San Jose Council approves Diridon Plan, steers Sharks toward reducing driving, revives plan to free the creek

This afternoon San Jose City Council voted to approve the Diridon Station Area Plan and its Environmental Impact Report.   In an important step forward, the Council supported the staff recommendation to move forward with a strategy to reduce driving in the Downtown/Diridon Area by setting up a Transportation Management Association to pool funds and manage programs.  Council specifically set an expectation that the SAP Arena would participate in the TMA to support the City’s goals to reduce driving.  The guidance for the Arena is an important step, since the Sharks have been highly cautious and skeptical about the possibility that the need for parking would be reduced by increased use of transit, bicycling and walking.  Seeing the direction of the City Council, Sharks public affairs representative Eric Morley accepted this goal in his public comment, saying:  ”the Sharks continue to look forward to work with the City of San Jose as a member of a future Transportation Management Association to help reduce demand for driving, traffic, and parking.”

The Plan includes a shared parking provision that requires new office developments  that replace existing parking to make their parking available to be used after hours by Arena fans, a good feature that encourages the efficient use of parking space. Unfortunately, this provision could also require new developments to overbuild parking, if the building’s tenants are expected to use less parking than the surface parking being replaced.

City Council clarified some troubling language in the staff recommendations and Council memos that came out after the May 20 public hearing.  A memo by Mayor Reed  had proposed that the implementation of the Diridon plan include ”a goal to maintain the current parking availability until the City and Arena Management agree that transit ridership is robust enough to reduce parking supply without negatively impacting SAP Center operations.” (emphasis added). This could be read to imply that the Arena would have a veto on a City decision to reduce parking due to higher use of other transportation modes.

Council Member Kalra was crystal clear about the intent of the language. “We don’t want to give anyone veto power over the planning decisions we make.   The commitment to reducing parking ratios is a goal I hope that we and future councils keep, with the end result of moving this area away from autos and toward transit, bike and pedestrian. SAP is our partner in that, and we don’t want to detract from their operations, and we want to see them supporting our goals.”

City Council also responded to community protest in reaction to a staff recommendation to remove the proposal to daylight the Los Gatos Creek. Doing this would connect the Los Gatos creek trail, improve wildlife habitat, and create a beautiful place.  The staff memo expressed concern that the project would be too expensive since it would require raising the roads.   Analysis by longtime creek advocate Dr. Larry Ames suggested there would be cheaper ways to implement the project without raising the roads.  Council members Liccardo and Kalra among others supported having ambitious goals even though the funding and implementation for the goals aren’t fully known in advance.

Also, the Council approved a recommendation from Council Member Rocha to more clearly set a goal for affordable housing, which will need future funding in order to achieve.

These refinements at the meeting for final approval also reflected a victory for community organizing and democracy in San Jose.   A substantive staff memo recommending changes in parking policy and the Los Gatos Creek came out after public comment had been closed on May 20.   The City Council agenda indicated that there would be no further opportunity for public comment, despite substantial changes to the plan.  A network of neighborhood leaders, residents, and advocacy groups urged Council members to re-open public comment to address the substantive changes.  Council Members Rocha and Kalra championed the call to listen to the public, and the full council then incorporated the suggestions from members of the public.

Summary: Diridon Plan is approved, and San Jose takes the next step toward creating a more walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly, people-friendly Downtown/Diridon area.

Posted in Adopt-a-Station, San Jose | 2 Comments

Update – two year lead time for new SJ / Arena parking deal

Here is an update on process by which city of San Jose negotiates a contract with the Arena Authority committing the city to provide parking to the Arena.

This contract is up for renewal – but not for another two years.   Fortunately, this leave some time for the initial analysis and development of a Transportation Management Association for the Downtown/Diridon, potentially setting different expectations for mode share for the area with less driving, with a partnership designed to deliver fans not cars.

While these deals between the city and the Arena authority have been worked out in the past without public participation, the next iteration is expected to include participation from neighbors and potentially livable streets advocacy groups. Some of the neighborhood groups have been supportive of less parking/more multimodal transportation.

The Arena Authority is defined as an advisory body to the City, rather than an independent authority such as the New York New Jersey Port Authority which has had independence from local jurisdictions.   Local background and/or investigative research would be welcome in assessing how and whether the Authority has taken direction from City Council in the past.

The big variable is perceived to be the ballpark, which key players are still hoping to see (this means in denial about Not Happening, right?).

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Diridon Parking – Council memos urges Sharks to reduce driving, but offer Arena veto power over parking supply

For the first time, in a new memo with recommendations for the San Jose City Council’s final review of the Diridon Station Area Plan on Tuesday, Mayor Reed, Council Member Liccardo, and Council Member Oliverio recommend that the SAP Arena join the Transportation Management Association being planned for the Downtown/Diridon area, with the goal of reducing driving and encouraging other forms of transportation.

This is a bold new step encouraging the SAP Arena to step up and join the efforts of the entire Downtown/Diridon area at shifting transportation away from driving.   The memo uses San Francisco’s strong collaboration with the Giants as peer pressure for the SAP Arena and the Sharks: “The Mission Bay TMA that includes AT&T Park, for example, has been reported to have boosted the use of non-auto trips to Ballpark events to more than 50% of attendees.”

The Good Neighbor Committee which worked with city staff providing input into  the Diridon Plan had long recommended  that the SAP Arena participate in initiatives for the area to reduce driving, but that recommendation had not appeared in the draft Plan.  Arena management has strongly argued in favor of vehicle access and car parking as the predominant method of access long into the future.  This week, Reed – a strong proponent of the Arena – joins council colleagues in making the recommendation for the Arena to participate in efforts to reduce driving.

Simultaneously and unfortunately, however, the new Reed/Liccardo/Oliverio memo endorses a provision recommended by Mayor Reed last week – giving Arena veto power about when and whether to accept less driving and less car parking.

In the latest recommendation for the parking section of the plan, the staff memo from June 6 encouraged shared parking as a strategy to make efficient use of Diridon Station Area land, by requiring new commercial developments to make their parking spaces available to Arena visitors after 6pm at night.  This is very good.  But the staff memo also recommended that developers of new commercial buildings be responsible for mitigating the reduction of parking supply.

Mayor Reed’s memo clarified that policy in a potentially draconian way – proposing a “goal to maintain the current parking availability, until the City and Arena Management agree that transit ridership is robust enough to reduce parking supply without negatively  impacting SAP Center operations.”

This proposal has two bad implications.  First, a developer of a new office building could be forced to build more parking than their  new office tenants need, in order to preserve parking supply for the arena.   Second, the Arena would have veto power over whether and when new developments could be free to stop oversupplying parking.

So, on the one hand, the Mayor, Liccardo, and Oliverio are encouraging the Arena to step up to work with the city to reduce driving.  But on the other hand, they are proposing to give the Arena veto power, and imposing on new office developments the costs of maintaining the Arena’s familiar parking-rich business model.

Shared goals are needed for a successful TMA, and San Jose will need to develop a plan for incremental mode shift because the Diridon area won’t change over night. But San Francisco didn’t give the Giants an option of maintaining a 90+% driving mode share ad infinitum, and San Jose shouldn’t give that leeway to the Sharks.

Also, the City of San Jose is eager to see new development in the Diridon station area, particularly new offices and employment.  It is reasonable to expect the new developments to share parking, but seems unreasonable to burden them with the costs of providing more parking than their tenants need.

Hopefully the process of creating the TMA, with education and analysis about how to evolve from the auto-dominated past, will bring the Arena, and other old and new players on to the same page with practical goals and strategies for reducing driving and parking, to make better use of the land in the downtown and Diridon area, and to create a nicer place for people to live, work, and enjoy.


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Electric Cloud moves to downtown SJ, employees stop driving

When Electric Cloud moved from a Sunnyvale office park to 35 South Market Street in Downtown San Jose a few months ago, employees who commuted by car to the software release management technology company started to leave their cars in the driveway and taking public to work.   Many of the 70 employees now take Caltrain, taking advantage of the company’s offer of a GoPass.  Several others take ACE from the East Bay, or VTA light rail from elsewhere in the South Bay.

The company was looking for a place to grow, and public transit was a key factor in choosing a location, according to Steve Vattuone, the CFO, who is a longtime Caltrain commuter from his home in San Mateo.   Current employees wanted less car commuting, and public transportation nearby is an advantage in recruiting, as is a location downtown instead of in an office park.  ”We really like the vibe of downtown San Jose, and it’s attracting more and more tech companies” – about 100, according to the city’s office of economic development. 

The company has about 130 employees and growing, with locations in San Francisco, the UK, China and Japan in addition to headquarters in San Jose.

Vattuone estimates that 25-30% of employees use Caltrain or VTA light rail, and another 5-10 people who walk or bike to work on a given day.  Between a third and a half of employees don’t drive to work now, compared to almost none in Sunnyvale.

It is new buildings near Diridon attracting companies such as Electric Cloud that the Diridon policy refinements proposed by Mayor Reed would require to provide more parking. That policy would provide incentives to drive for the employees otherwise more likely to take transit.


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Diridon update – council defers decision; details will matter on parking

The San Jose City Council took a few questions about he Diridon Station Area Plan last night, and then deferred deliberation and decisions until next week Tuesday.

On the critical parking issue, where the SAP Arena is pressuring the city to increase the parking supply, there are no recommended changes to the overall goals of the plan to provide a level of parking assuming that 40% of people in the area don’t drive.

But the devil is in the details. Some of the details are good, some bad, and some potentially ominous. On the good side, the staff report recommends that office buildings in the Diridon area should be designed with the ability to share parking, allowing Arena visitors to use the parking after 6pm when most office workers have gone home. This is a very good idea that allows efficient use of the space.  On the bad side, the report also recommends requiring office buildings within a half-mile of the Arena to replace the parking or “mitigate the reduction of parking”, if they build on a parking lot.

According to Mayor Reed’s recommendation, this provision would require the new building to provide more parking than they need, if they need less than the Arena.  If a building replaces 150 surface parking spaces, but only needs 100 for its own use, the developer would need to either build the parking anyway, incenting workers to drive, or be required to fund the addition of parking elsewhere near the ballpark.

A better option would be to take advantage of a practice that is already going on – arena visitors often park downtown near San Pedro Square, go out for drinks and dinner, and walk over or take a pedicab.   This creates business for San Jose and allows the Arena to benefit from parking slightly further away. The city could promote this, take advantage of underused downtown parking, and not require parking to be overbuild in the Diridon Area.    The staff recommendation explicitly excludes this strategy by requiring the replacement parking be within 1/2 mile of the Arena.  The San Pedro Street parking garage that is already used by many fans is .7 miles away, and there are other parking garages that are nearby but more than .5 miles.

The ominous part is that the city is renegotiating its contract with the Arena, which is done at a staff level behind the scenes.  The City has an agreement with the Arena to provide at least 6350 offstreet parking spaces.  It would be possible for the agreement to be changed committing the city to provide more parking, regardless of what is stated in the Diridon Plan.  It would be much better to have San Jose collaborate with the Arena more like the collaborations with Levi’s Stadium and AT&T Park, with efforts to create a multi-modal transportation plan with less driving as the area evolves.

For details on the changes in the staff proposal, and ideas about how to handle parking and access for the Arena, see the city council agenda for item 10.2, and under that item, the Supplemental distributed on 6/6, and the memos from Mayor Reed, Council Member Liccardo and Rocha.


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The Google Bus / Mountain View connection – Housing Affordability and Transit


Here is the presentation:

And here is video for the event:

Adobe House Event

Egon Terplan’s presentation – 36 min
Public Comments (mostly on affordable housing) – 49 min

Express buses connecting San Francisco to Silicon Valley have taken heat for being the cause of rapidly rising housing prices and displacement.   But the “Google Bus” didn’t cause the problems. The underlying problems are a major shortage of housing, challenges with affordability and displacement, and a public transit system that needs improvement.

On June 16, at 6:30pm, come take a look at the big picture of the housing and transit challenges behind the Google bus controversy, and how Mountain View can help address the problems on this side of the route.  Egon Terplan of SPUR will be presenting an analysis on how to restore housing affordability in Mountain View, building on the analysis SPUR conducted for San Francisco. Adina Levin of Friends of Caltrain will opportunities to improve the public transit system.

Co-sponsors include  Mountain View Coalition for Sustainable Planning, SPUR, Friends of Caltrain, Peninsula Interfaith Action, Mountain View Chamber of Commerce, others….

June 16, 6:30pm
Adobe House, Moffett and Castro
Across the street from Mountain View Caltrain
RSVP here


Posted in Mountain View | 3 Comments

Caltrain corridor updates for Millbrae, San Mateo, Redwood City

Here are this week’s updates on transit-oriented development and station access on the Caltrain corridor. If you have reports from any of these meetings, or if there are items we missed, please post in the comments.

Millbrae Station Area Plan

On Thursday, May 15, 6-8pm, there is a community workshop at City Council Chambers about a new Station Area Plan for Millbrae. The plan will provide guidelines for major new developments being proposed for sites near the Caltrain/BART stations, including bicycle and pedestrian access to the station area. If you are able to attend, please let me know.

San Mateo Station Park Green

In San Mateo, on Tuesday May 13 at 7:30pm, there will be a study session for the long-delayed Station Park Green development on the former KMart site near Hayward Park Caltrain station, which is coming back to life, following financing challenges during the recession.   The site is nearly 12 acres in size, and will have up to 599 housing units, 25,000 square feet of retail space, 10,000 square feet of office space, and two acres of public open space.

To take advantage of the site near Caltrain, developer plans to offer Caltrain GoPasses to residents and employees to encourage transit use, and there will be 12 Zipcar spaces available for the convenience of households and employees who are in the area without their own car, and shuttle service connecting to downtown.  The revived development is smaller than the original proposal, with 4 developed blocks instead of 8, surface parking hidden from view, and larger blocks.

Redwood City Inner Harbor Precise Plan 

Tonight, Monday May 12, the Redwood City City Council and Planning Commission are holding a study session on the Inner Harbor Precise Plan.   This is an area on the Bay side of 101.  The study session will cover, among other topics, proposed changes and improvements to the bicycle and pedestrian routes that connect the Inner Harbor Area and the Bay Trail to downtown and to Caltrain. The circulation includes several proposals for crossings of the 101 barrier.   Since there is expected to be some more development in the area, it would be helpful for people to be able to get downtown and to/from Caltrain without driving, which will be more healthy and cause less traffic.  If you’re interested, the meeting starts at 7pm – the agenda item might start ~7:30pm. 

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May 7 – San Jose Diridon Plan up for Planning Commission review; City Council May 20

The City of San Jose is reviewing the Diridon Station Area plan for approval.  Wednesday May 7th it’s at Planning Commission, and May 20th it’s before City Council.   If you live in San Jose or use Diridon Station, you can help.

San Jose wants to make the area around Diridon station into a walkable, bikeable, urban extension of the downtown.   But there are risks to making the plan successful.

1) Don’t double the parking!  SAP Arena is insisting on doubling the amount of parking, creating enough parking for 80% of people do drive – not just for the Arena, but for everyone in the Plan area, for the entire lifetime of the plan.  This would defeat the goal of creating a place that is walkable, bikeable, where people use transit.  Instead, the city would work with the arena to phase in a transition for parking,

2) Strong incentives for less driving.  The Diridon Station Area Plan has a very good provision calling for a “Transportation Management Association” to provide benefits like shuttles, carpool programs, transit pass discounts to encourage people to get to the area without driving. (Historically, cities have provided subsidies in the form of subsidized car parking)  This is part of a trend in the region to have cities provide benefits like the big employers do to drastically reduce driving. To make this successful, San Jose will need to make sure that it is funded, and has transparent public reporting.

3) Transit integration. Design the transit improvements, including the new BRT services, BART, and in the long term High Speed Rail so that making connections is quick and easy (the preliminary designs don’t do this yet).

4) Prioritize the good bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and make sure they get funded.  Include the option to daylight Los Gatos Creek and extend the trail, and work to fund it.

5) Housing affordability. There is so much more demand for housing in walkable, bikeable, transit-rich areas that prices are skyrocketing.  San Jose should increase housing in the plan area, and foster affordability through smaller units, providing 20% dedicated affordable

6) Support Caltrain electrification and capacity improvements.  This isn’t an issue in the plan per se. But San Jose Council members are on the VTA board and have a lot of influence on the Santa Clara County ballot measure that could help fund Caltrain capacity and grade separations.  The plan predicts that 10000 people will use Caltrain, and 10,000 people will use BART.  Tell San Jose leaders they should support Caltrain in addition to BART to acheive the goals of the plan.

The most important thing will be to have many people at the Council meeting – save the date, May 20 at 7pm.   For a reminder, and a sample letter to customize, sign up here for the Diridon Station Area.

For extra help, send a note to planning commission by 4pm tomorrow. Say who you are, where you live, how you use Diridon, why you want the plan to be successful, and one or more of the points above. Send your note to Michael Brillot, Michael.Brilliot at by 4pm.

If you have enough time tomorrow, come tomorrow night to San Jose Planning Commission starting at 6:30 pm, speak in support of the plan, and urge the Planning Commissioners to move it forward and address one or two of the concerns below.  If you’re coming to speak, let us know, friends at to help coordinate.

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Caltrain corridor update: news and actions in San Jose, Palo Alto, Redwood City, and San Francisco/Bayshore

San Jose Diridon Plan up for approval in May – you can help – prep session tomorrow April 29 .  Coming up in May, San Jose Planning Commission (May 7) and City Council (May 20) will review the Diridon Station Plan and Environmental Impact Report for Approval.  The plan intends to evolve the area around the Diridon Station into a walkable urban neighborhood that takes advantage of the transit hub.  But smooth sailing is not guaranteed – the SAP Arena is making demands to double the parking in the entire plan area, so 80% of all area users – not just Sharks fans – can drive. Planning Commission and Council will need to hear from people who walk, bike, and use transit, to give them confidence to move away from the traditional vehicle-dominated planning.

Tomorrow, April 29, Sierra Club is sponsoring a workshop to learn more about the plan and prepare to speak at Council.  If you’ve been following the Diridon Plan all along, this will be familiar to you.  If you’re new to the Plan and to making public comments at a Council meeting, come tomorrow night to learn more and get ready.  Tuesday, April 29, 7pm, Martin Luther King Library, Room L67 (Lower Level).  150 E. San Fernando Street, San Jose. Food will be provided, RSVP to

Palo Alto business registry proposed to gather transportation info; events on demographics and housingOn Tuesday the 29th (not Monday) Palo Alto City Council is reviewing a proposal (agenda item #12 ) for the city to adopt a business license registry.  This registry is critical for the city’s new vehicle trip reduction plans.   To succeed at this, the city will need fundamental information like how many employees work downtown – information that the city has been sorely lacking. The goal is not to raise revenue but to cover the basic cost of data gathering. To support the registry, send a note to

As Palo Alto works on a update of its Comprehensive Plan, the City is putting on a series of events. Last week there was a standing room only event moderated by Institute for the Future, discussing the changing face of Palo Alto, with over 70 people learning from experts in demographics and the school system. The event was videotaped and will be online shortly - we’ll share a link when the video is online.  These demographic changes are fostering changes in transportation preferences. At a recent Housing Element meeting, Jessica Epstein from the Silicon Valley Realtors Association reported that new residents under 40 and over 60 want to be living in walkable communities, with easy access to services and amenities.  The Committee suggested walkability as a criterion for housing sites.

Next,  on Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 6-8 p.m at the Elks Lodge, 4249 El Camino Real, there will be a panel discussion on housing affordability.   Click here for more info on the housing event.

Monday April 28 – Redwood City Parking Policy – can it help reduce driving? On Monday night (tonight), agenda #9, Redwood City is reviewing its downtown parking program for some modifications.  Since parking is tight with the loss of spaces due to construction,  the staff is proposing to cut down on new permits and to increase the core hourly parking rate to $1.00 and the hourly rate for the periphery at $.25, while moving forward on plans to increase signage to find the parking.

Also the staff report recommends starting to assess opportunities for new parking garages on the Main lot or Caltrain/SamTrans lot.  But the city is NOT yet following the direction set by Palo Alto and San Mateo – to invest in programs to reduce driving, which reducing the need to spend money on $15-$20Million parking garages.    Redwood City has a TDM pilot with ZipCar spots, shuttles, and vanpools – and no funding to continue the program when grant runs out.  San Mateo is planning to use its downtown parking revenue to help reduce driving – can Redwood City?

If you think that Redwood City should follow the path of nearby cities, to invest in reducing driving to reduce the need to build parking garages – send a quick note to the City Council.

New development with over 1600 apartments slated for Bayshore Caltrain area

San Francisco just announced a development package for the the old Schlage Lock site near Bayshore Caltrain, with over 1600 housing units and a grocery store.  The development received $2 million in Proposition K  funds for transportation improvements including direct east-west route that will allow people to walk through the development from Bayshore Boulevard to the Bayshore Caltrain Station.  Are you interested in participating in review of the details including station access? Let us know at


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Sierra Club hosts workshop to prep for San Jose Diridon Plan Review

Coming up in May, San Jose Planning Commission (May 7) and City Council (May 20) will review the Diridon Station Plan and Environmental Impact Report for Approval.  The plan intends to evolve the area around the Diridon Station into a walkable urban neighborhood that takes advantage of the transit hub.

But smooth sailing is not guaranteed – the SAP Arena is making demands to double the parking in the entire plan area, so 80% of all area users – not just Sharks fans – can drive. Planning Commission and Council will need to hear from people who walk, bike, and use transit, to give them confidence to move away from the traditional vehicle-dominated planning.

Tomorrow, April 29, Sierra Club is hosting a Diridon Workshop to learn more about the plan and prepare to speak at Council.  If you’ve been following the Diridon Plan all along and participating, the material will be familiar to you.  If you’re new to the Plan and to making public comments at a Council meeting, Diridon Workshop to learn more and get ready.

Posted in Adopt-a-Station, San Jose | Leave a comment