms but those run in the 3K & 4Ks.
* Some studios listed around 500K. 1-bed condos sell btwn 600K-900K. A lot more 2-bedroom condos and townhomes selling btwn 700K and the low Millions. Some 3-beds townhomes and SF homes selling btwn 1M-1.5M
* Other than a 15 story historic tower the skyline is mostly bland, boxing mid rises.
* Only about 45K jobs currently in Dwtn. This is even less than San Jose, but several office towers are afoot to bring many more jobs in.
* Retail amenities are a bit lacking. No full service grocery store, nor drug store, and not a ton of local retail.
* Some surface parking remain but not too bad. Generally quality urban form Dwtn.
* Vibrancy is kinda lacking.

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