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San Jose Is Trying to Be the Next San Francisco

Ian Eck | March 10, 2014 | Story Real Estate

We've all heard plenty about how San Francisco is turning into Silicon Valley. More surprisingly, a recently-convened panel of San Jose planners and city officials took aim at the very opposite approach: Making our neighbor to the south more like San Francisco. That means more density, more transit, and more reasons to stay in town after work.

But can San Jose really become the next San Francisco? Especially when San Francisco isn't even sure it wants to be San Francisco?

San Jose is set to elect a new mayor and a host of other civic leaders in 2014, and, according to a number of high-level planners, the city is poised to make a leap into the upper tier of California cities. Indeed, San Jose has emerged as a particularly bright star in the Bay Area in recent years. The Today Show recently listed it as the smartest city in America. It’s been rumored to be the next recipient of Google Fiber. There’s even been talk of moving the Oakland A’s down to the rising star of the South Bay (Then again, when are the A’s not talking about leaving Oakland?).

At a recent panel lead by SPUR San Jose, plans for a hopeful urbanist future were laid out, many holding the same theme: to make the city, especially downtown, more accessible and discoverable. That means improving public transport. It means new civic design that fosters more pedestrians, and less cars. Creating more downtown businesses and fewer residential hubs.

SPUR's Egon Terplan proposed that commercial buildings be centered around public transit locations to make commutes more painless and less automobile-reliant. He added that a possible reconfiguration of the the light rail network was in order, citing the slowness of downtown transit as a specific problem. In a similiar effort to woo pedestrian traffic into the downtown area the San Jose Downtown Association proposed a 40-point plan which included such things as improved lighting, better signage, and decorative pieces in popular downtown destinations.

If all of that sounds a little familiar, it should. The urban vision they were describing sounds like San Francisco.

Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, summed it up, “What we’re trying to do here is activate the entire downtown with people.” Garret Herbert, a partner of the merger and acquisition branch of Deloitte, also added, “We want to have diversity in terms of what we’re offering downtown. We want it to be a central business district, we want it to be a central social district.”

Good luck, folks. And if things don't work out, there's a central business and social district in SF just a Google Bus ride away.

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