Through the Envision San José 2040 General Plan, San José has laid out its vision for development over the next four decades to turn San José into a more urban, environmentally friendly, interconnected, and prosperous city. It is clear that getting from the San José of today to the envisioned San José of the future will require much development across San José and in District 4 particularly. The City will have to build to taller heights to accommodate population growth and achieve its vision of having multiple urban villages spread out across the City.
Few residents of San José disagree with the need for more development in the abstract. But many take issue with the concentration, pace, and negative impacts of recent development. Presently, development in North San José feels at once too concentrated and too slow, unnecessarily compounding the inconveniences that San José residents must put up with. In our haste to attract new employers and inhabitants to San José, the City must not overly burden its current residents – the very people who chose to establish their lives in San José before major improvements.
While the lives of people living near constructions zones and development sites will inevitably be imposed upon in the short-term, the City can minimize impacts by using its permitting power to consciously spread out the impacts of new construction throughout San José to avoid an overconcentration of road closures, detours, and traffic in any one area. The City should also prioritize projects that will have an immediate positive impact for current residents, such as the creation of mass transit sites, public parks, and grocery stores so that residents can have something to look forward to once construction is over.
It can be debated as to what sorts of new development will best serve San José, and those decisions will not entirely be left to the City. But what the City can do to prepare for and attract future development is to invest in public infrastructure projects – repaving roads, improving our sewage system, upgrading our electrical grid, expanding public transit and laying the groundwork for San José to have the capacity for superfast internet such as Google Fiber.
More development is needed in San José, but the City must be discerning in the sorts of development it pursues. Development for development’s sake can do more harm than good, and should be avoided. Smart development means being aware of not just individual development projects, but of how these different projects impact surrounding areas, as well as the people who live, work, and do business there. Done correctly, smart development should pave the way for an improved quality of life and spark more commerce.