“Begin with the end in mind,” is the wisdom businessman and educator Stephen Covey taught us decades ago. It is important to have a clear and common vision that aligns the strategies necessary to accomplish something big and bold.
When we look at the proposed changes to San Jose’s Airport Master Plan, we see a capacity planning exercise, not a vision.
What we don’t see is how this incredible community asset ties into other nearby assets such as the adjacent Guadalupe River and its associated park, downtown and Diridon Station to the south, the Santa Clara train station to the west, BART to the East and the economic engine of North San Jose.
It's time to reimagine the airport as more than just a place that facilitates the movement of people and goods. It can be so much more than that and can be an integral part of the community as a place to live, work, shop, and play.
Author of the blog Airport Urbanism and University of Minnesota professor Max Hirsh indicates that this happening today in places like the Netherlands, Finland and Singapore. He suggests that creative use of airport land can help an airport’s finances by dampening the economic volatility of the airline industry.
Hirsh writes: “Leading global hubs like Amsterdam Schiphol, for example, generate up to 20 percent of their overall income—and more than a third of their profits—through land-side real estate. That’s because the profit margins on commercial developments are considerably higher compared to aeronautical charges.”
The 20-million-passenger Helsinki Airport, located in the nearby city of Vantaa, Finland is creating a dense, urban walkable city center, Aviapolis, where people from bag handlers to knowledge workers will live. It will also provide foreign visitors a first impression of Finland. Tapping the creativity of the crowds, Vantaa held an international competition to elicit ideas on how to shape this innovate urban airport district.
When you look at SJC’s strategic location on a river next to a park—really the Central Park of San Jose—near transit hubs, it is in a good position to help alleviate some of the city’s housing, commercial office space, transportation and limited parkland issues.
We have several activities going on that should be considered as inputs to the master plan, including the one engine inoperative study, the upcoming community meetings for the Diridon Station Area—aka the Google village—the airline lease negotiations. All these things will impact each other, and they are especially going to impact the Master Plan’s projections for future growth.
As the community and city participate in these activities, it is important to have a mindset of what will be in 2037 and beyond, not what is today. From air taxis to shared electric, autonomous vehicles to the standardization of modularized, car-free, micro-housing, both mobility and the built environment are going to be significantly different two decades from now.
Whether this means reduced parking demands or new feeder routes from on-demand air taxies, technology and operational improvements will have impacts on both the land-side and airside operations of the airport.
None of these potential changes are addressed in the master plan.
It's time we stop checking the boxes as part of planning exercises and begin thinking outside the box to create a vision—a vision that aligns seemingly disparate projects into a cohesive community, making for a better San Jose and a better Silicon Valley.
Ken Pyle represents San Jose’s District 1 as a commissioner for the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport. This column is excerpted from a recent submission, by Pyle, Dan Connolly, Ray Green and Cathy Hendrix, to the city of San Jose regarding the Airport Master Plan. Opinions are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Send op-ed pitches to [email protected].