Next week, in San Jose, the city council is expected to vote on the sale of public land to Google, the first in a series of approvals needed for a proposed development that could transform the area around Diridon Station, a central transit hub in the heart of the largest city in Silicon Valley. But where the Amazon deal was notable for the massive tax incentives the company secured largely in secret from its new host cities — and the even-more-lavish promises from dozens of runners-up — San Jose is hoping for a different dynamic.
“Through the Diridon Station Area Process, San José and Google have provided a model that stands in stark contrast to the process followed by Amazon and other corporations who have sought large subsidies and presents a better model for the relationship between cities and tech employers,” said Mayor Sam Liccardo in a press releaseannouncing a preliminary agreement with Google earlier this month. “We won’t use our taxpayers’ dollars as bait. Instead, we’re working together with the community and Google to develop a mutually beneficial path that delivers far better value to the residents we serve.”
In announcing a memorandum of understanding with Google, Liccardo and other members of the city council said they would push for a negotiated community benefits agreement, a downtown financing district to help fund transit amenities and other public-realm improvements, and a policy requiring that 25 percent of all new housing in the area be leased at reduced rates. The final package of community benefits will be negotiated after the land sale is approved and before the city approves zoning and other changes to move the project forward.
For Silicon Valley Rising, which has been leading a campaign to make sure the Google development produces opportunities for community residents rather than gentrification and displacement, the announcement of the MOU is a good sign. But the real substance of the agreement remains to be seen.