More than a decade ago, the City of San José began planning for growth by adopting a new land use strategy: building “urban villages” that emphasize livability, affordability, and access to opportunity through dense, mixed-use development near transit.
The beauty of the urban village plan is that it can guide the kind of development that would theoretically create “15-minute neighborhoods,” where residents enjoy access to many essential services and amenities just a short walk or bike ride from home. This concept has gained currency around the world in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which highlighted the unsustainability of car-dependent urban planning and its attendant ills, including deepened socioeconomic divides, increased air pollution, and reduced resilience.
Yet for a variety of reasons, few of the urban villages have been approved; in fact, more than 60% of San José’s residential development since 2011 has occurred in areas without an urban village plan. SPUR proposes that the City of San José could use the 15-minute framework to undertake and evaluate actions to implement its urban villages. After convening a cross-sector working group, conducting interviews and workshops, and consulting with stakeholders to better understand the utility of the 15-minute concept in San José, SPUR recommends six strategies to enable these more complete, connected, and equitable communities.