Op-Ed: Only Young People, Not Google, Can Make Downtown San Jose a Vibrant Destination

Much has been said about the new buildings and developments coming to downtown San Jose in the forthcoming years. As excited as I am about the Google development, it ignores the fact that buildings don’t make cities vibrant, people do. In other words, there’s no such thing as a bedroom community, just people who don’t go out.

Last week, I saw Bruno Major at The Ritz, a rising star who’s opening for Sam Smith. As expected, he drew a young Pitchfork crowd. The next night, the downtown streets were overflowing with an unprecedented number of young people, which I’m guessing was a mix of FanimeCon and recent SJSU graduates. But these sightings of young people having fun in DTSJ are unusual.

Jarrod Jenkins and his wife Kimberly Smith.

This city has done a poor job appeasing the young, hip people it claims it wants to attract. I live near San Pedro Square, and it’s very difficult to find food late at night. And although there’s often live music at the San Pedro Square Market, it’s invariably soft rock music that draws a 50-and-older crowd.

Given what happened with the Cactus Club and efforts by elected officials to prevent FUZ Bar and Grill from opening—allegedly because there are too many bars on First Street—I’m not convinced San Jose is a fan of adults under 40.

We already have the people and resources to have a vibrant downtown. We have great restaurants that sit empty during weekday nights. We have beautiful parks and amazing weather, but not the thousands of people hanging out on the weekend like Dolores Park or Lake Merritt. We have an intimate concert venue, but not the rising artists who young people want to see, like Saba or Marian Hill.

I’m not the type of person to complain without taking action. For my part, I’ve joined the board of the San Jose Downtown Association to provide the millennial perspective. I’ve established a relationship with the owner of the Ritz and volunteered to help him identify emerging talent. I’ve also created a Facebook group called the San Jose Social Club that highlights some of the best things to do in San Jose, including a monthly community picnic that I host at Arena Green East that I hope grows to hundreds or thousands.

But individuals can only do so much. Part of the change has to come from elected officials and business owners. For example, The Ritz is 21-and-up, which prevents most SJSU students and the rest of the region’s college-aged residents from enjoying a concert. We need brunch spots that play Migos and Travis Scott. And, oddly, San Pedro Square Market, SP2, and District close at 10pm on Thursday nights.

As divisive as it has become, I know the Google development in downtown will lead to a more vibrant San Jose. But we don’t have to wait seven years to shed the bedroom community moniker.

Jarrod Jenkins received his juris doctor and masters of public administration from the University of Georgia and works as a product policy associate manager at Facebook. Outside of work, he serves on the San Jose Downtown Association board, attends Echo Church and founded the San Jose Social Club. Opinions expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of San Jose Inside. Want to submit an op-ed? Email pitches to [email protected]


  1. SJ drove the young crowd out back in the 70’s when it put a stop to cruising. So the exitice is still in effect. We are, or were a car coulcher Now everyone over the age of 6 is bionickly connected to a smartphone and has no need to intrelate with live human beings, thus no one under the age of 50 needs to go downtown to socialize.
    If I want to go out to eat the last place I think of would be down town. Parking is expensive, restaurants are expensive, last time I parked there my window was smashed , a new radio was taken wiring was cut, it cost well over a thousand dollars that my insurance wouldn’t cover. There are bum’s, druggies, and thuggies all over looking looking for a hand out and cops could care less.

    So why would any locals go down town ? If I want something to eat or a movie I’ll drive to Milpitas!
    I suppose the the only one’s going down town are those stuck at a convention downtown , poor soles!

    • How can anyone argue with this?

      The only way San Jose will get better is Google Gentrification. The only problem is they will export the homeless to East Side.

  2. Cruising in San Jose is slowly making a come back. Notice how crowded the streets all around 1st & Santa Clara get on a Saturday night now with beautiful lowriders and tricked out cars. Let’s just hope the city of San Jose can get over the issue of allowing these younger crowds to enjoy their culture. I’m German and so is my family as 3rd generation German and we’ve lived in San Jose since the early 90’s, moved here from North Hollywood area and I have to say, the lowrider cruising is one of the deepest roots to San Jose’s culture. SJPD needs to take a step back and possibly monitor but still allow this culture continue to thrive in San Jose.

    Regarding the dead foot traffic in San Jose on a weeknight, I agree. We need to allow venues to stay open well past their standard time and lower the age limits from 21 to 18. Oakland, Los Angeles and San Francisco, all major US city hubs definitely have it together in terms of allowing 18 and up venues.

    • Lowriders, a Hispanic hobby, would be exempt from harassment by police under the sanctuary cities and state laws.
      Cruising, late model Hi Performance cars would be strictly prohibited as this is a hobby for old white privilege guys.

  3. > Op-Ed: Only Young People, Not Google, Can Make Downtown San Jose a Vibrant Destination

    You want a vibrant downtown? I’ll tell you how to get a vibrant downtown!

    1. Hire the Disney Corporation. Give them a umpteen billion dollar contract to be the “Downtown Facility Manager”. Put in a monorail that circles downtown. Re-do the entire downtown in quaint, early twentieth century style with lots of American flags. Install an animatronic marching band and a few animatronic orators in the park, and — since this is California — an animatronic Hillary Clinton.

    2. Hire the MGM Grand Corporation to put in a checkerboard of gambling casinos, high caloric eateries, and glitzy entertainment spectacles all over the downtown area. Maybe even build a hotel or two.

    3. Negotiate with Southwest AIrlines to establish frequent, low cost shuttle flights to San Jose from places like Peoria, Dubuque, Toledo, Cleveland, and Indianapolis. Change the name of the city from “San Jose, California” to just “California”.

    BOOM! A vibrant, busy, downtown San Jose. And the millennials and “yoot” culture don’t even have to be bothered or look up from their smartphones. And Google can stay in Mountain View or buy some other city’s politicians.

  4. Google is not even trying to be likable.


    Google and its, insolent, unpatriotic employees apparently want to keep their militarily significant AI technology for their corporate interest, and withhold it from the common defense of the American people.


    So, who is Google going to empower to use their powerful and intrusive technology? Switzerland? Iran? Pakistan? Venezuela? China?

  5. I don’t feel like the laws protect us which law really protects us to the fullest. Travel ban to oaklahoma over adoption . That’s strict I think they should protect us from the miss use of fire arms . Most cases They play a game where they hit random people take there life that like worst then getting eaten by a shark . I think that we need to act faster instead slowly making these rules because we don’t want to piss anyone off

  6. What’s up with the 9 pm closing of everything in San Jose except Jack In the Box? I am older and think this is an untenable situation within our comatose town. I cannot even imagine how it affects our young? Party on People! The Streets Belong to the Young! Should we roll some squad cars and set them on fire to get a little attention around here?

  7. When we had free concerts in the park, they were overrun with undesirable elements. When we had Easter Egg hunts, they too were overrun with overzealous parents. The Fairmont used to have a free New Years Eve bash, until that was ruined by massive amounts of people with children, and the above mentioned undesirable element. We are becoming a city of high income vs. low income, with 7-11 s and Starbucks on every corner. There is no shopping, movies, and good restaurants close without warning. Everywhere you encounter mentally ill homeless. So, we drive to safer places, like Santana Row or College Park.

  8. SJ is getting better but it still has a long way to go. Small businesses run into insane amounts of red tape and delays to open and operate. It makes it that much harder to do business and opens the door for giant chains to come in or worse, buildings that remain empty and eyesores.

    Crime is a huge problem too that affects nightlife. Not just violent crime, SOFA and the area just south of it is plagued by a rampant prostitution problem that SJPD is slow and reluctant to respond to

  9. SoFa is chill – Strich is nice, the clubs on the corner are like clubs anywhere, even blue chip has remodelled, the hideout at the back of original joe’s feels classy and you can drink among dressed up old people. The Caravan & Cinebar give you a punk vibe. Flames happy hour (the late night one) is affordable, though the food has gone down with the new owners. There are enough bougie places (paper plane and San Pedro square) for the techies. San Jose Bar and Grill and the rest of the SJSU scene works out pretty when. Even that Asian fusion place has a really cheap tuesday night that’s become really black & Mexican (in a good way). Things are open pretty late in my experience.

    San Jose has always been more of a house party town, then a going out town. SJPD used to be pretty racist and abusive downtown so that put a damper on a lot of the east side going out.

    That being said, if you have a crew, San Jose is just fine. It’ll never be as cool as San Francisco or Oakland, but it’s decent.

    • > SoFa is chill –
      . . .
      > San Jose is just fine. It’ll never be as cool as San Francisco or Oakland, but it’s decent.

      Uh huh.

      Know any good polka places in San Jose? Or, do I have to go to another planet?

    • This is Jarrod, the author of this article. Preferences are fickle, so anything can be made cool. Adidas is now cool. The Warriors are now cool. San Jose can be cool if we want it to be. Heck, being a vegetarian is now cool. Don’t give up hope on San Jose.

      • Oh I didn’t mean to “give up hope” on SJC. I just think that trying to be SF and, to a lesser degree, Oakland is a bridge too far.

        I spent 2013-2017 being drunk in DTSJ. I don’t think there is a bar or restaurant that I haven’t drank at…I love me some San Jose but still am realistic.

        If you work or live in San Jose, there is enough to do here to have fun but, I mean, it’s just not going to be a destination city like SF.

  10. Funny, when my friends and I were in our early 40’s in the late 70’s, all the places in DTSJ catered to a younger crowd. Upstairs at Eulipia was the only venue for us “older folks”. The circle of life…

  11. San Jose has been notorious for making it difficult for any entertainment venue, music or event promoter, festival, sports event, etc. to succeed. Very few places for local bands to play and build up a fan base, and the few places that are here, like the Ritz are barely able to survive. Long running events, like Tapestry and Talent, Music in the Park, Music in the Other Park, The Christmas Parade, July 4th festival, The Silicon Valley Grand Prix, and now Dancin on the Avenue, the latest victim calling it quits after 23 years due to city fees, police and security costs, red tape, etc.They would happily sell the fairgrounds rather than try to bring back the county fair to the success it once was. Turned down an offer from Nascar As big and supposedly rich as this county is and the fair is one of the smallest around. The Promoter laws, are a perfect example of making it nearly impossible to put on an event or show. No longer can venues (that already have the permits to have live music) let outside promoters come in and host a show for a night without those promoters having to register with the city, providing ridiculous amounts of information, pay high fees, and have to be approved by the Chief of Police, making it cost prohibitive for radio stations, or music fans who just want to bring new or favorite artists to a new audience. I work in the event production industry for a company providing sound systems, lighting and staging for all type of events, We are based in San Jose and yet San Jose probably accounts for less than 10% of our business. The people running (ruining is more like it) San Jose are anti-entertainment, or just afraid of it….
    unless they can make a fortune allowing it.

  12. I’m a San Jose native who just returned after living in Marina del Rey the past decade. On my first night out in the ‘new’ SJ, I was harassed by a tech worker with a British accent at a DTSJ bar. I was minding my own business when he pushed me and called me a human pos… as the night progressed and I talked to people I realized that the tech people seemed rather bothered and displeased by the presence of locals, especially Latinx and Asians. It was very obvious they only see themselves as worthy of occupying space in DTSJ. I saw the same attitude from tech new comers in Venice when Snapchat and google arrived. The thing of it is, these tech mostly male workers don’t contribute to the culture or community of the spaces they seek to forcibly occupy. The arrive with huge entitlement and privilege with little to no respect for whom was occupying the space previously. I don’t see DTSJ becoming a vibrate hot spot for young people until the effects of gentrification are near complete. By then, people like myself and Jarrod will be seeking the soft rock venues and avoiding rainbow avocado toast on every menu.

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