Santana Row is a unique place that draws people from outside of San Jose and has people talking about it across the country. People I know who typically did not visit San Jose years ago do frequent Santana Row today. The same visitors spend money while enjoying themselves in the 95128 zip code. The cultural diversity at Santana Row is amazing, with nearly every nationality represented and many first-generation immigrant families strolling The Row day and night.
To some it is a “Disney Downtown,” because it was fabricated from the ground up. To others it was a development that slowed down the potential of our own downtown. One could argue that an expanded Valley Fair mall did more to impede retail growth in downtown.
To me, Santana Row is a success. As much as I enjoy urban centers like our downtown, I also enjoy the sheer intensity of Santana Row with approximately 1,000 on-site residents and a hotel, offices, restaurants, marquee retail, movie theater, tall buildings, etc. All of these things together make Santana Row unique.
I have heard Santana Row brought up many times in reference to urban planning, and that it is ideal for pedestrians—there something interesting to be seen by the walker. Residents across San Jose often voice opinions about potential new developments in their own neighborhood and ask if they could get something like Santana Row. It would be nearly impossible to replicate, however, the principle of significant housing over retail and office is a good one and promoted in our newly adopted General Plan.
The millions in sales tax revenues generated from Santana Row is often discussed and the good fortune it brings San Jose. One example is when people buy a Tesla car from the store at Santana Row. The Tesla store at Santana Row has broken foot traffic records and is second in the world for actual sales of the electric car out of nearly 20 stores worldwide. The assessed value of this parcel and surrounding parcels skyrocketed through private development, which brings property tax revenue to many levels of government.
Besides direct sales tax and property tax revenues, Santana Row provides the opportunity to capture high-paying jobs through the development of substantial new office space. On Tuesday, the City Council will consider approving a large office building at Santana Row instead of housing. This new 240,000 square foot office building will provide an attractive option to companies locating in San Jose. Some companies will view Santana Row as a perfect fit for their employees and clients, because they can simply stroll to great amenities. Also, the opportunity for a company to have its brand shown with massive visibility is better than an office park.
As other cities to the north have developed new office parks, this impedes San Jose’s ability to draw in new, fast-growing companies from the peninsula that are searching for office space. The new office parks to the north entice companies that are looking for new space that in the past would have gone to North San Jose. However, Santana Row is a true differentiator, as the new office parks in other cities have virtually nowhere to go for the employee by foot—only by car.
The net new job potential of Santana Row is why I strongly opposed the rezoning of land last year from commercial to residential adjacent to Santana Row. Keeping the space open for business provided another opportunity for a potential corporate headquarters.
I still root for our downtown—especially August 10-12 for the Jazz Festival—but we should not miss opportunities at Santana Row.
Pierluigi Oliverio is a San Jose councilmember for District 6.