Update: Cambrian Park Plaza

Pam Foley
Pam Foley
Jun 26 · 6 min read

Dear Neighbor,

Please accept this message as its purpose is to update you on the status of the Cambrian Park Plaza’s current development proposal.

Prior to representing you on the City Council, and during my short stint here at City Hall, the District 9 office and I have talked to dozens of our constituents about this project. We have attended at least four community meetings specifically dedicated to the Cambrian Park Plaza proposal. And our office has met with organizations highly interested in this item on numerous occasions. My office and I have sought the counsel of various city staff, negotiated and spoken with the development team many times, and actively listened to you, the highly engaged members of our community.

For a number of reasons, this project is a bit complex. However, it is my hope that I am clear and concise about where this project stands today, and what it could be tomorrow.

Cambrian Park Plaza Deserves A Delightful New Development

San Jose’s Cambrian neighborhood deserves its own delightful entertainment district that draws residents into Cambrian.

Today, District 9 residents tend to shop, grab coffee, dine-out, or seek entertainment somewhere else in San Jose. We’ll travel to places like Santana Row or take a stroll down Lincoln Avenue.

Some of us find it fairly common to head out of town for food or fun altogether. Frequently, our neighbors will take a trip to other dynamic entertainment magnets like Downtown Los Gatos or Downtown Campbell or the Pruneyard. This results in greater tax revenues for other cities and better services for their constituents, but not for San Jose.

If our fellow District 9 residents had a more enticing place of our own, I am certain we would more often decide to spend our time and money right here in our own backyard.

Remembering the Big Picture

Cambrian is a neighborhood. District 9 is a community. San Jose is a city. Silicon Valley is a region. We are all more connected than ever before. And we must work together towards a more inclusive, more welcoming, positive future.

It should be noted that many in our community feel that our housing situation has escalated above a crisis. In an evolution of semantics, stakeholders are beginning to refer to our housing situation as a catastrophe. We simply are not building enough housing for the number of jobs being created. This is especially true in municipalities to the north and to the west of San Jose. Unfortunately, this means housing costs have increased to unaffordable levels, and our children, our family, and our friends are now seeking-out more affordable regions.

One way we can help ensure that our loved ones stay here is by accepting more, new neighbors into our community. We must remember that jobs produce opportunity. They are a net benefit to our society. However, when we do not produce the housing necessary for new workers, there are notable negative impacts.

A mix of local and statewide public policy decisions made decades ago reverberate all the way into 2019. Currently, the City of San Jose has approximately 0.80 jobs for every employed resident. This is problematic because jobs strengthen tax revenues which pay for city services. The goal of the City of San Jose is to better balance this proportion. If we can reach the 1.1 jobs per resident goal set by city leadership, then filling more potholes, fixing streetlights more quickly, increasing the size of our police force, and other desired city services will likely become more common place.

For comparison, nearby cities to our north and west are hording jobs, and failing to build the necessary housing. According to a 2018 Civil Grand Jury of Santa Clara County report, the ratio of jobs to employed residents of the City of Santa Clara is just north of 2.20 and the City of Palo Alto is at 3.02.

This plaza is an opportunity for the City of San Jose to simultaneously house new neighbors, add jobs, and create a vibrant town center.

A Vision for Cambrian Park Plaza

Both before assuming my role as Councilmember and over the course of these quick 6-months in office, I have actively listened to a wide variety of perspectives on the proposed Cambrian Park Plaza development.

After taking large volumes of input, I would like to share with you the vision for Cambrian Park Plaza for which I am advocating.

The project should be a destination that is first and foremost, highly-walkable. The pedestrian experience should be of the utmost importance. The project should be accessible and captivating to people of all ages, and this development should serve as our community’s vivacious and beloved entertainment district.

This vision means the project must be designed for people. District 9 residents should be inspired to meet friends here, to enjoy the park here, to feel safe walking around here, and to go shopping here. We should be proud of this project’s final product. Recognizing this vision, I sent a letter to the developer late last month strongly suggesting the following recommendations:

  1. Explain in greater detail how you intend to make this project both bike friendly and pedestrian friendly, and specifically describe the amenities and facilities residents or visitors might use on site.
  2. Detail how you plan to incorporate the Cambrian Park Plaza’s history (i.e. historical carousel, rose beds, construction material, pictures, or murals of times past, etc.) into the new development.
  3. Provide examples of public art that will be placed within the site plan’s boundaries.
  4. The intersection at Camden Ave. and Union Ave. should serve as the project’s most visible, prominent location.
  5. This intersection should be the primary pedestrian entry point and should feature a central promenade.
  6. The site design and architecture of the entire project, particularly in the promenade’s corridor, should be spectacular.
  7. A sight line from Camden Ave. and Union Ave. through Wyrick Ave. is highly desirable.
  8. The current iteration of this project feels like multiple distinct developments instead of one cohesive site. Design changes should illustrate a more sophisticated level of integrated uses.
  9. Study balancing the residential density throughout the project more evenly by exploring more diversely mixed buildings (i.e. buildings with ground floor job generators and above ground residential uses).
  10. Explore decreasing the number of town-homes in exchange for more open space, and consider increasing the open space acreage from approximately 1.5 acres to between 2.0 and 3.0 acres. We are flexible on the location of this publicly accessible park, but would like it to be less secluded.

You can read the full letter we sent to the developers of the Cambrian Park Plaza here.

Where We Are Now

After the Cambrian Park Plaza developer had a chance to review our letter, we decided to host an in-person meeting with city staff, the architect, and the developer to advocate for a better iteration of the current project.

We are currently working with the development team to strike a balance between building height and adequate community amenities. Additionally, the developer is analyzing the feasibility of our recommendations and they intend to respond within the next few months.

As additional updates become known, we will be sure to keep you informed. To tell us what you want to see at the Cambrian Park Plaza, you may access our survey here. If you have any questions or comments that you would like addressed, please feel very free to contact me via email at district9@sanjoseca.gov.

Thank you for your time, and for staying up to date on the Cambrian Park Plaza.

Sincerely,

Councilmember Pam Foley

Pam Foley

Written by

Pam Foley

Wife & Mommy. Real Estate Professional. Rotarian. Housing Advocate. San Jose Booster & District 9 Councilmember.