Lost Opportunities in Height

City Hall Diary

The San Jose City Council received a North San Jose Task Force update last week.  North San Jose is a grand opportunity for the city. The prospects are endless: industrial land which adds revenue to the city budget, residential properties to allow people to live close to where they work and an abundance of land which can be used for open space and parks.

Most importantly is the enormous economic engine that we have in North San Jose. The fact that San Jose can make money from this area and use that money to pay for neighborhood services throughout the city is a winner. I have worked with many companies in North San Jose—big companies like Cisco, mid-size companies like Pillar Data, and fast growing start-ups like Wichorus. The variety of businesses located there offers us a great future.

I support the North San Jose plan since it is incremental in nature in that we only do a certain amount of housing and then wait for additional industrial intensification and development. With that said, however, blueprints need to be planned a certain way, which is why the taskforce gave the update that included issues like schools, parks, retail development and so on.

Currently, I have some concerns about the density of the project. As we know, each parcel is precious and once we build on the land then open space is gone forever. For example, most of the current housing being proposed is three stories over underground parking.  This design is the norm and not the best use of land. I admit that we did approve one 100-foot-plus building but that has been the exception, not the norm. 

I think that taller buildings should be built in North San Jose. I would like to see the City of San Jose and/or the North San Jose Task Force direct the developers to propose taller buildings which would allow for larger parks as I stated in a previous blog. Three stories over parking is the easy choice for a developer, but taller is better and employs more of our well-trained local construction workers.

In addition, I also think that we should investigate building schools at least three stories high there. School districts should build new schools with density in mind instead of schools sprawling across acreage. Therefore, schools could utilize more of the land for organized play, playgrounds, etc. Also, when it comes to new retail centers, housing should be on top. Strip malls are out; housing over retail is in.

San Jose has been built out of mostly single family homes. There are few places in San Jose really appropriate for tall housing and those are in our downtown and North San Jose.

So let’s do density right. If we really want to support transit, jobs and retail, then let’s give it our best shot. Otherwise all we end up with is more traffic since lower densities never let you reach that real turning point that we always talk about for our city. We have taken the first steps with high rises in downtown. Let’s be sure to include those opportunities in North San Jose.


  1. Great Idea! It`s along the Light Rail coridor, lots of room and enough room to plan the next Valley fair type mall, good ideas on high rises making room for parks. The streets in this area are wide too.

      The only problem, the last time I saw this groups presentation was there was little room planned for retail. We need retail. Milpitas has already taken the Auto Row from us, recently Toyota and the Fremont auto mal is close to this area too. This makes a lot of retail very important to our city.

      I like the idea that it re-directs our developers energies away from the I-280 coridor where we have serious grid lock problems that are only going to get worse very soon.

      The developers should too be pleased with the high rise potential as high rise`s provide above average profits, great incentive.

      The even bigger plus is that it makes a lot more sense than building, “BART to the east bay from San Jose” transfering our jobs to east bay cities at the expence of San Jose/Santa Clara County Taxpayers.It keeps our workers here.

        How about a light rail extension on Hwy. #237 coridor and a light rail connection to the airport and the new soccer stadium, both close by.

        Selling sales tax dollars on rapid transit that benefits our local people using the money they will benefit on will be a lot easier to sell than convincing them to have a local sales tax that benefits east bay cities, like BART will do.
    BART just encourages more urban sprawl, not good.

        Great time to plan a good infrastructure.Visiting cities like Portland is a great idea too.

          How about getting VTA to buy some of the new Hybird buses for us and replacing those “Noisey” air poluting buses we have now. San Francisco has 86 Hybrid buses on order. San Mateo and Alameda counties already have them. We`re the High Tec City with the old tec buses. we`re the high tec county that charges it`s residents $15 dollars extra to pay property taes on line. Alameda has Photo Radar high tec systems at it`s busier intersections, why not incorporate them in North San Jose?

      Don`t forget bike lanes in this area.

  2. Great anaylsis, Pierluigi.  You are a valuable asset to the community.  By the way, the Mission City Lantern has endorsed the proposal by Madison Nguyen’s constitutents that she should resign after betraying her constituents.  Read more at the Mission City Lantern, http://www.missioncitylantern.blogspot.com

    To many in the Vietnamese-American Community, Madison’s actions were as though she had engineered at Chuck and Victor’s request, the second fall of Saigon!

  3. Much of this city was built the wrong way and we still haven’t learned? Please keep fighting this fight so we can have a bigger city instead of more car-dependent, faceless suburbs.

  4. #3- You wrote, “To many in the Vietnamese-American Community, Madison’s actions were as though she had engineered at Chuck and Victor’s request, the second fall of Saigon!”

    That entire statement is untrue, and you really should be ashamed of yourself for saying it.  Mayor Reed has a great deal of love and respect for the Vietnamese community. He worked with that community on many issues long before becoming Mayor. He was the first to stand by Madison when she asked the Council to designate that business district to the Vietnamese people. Try getting your facts straight.
    Madison is a young woman who has done her race, this city, and her community proud. She shouldn’t have to carry the burden and past hurts of the Vietnamese people with her in this job, when making decisions that affect not only her district, but our city as a whole. Secondly, it would be discriminatory of her to put a special interest group before the ENTIRE community. The vast majority of her district is Hispanic, and they deserve fair representation from Madison as well. And finally, she put Saigon in the name, so stop making it sound like she betrayed her people, ignored their wishes, and conspired with the “dark side,” when she refused to ignore the will of the people “as a whole.”

  5. Chuck Reed has done everything possible to insult and disrespect minority communities in San Jose.  He back Hon Lien after she attacked Kansen Chu, the most important Assian American leader in Silicon Valley today.  Reed sponsors the Sludge Merchant Victor Ajlouny, who actually asked community leaders to abandon their desire for Little Saigon, and it turns out Reed got contributions from the people opposed to Little Saigon.  Nguyen chose the name for Saigon which is used by Communist government in Vietnam for another business district, and Reed has financial ties to many businesses with relationships to the Vietnamese government.  Madison Nguyen’s only praise for this decision was from the Community Party of Vietnam!

    It is small wonder why a dozen Vietnamese Community leaders apologized yesterday for supporting Nguyen.

    Time for the old bulls in North San Jose to hand Chuck Reed a crab mallet and say, eat your crab meat, Chuck.

  6. Pierluigi,

    I agree 100% with your ideas for North San Jose.  Building three story residential buildings in North SJ is a complete waste.  There is no reason that we can’t have 25 story and higher buildings in that area.  That is really one of the only areas in the city where high rises are appropriate and most importantly we don’t have the height limitation restrictions from the Airport flight path.  Building high rises in North San Jose would allow us to make maximum use of the valuable land in this area.

  7. James Rowen – This isn’t the first time you got your facts wrong, and it won’t be the last.  Government has to represent ALL the people, regardless of whether they are Democrats, Republicans, Green party members, or even Communists.  District 7 is an extremely diverse, multi-cultural district, and all of those cultures need to be heard, and represented.  This is not Vietnam; this is the United States of America, and as such, catering to special interest groups is not democracy in action. 

    In today’s paper, even Council Member Chu stated that he does not agree with the attacks on Madison, nor does he agree with the recall effort. 

    What kind of democracy are you living in when you completely dismiss the rights of other constituents in District 7?  Members of the Hispanic Business District on Story Road agreed to the name “Saigon Business District”, even though that name does not represent their businesses at all. 

    #8 – And your point is, what?  Are you denying that Chuck Reed did a lot for the Vietnamese people as a whole, during his time on the City Council?  Are you expecting us to ignore history, and the fact that Chuck Reed was one of the first to lead the Council towards acknowledging the Vietnamese Community and it’s business district?

  8. A) I still have emotional scars and nightmares dating back to 1664 when Charles II renamed New Amsterdam Business District to New York Business District in honor of his brother the Duke of York.

    B) I can see where high density is the future for North San Jose, but I have a fondness for the old Silicon Valley – Eichler Homes, strip malls, one-story tilt-ups, commuting by car, low-density/low-crime neighborhoods, oleanders in the freeway median strip.

  9. PO,
    “The fact that San Jose can make money from this area and use that money to pay for neighborhood services throughout the city is a winner.” That is how downtown was sold many years ago and we are still waiting for this to come to fruition. What makes this North San Jose project different? Didn’t you write a few weeks ago that we have almost $1 billion in unfunded one time expenses around the city? How can we fund the needed cops and firemen when we can’t provide adequately for our existing citizens? Where is all the water and electricity going to come from? Maybe bigger is not better, and until we can take care of what we have, lets not start something else. Isn’t 1 million people in our city enough for now?

  10. # 9 Silverman,
    I totally agree.  What an attraction that could be.  The high rise might not be the home with picket fence, lawn and two or three car garage; but there are so many other amenities to offset this:  magnificent views, low maintenance, walking and bike trails, wildlife riparian corridors, basketball courts, pools, world-class farmers markets, schools, shopping, close to work, light rail, bus and some day Bart… all within a short walk. 

    In stead of mowing the lawn, raking leaves, cleaning gutters, sweeping walks, painting, etc. couples and small families can enjoy their free time LIVING and enjoying a healthy, safe San Jose. 

    It’s not for everyone, but generations from now that will be a very big deal.

  11. #12

    It is better to build within the city boundaries vs. buliding out in Coyote Valley. Building within requires less city services. Building tall in North SJ is environmentally responsible. Also North San Jose is private investment much like Santana Row so if they want to use private capital to build then so much the better.

  12. The problem I have with high-rise (apartment/condo) living is that I cannot play my home theater, or music, as loud as I would like.  Likewise, any neighbors in the building would also be so constrained. 

    In my house I can close the doors and windows and enjoy the home theater experience without disturbing my neighbors.

    Fix the issue of noise with these buildings, and I mean NO UNWANTED NOISE leaks into adjacent homes, and then they will become appealing to me.

  13. There is a fact somewhere in the first paragraph of your statement??

    Kansen is a great council member, but the people at the meeting are the ones that live in District 7, not me, nor you, Jean (and this is the first time you have written Chuck can do no wrong emails), and not Kansen.

  14. Pierluigi,  while high density is appropriate given the value of land, at what point will we recognize the deficit in our water supply?  It’s interesting that the old Naval Depot in Concord may be redeveloped with the addition of 30,000 residential units.  Do the politicians and land use consultants know something that we do not?

  15. To James Rowen,
    With all due respect your website indicates you are a citizen of the city of Santa Clara. Why are you so interested in San Jose politics aside from plugging your own website? Just curious. Reading your blogs on your own website you come off as a loose cannon a few cards short of a full deck.

  16. #2 Richard,
    Regarding your comment “Selling sales tax dollars on rapid transit that. . . . “
    I’m not sure I understand your point.  Could you run that by us again?  Thanks.

    Regarding paragraph 5;  could you expand on this as well?  Could you spell it out for me like I just came into town and fresh to this subject?  I’m missing a lot of the background here and feel like an outsider.  Thanks.

  17. Welcome to irresponsible politics of the 21st Century Media.

    “Great Analysis! Now let’s talk about the issue I’m being paid to shill on . . .” which I will now call ‘Rowenomics’ for lack of better terminology.

  18. Gee, Steve, if you would have the guts to use your real name, and you don’t, it is nice to know that San Jose residents feel they can comment all the time about our city, but when we comment, it is not good.  Lest we forget that at least I am willing to step up and say what I feel, and you are free to comment about me as I lay it all open.  But, then again, we cannot do the same with you, can we?

  19. Greg Howe-

    The proper way to recognize the water shortage is to build higher density.  High density housing uses considerably less water per capita than low density housing.  (They still shower and flush, but at least they don’t water a lawn.)

    Low density wastes water.  To get the land, you need to expand into drier areas.  That uses even more water.

  20. #16 – James Rowen –

    I see you have taken a keen interest in this Little Saigon/Madison Nguyen issue.  Did you get a job out of this?  Who are you working for? 

    Like you, not all of the people who showed up to the “Saigon Business District” Council Meeting are from District 7 – in fact, a good majority of them are from Milpitas, Sunnyvale, District 4 and even as far away as Orange County.  As you know, James, looks can be decieving. 

    As to your Chuck Reed Comment, I have never done any anti-Chuck Reed postings.  What are you talking about?

  21. Hey, Folks—Why is anybody even trying to dialog with Rowen? Those of us who have had to tolerate his incoherency since SJI started know better than to try and have a civilized discussion with him. Let him rant, ignore him, and eventually he will go away—again.

  22. #24- Good point Wonder Woman. I agree. By James. Go back to your own blog.

    To all the SJI staff and posters, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Holidays!

  23. Greg Perry (#21),

    I do agree that high density is far more efficient in terms of water usage.  That does not, however, answer the question regarding adding to our housing stock – how will we provide for the incremental demands?

    Shouldn’t we find the water then build the housing?  Too many communities turn a blind eye to resource requirements, hoping that such issues will just go away.  I think our politicians may be doing just that. 

    I do suspect, though, that Pierluigi must be out of town, as he’s not yet replied to my query.

  24. David D. and and all. Please excuse me, i pushed the submit button before reading and sending.

      Selling the concept of a new sales tax “add on” to Santa Clara County residents that benefits the same residents, is a lot easier sell tax payers,  than, “adding a new tax to our residents that benefits residents and businesses in the East Bay Cities”.

      I believe Building BART from San Jose to the East Bay Cities at the expense of San Jose/Santa Clara County residents only continues urban sprawl up the 880 coridor from San Jose.

      We would be sending our residents to jobs on the east bay while we would have all the expenses to pay for their Police, Fire, Library, Parks and schools. In essance a gift from us to them.

      This would be a big benefit to developers that want to build on cheeper East Bay land. The big Silicone Valley companies that want to build facilities in Alameda County would benefit expanding on the East Bay. These are the same companies that are sending our better paying jobs out of the country. I doubt they (these Exec`s) really care about the increased cost for San Jose and other Santa Clara County Cities to maintain city services for their residents working on jobs in the East Bay.

    I`m not against BART, I`d like to see BART circle the Bay Area before I die. I just believe San Jose has other priorties that should come first.

      Fix our infrastructure problems first. Repair our roadways. Add police enforcement officers. Staff our libraries. Fix or gridlock problems along the I-280, Hwy 85, Hwy 87 and U.S.101 freways. Fix the I-280/880 interchange problems, fix the I-280/hwy 87 interchange grid lock, fix the I- 280/ hwy 85 grid lock. Add more light rail within our county. All the freways from San Jose to Palo Alto on the west bay are cloged. Fix our sewer system that is falling apart;(Metro News). Build our trail system. ” “Make San Jose the most desirable place to live” thus keeping Jobs. Catch up with San Francisco, San Mateo and Alameda Counties by adding Hybrid busses. San Fran has 86 of these buses on order.Our diesel Buses are very noisy and polute the air we breathe.

      BART is a nice thing to have, but if we build it today, all else is lost.

      Put San Jose First.

  25. bart trains run in both directions, bud.

    tens of thousands of people commute into the santa clara valley from the east bay every single day. building bart will let them do that in a train instead of a car. if san jose residents get jobs in the east bay, they will want to commute by train, as well. why force them to drive?

    building transportation is about providing access. bart provides access.

  26. #29 $$$$$$

      I have been traveling to the east bay every morning five days a week and return to San Jose every evining. I`m very familiar with traffic on I-880 and I-680. I`ve learned a long time ago to leave San Jose on I-680 and go to the Durham Rd.aka Auto Maul Parkway exit to return to I-880 north. The reason I and many others do this is we want to avoid all the grid lock at the Hwy327 (Calavaras Blvd) I-880 interchange. Once You pass this interchange in Milpitas 880 opens up again until you get to the I-580/I-880 interchange some thirity miles down the freeway, again grid lock.

      I believe a light rail express trail along the 237 corridor would open up the interchange in Milpitas (237/880) and make traffic flow a lot better. The big employer in this area is Cisco Systems and it has excellent Light Rail Stations.

      I believe we should connect Warm Springs Milpitas by finishing the Light Rail Service to Warm Springs from Milpitas, maybe with an “Express” light rail. This would be built above ground at a lot lower cost than tunneling BART under ground from San Jose to the East Bay on BART. But Light rail on 237 should come first.

      My experience with the heavy traffic on 880 is the mix is mostly 50% big heavy tractor trailer diesel trucks and 50% auto traffic. Like me I believe many of those in the car will need there cars to get around the East Bay Cities. The East Bay is made up of mostly Warehouses, many of which do a lot of business in San Jose.

      I believe the cost of Building BART to the East Bay should be paid for by Alameda County Businesses and eager developers, as the benefit is mostly theirs.

      I`d have to ask Greg Perry, but I believe that Santa Clara County VTA has to commit to pay BART people $50 million dollares a year just for becoming part of the BART System, I don`t know how much exactly, but maybe Mr Perry could explain. This could drain BART and all for the advantage of the East Bay.

      Both BART and the Light Rail are very slow as they boyh have many stops along their routes.

      Caltrain express trains to San Francisco are fast and most often take less time to go to San Fran from San Jose than we can do by car.

      The grid lock on the four west bay freeways ( 280, 101,85 and 87) have a lot more serious traffic congestion than I880 going to Alameda County.




      I`m not opposed to BART circling the bay, it`s just that I believe the timing is wrong. Also at this time it is the benefit of the East Bay companies, land owners/developers that want to take advantage of lower cost real estate on the east bay. The cost of construction for BART to be paid for by San Jose/ Santa Clara County residents for something that benefits another County,Alameda County.

  27. #29 $$$$

        Correction: VTA would have to pay BART people $50 million a year just for becoming part of the BART SYSTEM….“This could drain VTA and all for the advantage of the EAST BAY Cities”.

      The last thing we need to do now is put another $50 million a year expence on VTA`s back, when they are already having problems.

  28. Greg #32:

    PO posts here weekly, which is better than the mayor or any other councilmember.

    However, he never responds to our comments; and there is little evidence that he has voted based upon it…or even taken it into consideration.

    Seems to be a one way street.

  29. Greg Perry,
      Do you seem to know more about BART/VTA than most of us. Can you confirm information I`ve herd about VTA`s cost just for the privilege of simply joining the BART system. Kind of like a ann. membership fee.

      Please check my question in #30, clearafied in #31. Can you help?

  30. VTA Rider Union

    VTA and BART executed a Comprehensive Agreement effective as of November 19, 2001 that includes a requirement that ongoing operating, maintenance and capital costs, caused by operation of the SVRT Project, are the financial responsibility of VTA. 

    The financial responsibility ( to BART ) will be met through an annual subsidy amount of $48 million (FY02$), which is adjusted quarterly from December 31, 2001 at a rate equal to the growth rate of all taxable sales in Santa Clara County for the most recent quarter for which taxable sales data is available versus the same quarter of the prior year.


    Grand Jury report

    Hay report

  31. David D.

      Another consideration regarding BART being built from San Jose to the East Bay Cities is the serious drug trafficing area in the Oakland area near “the High Street Bart Station . This is an area in Oakland wher you wouldn`t want to walk in in broad daylight, because of all the crime and shootings. At night time it gets even more dangerous. The drug trafficing continues along the BART corridor to San Leandro another dangerous area.

      Everyone has read the news papers in this area and knows that these drug trafficers use BART to escape the scene of a crime or move on down the line (south) for more drug deals.

      Another problem with San Jose building BART to the East Bay Cities is we are inviting these criminals to the south bay cities and San Jose, to do more drug dealings and escape again using BART.

      Is this the element we want to invite to San Jose once BART is completed. I think it is best to leave this element on the east bay. The Oakland Police hasn`t been able to stop these criminals. Remember we have a shortage of police officers in San Jose. We`re told we are operating at 1994 police staffing levels.

      Would our downtown property owners and businesses want this element in the bueatiful downtown area we are building.

      Just think for a moment,” about BART being built underground in San Jose”, what a great place to do underground drug deals. Then take BART out to the Flea Market Area with more new low cost housing on the BART Route. Would these homeowners in the Berryessa area welcome these people in their neighborhoods.

      The Berryessa area has a shortage of City Parks and Neighborhood activites for the young people that are left at home while their parents are busy at work. What a great way for this east bay element to recruit new gang members in San Jose.

      Just think of what could happen….

  32. Greg Perry…..

      Are you out there? Could use your help (if you know) about the Annual feel for VTA to become a member of BART. I`m told this $50 million dollars is an annual fee, kind of like a membership fee for VTA to join BART.

      If correct I understand, the VTA recieves no benefit in exchange for the $50 million per year other than to say they are now part of the BART system.
        Do you know where VTA plans to get the money to make these annual payments. Sounds like a “$$ Million Dollars per week” if I understand it correctly.

      Pierluigi, do you know ?