Voters approved Measure O in 2002 to bolster public safety throughout San Jose, and the city started issuing $159 million in bonds, with much of the money intended for constructing the substation. Nearly 10 years later, those ambitious days seem like a distant memory.
The 107,000-square-foot facility—officially completed at the end of 2010 at a cost of $90.8 million—is currently one of five publicly funded buildings in the last 15 months that have yet to open or were closed the same day they were completed.
A decade of budget shortfalls has left the city with no option but to keep the substation shuttered along with the Bascom Library and Community Center ($28.4 million), Calabazas Library ($7.4 million), Educational Park Library ($10.7 million) and Seven Trees Library. (Seven Trees did open the community center portion of the building; the total cost of the project was $34 million.)
Leaving aside Seven Trees, the city has spent more than $137 million on four public facilities that deliver no public services.
Leading the processional through the substation are Police Chief Chris Moore and David Printy, a senior architect for the Public Works Department, which maintains control of the substation for now. The tour starts with a look at a piece of artwork in the entryway that features a grid of San Jose.
“An array of LED lights ties to an infrared camera,” Moore says. “As you walk through the site, [the artwork] takes an infrared image of you and any moving object. It’s a little more impressive at night.”
For now, like the facility itself, the artwork remains dormant. Even an environmentally friendly living roof layered atop the building seems to lack life. Seen from the vast, cubicled offices and meeting areas throughout the second and third floors, weeds have overtaken the overhangs. Conference rooms to discuss crime fighting strategies have chairs but no bodies. Sophisticated scramble pads to unlock doors of holding cells go untouched. Not a single cruiser parks in the expansive subterranean garage.
San Jose is the largest city in the nation without an operational police substation, and no one seems to know when that will change, as police officers could face layoffs for the second straight year. It would cost almost $4 million a year to operate and staff the building, according to the police chief.
“Everybody wants it open,” Moore says. “The reality of the budget is it won’t be in fiscal 2012–13. But 2013–14? We’re hoping.”
San Jose City Councilmember Ash Kalra, whose district includes the substation, has similar hopes but admits that might be wishful thinking.
“It’s highly unlikely we’re going to see the police substation any time soon,” he says, “because if I have to vote for opening a substation or having patrol officers, just like anyone on the council, I’m going to choose patrol officers.”