Willow Glen has Lincoln Avenue. Campbell has Campbell Avenue. Los Gatos has Santa Cruz Avenue. Cambrian deserves to have its own Main Street. It should serve as an iconic Gateway to this beautiful corner of San Jose and as a foundation to building a greater sense of community.
I sent you a message on Monday, August 24th, promising that I would send another note once the new plans were submitted to the City. Just today Weingarten Realty submitted their plans to our Planning Department.
As you can see, we have put a lot of hard work into this project, and we intend to work even harder in the months to come.
While you read through this message, I hope we can keep this email in the greater context of where our city is today and the economic uncertainty we face. San Jose’s unemployment rate of 12.4% is higher than the County average and above the peak witnessed during the Great Recession.
When I entered this office, I committed myself to working on our city’s vibrancy. We should all want shuttered storefronts and dilapidated buildings to be a thing of the past. Our area of San Jose should be beautiful and I remain committed to doing everything I can to facilitate job creation and to beautify our neighborhoods.
This new world we live in has changed almost everything. It may have thrown a wrench into many of our city’s economic development and beautification plans. But I am hopeful that Silicon Valley and the City of San Jose will bounce back stronger and better than ever before.
This project in particular gives me hope for our future. Even with all the economic uncertainty around us, Weingarten Realty is still interested in proceeding with this project. After writing the developer to consider the community’s, the city’s, and our suggestions, the developers applied the vast majority of our recommendations to our project. The recommendations we suggested require a much more significant investment on behalf of the developer than their previous plans.
We must keep in mind that this project falls within an “urban village.” And since this specific “urban village,” is still to be fully planned, it may only proceed through the planning process by becoming a “signature project.” This means the project must meet certain thresholds. You can read more about the minimum metrics this project should meet here.
Please read more below about Weingarten Realty’s updated plans and why we are optimistic about the future of the Cambrian Park Plaza. Once you finish reading, please be sure to take our survey.
A Few Fast-Facts
Here are several fast-facts about the new proposal for the Cambrian Park Plaza:
- Over 6 acres of public open space, including a community plaza and central park with amphitheater and public art opportunities connected seamlessly to a community plaza surrounded by retail shops and restaurants with outdoor seating and fountains
- A plan built for people with pedestrian paseos knitting the village together, including a central promenade running from the entrance to the village at the corner of Cambrian and Union through the community plaza and central park to the existing neighborhood to the east
- A pedestrian friendly main street connecting mixed use buildings, open space areas, and below ground parking with 1,469 total parking stalls
- Dedicated open spaces for children’s playground, fitness, dog park, and a community garden
- A vibrant community destination that will become a town square for Cambrian and is designed to serve as the Gateway to Cambrian
- Continuing preservation of the iconic carousel in the playground facing Union Ave
- Mixed uses and homes designed for diverse incomes with a 305 unit podium apartment building over 60,000 SF of commercial/retail space, organized around a community plaza with underground parking (6 stories), 25 Townhomes along Union Ave (2.5 stories), and 48 single family homes near existing residents (2–3 stories)
- A 229 bed hotel with underground parking and outdoor restaurant decks facing the central park (5 stories)
- One 165k SF assisted senior living facility connected to the central park with underground parking (4–5 stories)
A Project that is More Walkable & Bike-Friendly
Unlike previous iterations of Weingarten Realty’s plans for the Cambrian Park Plaza, this project does not primarily place its parking on the surface. Instead, it locates the vast majority of the parking underground. The only surface parking it calls for is located on Main Street, on the new public street closer to Wyrick, enclosed in the town homes, and inside the single family homes. This creates for a Cambrian Park Plaza that prioritizes people walking and biking through the project as opposed to a project that orients itself towards the automobile.
In totality, the project now includes 1,469 parking stalls, which is more than what the City of San Jose requires. When it comes to parking, we want to make sure that it is so convenient to park within this project that it does not make sense to park in the surrounding neighborhoods. Bike routes and bicycle parking is also expected to be a significant part of the project’s traffic demand management program.
With the underground parking, there is now room for more landscaped open space for the neighborhood and for the public to enjoy. Moving the parking underground allows for a primary public plaza, an entry plaza, central park, dog park, playground, and community garden.
It is our intention to maximize as many neighbors walking or biking to the Cambrian Park Plaza as possible. VTA has stated at public meetings that with the Cambrian Park Plaza, bus service could potentially be bolstered. They’ve signaled how routes may be re-routed to better serve this development in the future because their bus networks will now be periodically analyzed.
I recognize that no matter what goes into this site, traffic will increase. But addressing and mitigating traffic concerns in this area is important to me and it is important to our neighbors. If you have any ideas on how we can best mitigate traffic, please take our survey and we can talk your ideas through with the developer and/or our Department of Transportation.
A Project That Reminds us of our History
Weingarten Realty has notified us they will be placing the Carousel that currently exists at the Plaza, a County-recognized historical landmark on the playground fronting Union Ave. It will be sited in a location visible to pedestrians, bicyclists, and automobiles. This is where many preservationists have requested historical signs to be located: In a recognizable location. The playground sits between the Assisted Living Facility, just north of the condominiums.
This is a part of the project where we would really find a lot of value from reviewing your feedback. Through previous comments from the community, we have received requests to maintain, but update the idea of what a real Plaza could mean for the community. You will notice that the Plaza is a critical component of this new iteration of this project. Other notes we have received include keeping the rose beds, adding greenery, incorporating previous construction materials, etc.
If you have additional comments, we would like to steer you towards our survey where we are collecting comments and feedback on this project.
A Project that Incorporates Public Art
This is a project where there are numerous opportunities to install more public art into the project. The plan calls for multiple water fountains, one of which is an interactive play fountain, and a well-designed, artistic hardscape within the main public plaza that appears to radiate outward as a star.
The applicant has expressed a strong desire to engage the community about public art being added to the project and is interested in your feedback. I’d encourage you to begin thinking about what kind of art you would like to see: sculptures, paintings, installation art, lighting, contemporary art, tapestries, etc. Please feel free to provide further comments to our office by taking our survey here.
A Project Where the Most Prominent Location is at Camden and Union Ave
This project is a balancing act between multiple, competing interests.
To receive public benefits like placing the parking below ground, enlarging the park space, and adding high-quality public art, the project needs to grow upward as opposed to outward.
Additionally, as I detail in this Medium blog post, the City’s goal is for this project to meet certain thresholds (i.e. home numbers, square footage minimums, etc.). Again, this can also only be accomplished by growing upward as opposed to outward.
We are intent on ensuring a smooth transition from the current single family homes behind the plaza. The maximum height proposed for this project is 6-stories. And as we have asked, the plan is to locate this height at Camden and Union Ave. This also ensures that the vast majority of land across from the primary entrance is commercial land that consists of largely strip malls, the Lucky’s Shopping Center, and the Carl’s Jr.
We have asked the developer to make this intersection the primary pedestrian entry point with a central promenade, for this site design particularly on this corridor to be spectacular, and to create a sight line from the intersection of Camden and Union through Wyrick Ave. Weingarten has applied all three of these recommendations into this new version of their project.
A Project that Better Integrates its Land Uses
In the previously proposed plan, the project felt like it contained multiple, separate, and distinct parcels that did not integrate well with one another. This plan feels much more cohesive.
At the center of the project is a park that is about 3.3 acres in size. It is surrounded by single-family homes, a hotel and rooftop deck dining area that overlooks the park, an assisted living facility that activates the park, and the park is connected to a promenade that runs through the public plaza to Camden and Union Ave. The park and the public plaza will serve as the heart of this project, binding the development together via a promenade.
Each land-use plays off each other’s strengths and the project ties better into the rest of the community adjacent to this project. The townhomes copy the height of the existing 2–3 story apartments next to it. The single-family homes in the project back-up to existing single-family homes. The hotel is closest to the current commercial uses on Bercaw Lane and Union Ave.
What might be most unique about this project is how there is a housing type for almost everyone. The project includes single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments. Each housing type tends to cater to a wide array of incomes, ages, and preferences.
A Project that is Truly Mixed-Use
To create a vibrant and exciting place where our residents can take one trip to accomplish multiple errands, this project must be truly mixed-use. We want our neighbors to head to the Plaza, park their bike or car and go shopping for new clothes, head to a coffee shop for a meeting, or visit their family member at the assisted living facility. This proposal for their project seeks to do exactly that.
The Public Plaza is about one football field in size. As we asked, it has job-generating uses on the ground floor and apartments on-top. It has the potential to create an enjoyable experience where folks can sit at the various patios under beautiful trellises and people-watch. Neighbors would have the option to enjoy brunch here on Mother’s Day or take their dog for a walk or to the dog park to run around and play fetch.
A Project with a More Impressive Park
Our community deserves great parks. Not only are parks wonderful for outdoor activity, studies also show they are important for mental wellness. I think I can speak for everyone that the pandemic has shown just how important open space is to everyone.
It has been my intention all along to make sure that this project creates a park that is inclusive of our entire community.
On this project is over 6 acres of public open space. This is a huge amount of the total project. In fact it is about one-third of the entire site. That means more of our neighbors have the opportunity to walk around here for an evening stroll, bring their dog around for a walk, or to experience the community garden.
This design contains a public amphitheater, open space, a dog park, a playground, paseos, and a plaza. There is space here for farmers markets, for food trucks, and we are told that the potential remains to close off Main Street during certain times of the year for even more of a pedestrian friendly, community-oriented environment.
Thank you for the time that you took to read this update on the Cambrian Park Plaza. This project is not perfect, but it is an impressive proposal, and I hope you will participate in our efforts to engage the public for feedback.
The next stage of this plan involves talking to the community and seeking your input. Please feel very free to submit your thoughts directly to our office via this survey or by emailing our office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the near future, please be on the lookout for our first public meeting. My staff and I plan to compliment the larger public meetings by hosting a series of small group zoom meetings over the coming months as well. If you would like to sign up for a small-group zoom meeting to have a conversation with our office about this project, please email Michael Lomio at Michael.Lomio@sanjoseca.gov.
My goal always has been to form a project that serves as an iconic Gateway to our wonderful Cambrian Park neighborhood where residents can meet and build a greater sense of community.
Our virtual doors are always open and someday our actual doors at City Hall will be too. I look forward to continuing my work with you and hearing your thoughts on this proposal soon.