Rewilding the Guadalupe River in San José

Balancing natural ecology in a rapidly changing urban environment

SPUR Report
report cover

In the past few years, San José has begun to experience rapid growth and change. As the city continues to grow, attention and investment must be made to support existing assets, including Guadalupe River Park. This 3-mile-long ribbon of park is the city’s largest urban green space and the physical spine of downtown, but underinvestment and misuse have caused the park’s safety and natural habitat to deteriorate. Renewed development interest and economic activity downtown pose a unique opportunity to invest in the park’s growth and transformation.

With support from the Knight Foundation and in partnership with the City of San José and the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy, SPUR is undertaking a three-year study of the park that focuses on economy, equity and ecology. SPUR partnered with Sherwood Design Engineers for this report, which focuses on how to balance natural ecology within the park with a rapidly growing urban environment.

While discussion about how to activate and reimagine Guadalupe River Park has accelerated over the last two years, there has been little talk about the river itself. There is immense opportunity to improve the performance of the river and create an urban oasis within downtown that can contribute to greater ecological diversity and environmental sustainability, create a signature attraction for residents and visitors, mitigate extreme heat and manage stormwater. This report identifies strategies for protecting the Guadalupe River and transforming it into a place that supports natural ecology, improves the human experience and public health of residents, and improves the overall environmental performance of downtown San José.

Watch a presentation about the project:

The Future of the Guadalupe River is Just Around the Riverbend from SPUR on Vimeo.