New San Jose Non-profit Seats Board, Reveals Early Concepts for Plaza de Cesar Chavez 

A new San Jose non-profit public benefit corporation has taken root to launch a coordinated public/private effort to revitalize and expand Plaza de Cesar Chavez at the center of the city’s downtown.

The conservancy, in a presentation to the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission on Dec. 6, envisions a “Central Park for downtown San Jose,” building on what it calls “a new wave of development [that] has begun to transform the area around Plaza de Cesar Chavez.”

In its presentation, the conservancy foresees an expanded park with fewer surrounding traffic lanes, a new stage and renovation of the more than century-old greenspace where the majestic old City Hall once stood.

An 1893 photo from a balloon photographer shows San Jose plaza occupied by old City Hall, center, showing Cathedral Basilica of Saint Joseph in the foreground. The 1889 City Hall was severely damaged by the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Plaza Conservancy photo.

One of the new non-profit’s board members is Maia Harris of the Jay Paul Company, a San Francisco developer planning a large office complex running along the western length of the park. If Jay Paul’s ambitious plans are realized, the block between Park Avenue and E. San Fernando Street that runs from Almaden Boulevard to Plaza de Cesar Chavez would be home to eight new office towers and Park Avenue would become a curbless “garden street,” with equal amounts of greenery and pavement.

Other trustees announced by the conservancy are: nonprofit executive Richard Ajluni, who was elected as treasurer, and Christmas in the Park executive Debbie Degutis, who is the board secretary. Publisher and Music in the Park producer Dan Pulcrano is the current president.

Also on the board are: Signia by Hilton general manager Mark Ive; outgoing San Jose Downtown Association president Alan “Gumby” Marques; Fountain Blues Festival board member and marketing executive Dan Orloff; photographer and San Jose Downtown Association co-founder Raymond Rodriguez Jr.; performer and producer Ato Walker; the Gensler architecture firm’s Corinda Wong, and RMW Architecture’s Indu Chakravarthy.

“We have a responsibility to do this. I encourage everyone in San Jose to do the same thing, to step forward,” Rodriguez, who has spent decades downtown, said. “It’s not that our government is unable to do this. We need to work together. The community, the elected officials and the businesses.”

The all-volunteer organization, in coordination with the city, neighboring businesses and event producers, told the commission it intends “to encourage public use of Plaza de Cesar Chavez and enhance the experience for park visitors through restoration and stewardship, building and maintaining visitor amenities, commemorating history and creating new experiences for the entire community.”

“As discussions about master planning and improving the plaza—as well as the importance of events to downtown’s post-pandemic recovery—the conservancy seeks to advance ideas and projects to enable Plaza de Cesar Chavez achieve its potential while advocating for the interests of park users,” according to the December 6 presentation.

The organization foresees “transparent, accountable, effective oversight,” by a “board that reflects the community.” It will “hold open public meetings and respond to records requests.”

Although the early ideas were presented as initial concepts while the board undertakes a more formal visioning and planning process, the identified civic objectives include providing “a park for the people,” creating “a regional destination by improving attractions and amenities,” daily programming, economic development and promoting “a perception of safety through activation, aesthetic improvements, signage and lighting.”

The conservancy said it will encourage public use of the plaza and “strive to enhance the experience of Plaza visitors… including, but not limited to capital improvement planning, fundraising, education and programming support.”

In a statement, Marquez said: “I joined the Plaza Conservancy as a small business owner and interested Downtown San Jose Citizen because I saw the promise and potential of a Conservancy in the spirit of other such as Golden Gate Park in San Francisco, Lincoln Park in Chicago, Central Park in New York and the Hakone Gardens in Saratoga (which was started by the same leadership.)”

“The inaugural board is fantastic was well, representing a diverse group of people of all interests in backgrounds who are dedicated to preserving and improving public spaces for all.”

“Plaza de Cesar Chavez is Northern California’s longest continuously enjoyed public space, established more than 50 years before the birth of the state of California.,” the conservancy said in its presentation. “It gave rise to San Jose’s original city hall and California’s first legislature. Plaza de Cesar Chavez will be a permanent green space, gathering spot and historical legacy in the heart of a vibrant, modern city.”

Dan Pulcrano, CEO of the Weeklys media group based in San Jose, is publisher of San Jose Inside.


Three decades of journalism experience, as a writer and editor with Gannett, Knight-Ridder and Lee newspapers, as a business journal editor and publisher and as a weekly newspaper editor in Scotts Valley and Gilroy; with the Weeklys group since 2017. Recipient of several first-place writing and editing awards, California News Publishers Association.


  1. SJ has tried and failed to become LA, SF, and Santa Clara, now it wants to reimagine itself as NYC.

    SJ is a bedroom community that needs reasonable family friendly housing, clean parks, wide roads, and good schools. Make that work. This is just another pipe dream delaying the work that needs to get done to make it a livable place to raise kids. The world doesn’t need more office buildings or central parks or SOHO knockoffs or over-annexed property tax collectors, they exist. What the world needs is more kids.

  2. Dan Orloff Thank you Mr.Orloff for setting record straight regarding absence of your input as well as listing the Board Members here on this Page in the interest of public transparency.

    I am emphatically opposed to ANYONE attempting to Suggest that the Chicano Community somehow lacks reverence or respect for Cesar Chavez and his Legacy here in Sal Si Puedes.It becomes insulting when coming from Anglos who Use Chavez Name and Image to make a power move to influence public opinion.Steve ,under a specious moral authority ,weaponized the Chavez Legacy subtly suggesting we lack respect for who he is to Chicano Identity and American History.He turned Chavez Legacy into something trivial and petty while trying to suggest that He and this Group have the Proper reverence for him and will erect a monument to demonstrate his respect for Chavez that exceeds that of the Mexicans in this City..

    I would Like to remind you Mr.Orloff what happened to April Haperstadt when she insulted the Legacy of Chavez by publically minimizing his Role in Chicano ,Campesino Identity and Politics in Sal Si Puedes.She nor anyone else will use Chavez Legacy to further a n economic,political,social agenda.The fact that Steve Assumes that it is OK to do what he is doing only speaks to the degree of ignorance and delusion he possess.

    Quetzalcoatl is on the South end of the park that stands as a symbolic representation of Raza Indegina ( the indigenous People) a powerful symbol within the Chicano Movement of the 1960s – 80s.It symbolized the reclamation of our Identity before Colonization and Manifest Destiny.That statue within context of Cesar Chavez Park represents Chavez indigenous blood and ties to the land.

    Quetzalcoatl represents WISDOM KNOWLEDGE WAR …These 3 elements Cesar needed to engage in His campaign to establish the Humanity Dignity necessity for Change in the Fields of California. The growers by their actions ,believed that the Mexican was inferior and not worthy of anything except to be exploited for his labor.Chavez required the 3 qualities of Quetzalcoatl to succeed I. What he set out to do..

    Steve was wrong ,incorrect,reckless in his statement that we have nothing in the park that Honors Chavez.

  3. I’m glad I saw this here on San Jose Inside. I just might be interested in joining up with this new nonprofit org to help steer it in the right direction. Wonder if there are any board seats still open, I’ll have to check.

  4. I hope that the “Breeze” giant sculpture proposed by some wealthy donors who think that San Jose needs an icon, NOT be placed in Caesar Chavez Park as that group is proposing. It is way too tall (taller than the existing trees, I believe) and large for such as space. CHavez Park needs to be a park for people, not for a large grandiose “sculpture” desired by a small group of wealthy individuals who think that the SJ City Hall rotunda (part of the people’s building – City Hall) is not an icon for San Jose, despite it being used by TV news organizations as such. The City Hall rotunda is a fine icon – we do not need an icon which pays homage to high tech. San Jose is more than just high tech – SJ was a site agricultural innovator, and the first radio broadcast was from downtown San Jose. And not everyone here works in high tech. This is a very diverse city, ethnically and economically.

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