Issue 539December 2014

Diri-DONE

After a five-year planning process, San Jose adopts an area plan for Diridon Station

Urbanist Article December 17, 2014

Diridon Station. Photo by Grey3k via Wikimedia Commons.

What Happened:

San Jose adopted an area plan for Diridon Station.
 

What It Means:

Diridon Station is already a major transit hub for the South Bay. With plans for high-speed rail and BART Silicon Valley in the works, the Diridon station area is set to become one of the state’s most important transit and development connection points. With its vision for dense mixed-use growth around Diridon Station, the plan could become a model for transit-oriented development.
 

After a five-year planning process, San Jose approved an area plan for Diridon Station, the South Bay’s transit center that is set to receive major transit investments in the coming years. Diridon currently services Amtrak, Caltrain, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Light Rail and buses, and Altamont Commuter Express. Additional transit investments through high-speed rail, BART Silicon Valley and Caltrain electrification are planned to transform this already key local transit station into one of regional and state significance.

Beyond the transportation investments, the area has potential because of its central location and the opportunity sites within the area. Downtown San Jose lies immediately adjacent to the station area, making significant commercial development appropriate from a land use perspective. Established residential neighborhoods border the area, as do parking lots and vacant or underutilized properties that hold potential for future development. The SAP Center, home to the San Jose Sharks, is sited within the plan, and the Oakland A’s baseball team has an option to purchase land in the station area if it is approved for a move to San Jose.

This location is also San Jose’s best opportunity to make progress toward its goal of becoming less car-dependent. While San Jose’s commutes overall are weighted heavily towards single-occupant cars, downtown residents are 20 percent more likely to carpool, walk, bike or use transit to get to work.  Designing and developing Diridon the right way will help get San Jose closer to the aggressive sustainability goals set out in Envision 2040, the city’s General Plan.

San Jose’s vision for this mixed-use district is ambitious. Given the downtown location and the convergence of transit modes, both jobs and housing are proposed at high densities. The plan shows a maximum buildout over the next 30 years of almost 5 million square feet of office space, 2,600 units of housing and 420,000 square feet of retail. The plan breaks the area into three zones — the northern “Innovation District” focused primarily on employment, the central “Destination Diridon” zone for sports, entertainment and commerce, and the southern “Diridon Neighborhoods” that build on the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Placemaking is central. Urban design guidelines for buildings, open space and the streetscape focus on the public realm and de-emphasize the car. A master plan for public art in the Diridon station area has been crafted. New plazas, parks and connections to existing open space like the Guadalupe River Parkway and Los Gatos Creek are also envisioned.


A rendering from the plan shows what the future Diridon Station Area could look like. Rendering by Field Paoli.

 

The Diridon Station Area Plan is a strong plan with some clear goals. However, a plan is still just a plan and challenges lie ahead as Diridon moves forward into the implementation phase. The market for new development in this area, particularly for commercial projects, is not particularly strong, though there is interest in future opportunities. Coordination and clear communication is needed for the buildout of a complex plan with fragmented site ownership and the intersection of high-profile stakeholders like public agencies, facility operators, private landowners and an engaged community. Transit connections need to be seamless between various transit operators. It is most critical that the BART-Caltrain-high-speed rail connections are done right to ensure that future ridership justifies these major investments. Clear and well-marked pedestrian and bicycle connections are also needed to link Diridon to downtown and adjacent neighborhoods like The Alameda. Heeding the plan’s urban design guidelines will lead to higher-quality places and a walkable, enjoyable neighborhood for residents, workers and visitors.

The Diridon Station Area Plan contains many of the right ingredients for quality placemaking and has considerable potential for successful development, but it’s a vision that will need to be constantly championed. The execution of the Diridon plan will determine whether or not it becomes a model for transit-oriented planning and development throughout California.

 

What It Means:

Diridon Station is already a major transit hub for the South Bay. With plans for high-speed rail and BART Silicon Valley in the works, the Diridon station area is set to become one of the state’s most important transit and development connection points. With its vision for dense mixed-use growth around Diridon Station, the plan could become a model for transit-oriented development.

After a five-year planning process, San Jose approved an area plan for Diridon Station, the South Bay’s transit center that is set to receive major transit investments in the coming years. Diridon currently services Amtrak, Caltrain, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Light Rail and buses, and Altamont Commuter Express. Additional transit investments through high-speed rail, BART Silicon Valley and Caltrain electrification are planned to transform this already key local transit station into one of regional and state significance.

Beyond the transportation investments, the area has potential because of its central location and the opportunity sites within the area. Downtown San Jose lies immediately adjacent to the station area, making significant commercial development appropriate from a land use perspective. Established residential neighborhoods border the area, as do parking lots and vacant or underutilized properties that hold potential for future development. The SAP Center, home to the San Jose Sharks, is sited within the plan, and the Oakland A’s baseball team has an option to purchase land in the station area if it is approved for a move to San Jose.

This location is also San Jose’s best opportunity to make progress toward its goal of becoming less car-dependent. While San Jose’s commutes overall are weighted heavily towards single-occupant cars, downtown residents are 20 percent more likely to carpool, walk, bike or use transit to get to work.  Designing and developing Diridon the right way will help get San Jose closer to the aggressive sustainability goals set out in Envision 2040, the city’s General Plan.

San Jose’s vision for this mixed-use district is ambitious. Given the downtown location and the convergence of transit modes, both jobs and housing are proposed at high densities. The plan shows a maximum buildout over the next 30 years of almost 5 million square feet of office space, 2,600 units of housing and 420,000 square feet of retail. The plan breaks the area into three zones — the northern “Innovation District” focused primarily on employment, the central “Destination Diridon” zone for sports, entertainment and commerce, and the southern “Diridon Neighborhoods” that build on the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Placemaking is central. Urban design guidelines for buildings, open space and the streetscape focus on the public realm and de-emphasize the car. A master plan for public art in the Diridon station area has been crafted. New plazas, parks and connections to existing open space like the Guadalupe River Parkway and Los Gatos Creek are also envisioned.


A rendering from the plan shows what the future Diridon Station Area could look like. Rendering by Field Paoli.

 

The Diridon Station Area Plan is a strong plan with some clear goals. However, a plan is still just a plan and challenges lie ahead as Diridon moves forward into the implementation phase. The market for new development in this area, particularly for commercial projects, is not particularly strong, though there is interest in future opportunities. Coordination and clear communication is needed for the buildout of a complex plan with fragmented site ownership and the intersection of high-profile stakeholders like public agencies, facility operators, private landowners and an engaged community. Transit connections need to be seamless between various transit operators. It is most critical that the BART-Caltrain-high-speed rail connections are done right to ensure that future ridership justifies these major investments. Clear and well-marked pedestrian and bicycle connections are also needed to link Diridon to downtown and adjacent neighborhoods like The Alameda. Heeding the plan’s urban design guidelines will lead to higher-quality places and a walkable, enjoyable neighborhood for residents, workers and visitors.

The Diridon Station Area Plan contains many of the right ingredients for quality placemaking and has considerable potential for successful development, but it’s a vision that will need to be constantly championed. The execution of the Diridon plan will determine whether or not it becomes a model for transit-oriented planning and development throughout California.

About the Authors: 

Kristy Wang is SPUR’s community planning policy director.

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