Last month, I wrote about West San Carlos Street as one of the major boulevards in San Jose. West San Carlos is the strategic link between our city’s downtown and the Santana Row/Valley Fair area. A major parcel on West San Carlos is the site of the former Fiesta Lanes bowling alley and retail/auto center. The City Council voted this month to remove the final hurdle in the transformation of this strategic parcel by funding the construction of a housing complex that would be exempt from property tax. The vote was 10-1 in favor of approval, with my vote as the only one against this proposal.
The parcel’s transformation started back in 2002, when the council rezoned it from commercial to residential usage. The composition and nature of the land changed during this process, going from a parcel that was previously comprised of approximately 50,000 square feet of retail/commercial space to one that will eventually become all affordable housing with a token 3,600 square feet of retail. As a result of rezoning, the parcel was transformed from one that could have created more employment opportunities for San Jose residents—and, thus, much-needed revenue for the city—into something quite different. Although eliminating job opportunities may not have been the intention of those who voted in favor of the change, this may very well be the result.
As we move forward with future development in San Jose, I am hopeful we will review similar opportunities with a long-term vision that takes into account that San Jose has already done more than its fair share in providing housing for the region. We should focus more on the creation of greater and more diversified employment opportunities. This is particularly true when dealing with parcels that are large in size and/or strategically located within San Jose. Such opportunities are seldom, and the decisions we make can have far-reaching implications and repercussions that stretch well into the future.
Pierluigi Oliverio is a councilmember for San Jose’s District 6.