Business upgrades

May 2016 – Permitting will be easier for some

Several initiatives from the city aim to make it easier for doing business downtown – from speeding permits to technological partnerships. Four plans announced over the past month could alter the way businesses are permitted, the city approves signs, how customers access wifi and improve city data searches. At the SJDA’s April public meeting, Harry Freitas, the city’s director of planning, building and code enforcement, said he was open to expanding a program to streamline permitting. “I’m interested to see if the results we now achieve processing larger businesses are transferable to shops and cafes,” Freitas said.


The program, known as special tenant improvement (STI), expedites permitting by putting all involved city staff and business representatives in the same room at the start of the permitting process. Currently, this expedited permitting is mainly available to industrial projects, including manufacturing sites and high tech offices. It also includes a 50 percent surcharge over regular review fees. SJDA has encouraged the city to expand the program to 10 small businesses and restaurants as a pilot project comparing time/expense with similar businesses not in the STI program. “Creating a more user-friendly experience for small businesses working to obtain city permits is very much welcomed,” said SJDA’s business development manager Nate Echeverria.


Another change in the permitting arena comes with Mayor Sam Liccardo’s smart city vision, initially laid out in his State of the City address. Under the plan, permit applications and fees could be submitted online. Learn more about the smart city plan here:


u Sign code upgrade: The city is also considering changes to signs downtown, honing in on the use of electronic billboards and supergraphics. Responding to the large graphics on view during the week of Super Bowl 50, Liccardo, and Councilmembers Raul Peralez, Ash Kalra and Don Rocha wrote in an April 8 memorandum: “SB50 revealed the need for our city to continue updating its sign code to allow our businesses to take advantage of such marketing opportunities while contributing to our urban aesthetics and creating additional revenues to support city services.”


San Jose may consider a plan modeled after Denver’s theater district, which allows for broad flexibility regarding the size, type and location of the signs to create a unique district, provided that possible adverse impacts are minimized. Such a sign code would allow property owners to sell advertising signs on their buildings. Revenues would split between property owner and projects designed to build on downtown’s vibrancy.


City staff is expected to have a recommendation by November.

  • Wifi boost: A city partnership with the social network to the north could boost downtown’s wifi by year’s end. Facebook will run a downtown trial of its Terragraph technology, which uses relay boxes on light poles to amplify and speed wireless signals. The project could expand to other dense, urban areas all over the world. “Challenges attaining fast, reliable wireless internet can be found anywhere, even in the heart of Silicon Valley,” said Tim Danford, Facebook’s network deployment product lead. Improved free public wifi might mean that local shops and restaurants won’t have to provide their own systems, allowing them to focus on what they do best – serving customers – rather than technology.
  • Data portal: The city unveiled its open data portal last month. The portal is a website with crime, traffic and other statistics. Using it, businesses, advertisers and others can review unemployment rates and more to discover downtown’s unique potential customer base and great location for employees. The data is listed under these topics: Explore San Jose, Living in the City, Neighborhood Services, Getting Around, Public Safety, Make It Work/Utilities & Infrastructure, Permits and Development Services, and Transparency and Accountability. Check out the site at


Music in the Park welcomes Los Lobos on June 24

The first two dates of the 2016 Music in the Park summer concert schedule have been announced for Plaza de Cesar Chavez:

June 24: Los Lobos’ three Grammy Awards are for their work on Anselma – Best Mexican-American Performance (song) in 1983; La Pistola y el Corazon – Best Mexican-American Performance (album) in 1989; and Mariachi Suite – Best Pop Instrumental Performance in 1995.

July 14: AC/DShe and The Killer Queens will take fans on a tour of the music of AC/DC and Queen. AC/DShe has been delivering the heart-pounding rhythms and high-energy presentations of Bon Scott-era AC/DC songs since 1999. The Killer Queens are a rocking, five-part harmony singing group re-creating the melodies that made Queen one of the most influential bands of the 1970s and ‘80s. All shows begin at 5:30 p.m. Tickets, $10 per person and free for children 12-under when accompanied by an adult, are available at Tickets are $15 the day of the show.

Aug. 4 and Aug. 25: Two more Music in the Park concerts scheduled for Plaza de Cesar Chavez will be announced in June. For more about the artists, visit, and Maxx Cabello, Jr.,, opens June 24 for Los Lobos.


Farmers’ Market opens May 6

The Downtown San Jose Farmers’ Market presented by Kaiser Permanente opens for its 24th season on May 6 along San Pedro Street between Santa Clara and St. John streets. The market offers more than fresh-picked fruits and vegetables direct from California growers. Opening day, for example, features live music and Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association (PCFMA) chef demonstrations and recipe tastes. The Downtown Farmers’ Market also offers artisan booths for unique gifts, cut flowers and gourmet foods including fresh and smoked fish, olives, breads and Kettle Korn.


Each week, the market may include up to 40 vendors. On average, 2,500 residents, office workers and visitors head to San Pedro Square for lunch, activities, people-watching and shopping. Customers are encouraged to bring their own reusable bags. Market partner Kaiser Permanente has teamed with the Downtown Association and PCFMA for six years to focus attendees on healthful and “green” living. Kaiser Permanente will schedule its Blender Bike for Smoothies on occasion, allowing shoppers to hop on the stationary bike and whip up a smoothie made from fresh Farmers’ Market fruit.


Parking validations for Farmers’ Market shoppers are available for the Market-San Pedro Garage at the SJDA information table. Visit Follow the Downtown Farmers’ Market on Twitter (@SJ_Downtown) and Facebook (sjdowntown). Check events/sjda-events/farmers-market-presented-by-kaiser-permanente. Call (408) 279-1775 for information.


Dine Downtown June 10-19

Save the dates June 10-19 and explore Downtown’s culinary diversity during Dine Downtown San Jose. For 10 days, more than 20 restaurants will feature imaginative three-course, prix fixe dinners starting at $20 per person. Discover a new foodie favorite or rediscover an old classic and help a good cause – $1 from every Dine Downtown dinner sold will be donated to Martha’s Kitchen, courtesy of Sysco Foods. Later this month, check dine to see the menus – and to make reservations.


Downtown News

Back on track: California High Speed Rail Authority has proposed two major changes to its plans to bring trains through San Jose. According to the draft 2016 business plan:

  • Instead of building a massive viaduct or expensive tunnel for the trains through downtown, the High Speed Rail Authority now recommends the trains enter and exit Diridon Station “at-grade” on existing Caltrain tracks, with the addition of a third track and along a straighter path so that the trains can move at faster speeds.
  • South of downtown, rather than at-grade, a new 60-foot high viaduct is now proposed that would extend from south of Tamien Station to Gilroy. The plan calls for initial high-speed rail service to begin by 2025 between the Central Valley and San Jose. The Caltrain tracks would be electrified to accommodate the trains up the peninsula to San Francisco. First phase service from San Francisco through Los Angeles to Anaheim would be operational by 2029, according to the latest business plan.


The city wrote the authority a letter of support for the project, but also offering caution that the impacts of the new ideas on the city would need to be understood and found acceptable. Mayors Sam Liccardo of San Jose and Ed Lee of San Francisco jointly and publicly accepted the draft plan on April 19.


Bus Rapid Transit now on fast track: Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) will build Bus Rapid Transit stations along Santa Clara Street between First and Second streets over the next few months. Weekday construction will occur 7 a.m.-3 p.m. except during the lunch hour. Night work will take place Sunday through Thursday, 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., said Kathleen Podrasky of VTA. Project activities include drilling for utilities; sawcutting of sidewalk; nighttime sidewalk demolition; installation of electrical equipment, and installation of new sidewalks and bus shelters.


The project includes permanent removal of the loading zones along this block of Santa Clara Street. Occasional traffic lane closures and traffic shifts will be required to do the work. Pedestrian access will be available at all times, Podrasky said. The eastbound and westbound bus stops will relocate on the block between Market and First streets. The temporary bus stops will cause removal of the metered parking on much of the block during the project. To reach VTA with questions or concerns, call 408-321- 7575 or email Greyhound project off to the races: KT Urban and its financial backers acquired the 1.6-acre Greyhound Bus site at 70 S. Almaden Ave. The developer plans the biggest housing project to date downtown, submitting revised plans for two high-rise buildings – – one 23 floors, the other 24 floors – totaling 723 units.


KT Urban and its backers are also building the 643-unit Silvery Towers project at North San Pedro and St. James streets. Brothers Mark and Ken Tersini of KT Urban hope they can receive approval to build by the end of the year, and expect to begin construction soon after. Building design is by C2K Architecture of Portland, the same firm that designed Axis, One South Market and Silvery Towers. Besides housing units, the buildings would include 13,500 square feet of retail space and five levels of parking. The Greyhound site fetched $39 million. The bus company is negotiating for space at the Diridon train station.


Sobrato plans River Center addition: The Sobrato Organization plans to build a six-story, 190,000-square-foot office building on the vacant concrete pad at River Corporate Center, 353 Julian St. The center, which includes two similar-sized office buildings erected for the dot-com boom in 2000, is located between the Guadalupe River Park and Highway 87, across Julian Street from Little Italy. “The intent right now is to build it spec,” or without a tenant in tow, said Chase Lyman, vice president for leasing and acquisitions at Sobrato. Arc Tec Inc. redesigned the building to appeal to large tech firms, with taller ceilings for labwork, expanded floor plates for team bonding, lots of glass and roof decks plus other amenities, said Rob Hollister, president of real estate for Sobrato. “We looked at it and said, we’re going to build something that checks all the boxes for being a top-quality new building today,” Hollister said. The center’s current principal tenant is Santa Clara County.


Bike Share expanding: Bay Area Bike Share proposes adding 13 more Bike Share stations to the downtown area. Downtown San Jose already has 14 stations stretching from the Caltrain station to Fourth Street and Japantown to SoFA. Go to to comment in the proposed stations and to submit alternative locations. Bike Share, which has served San Jose, peninsula cities and San Francisco since 2013, offers users one-day, three-day and annual memberships. Members use the bikes for short rides of 30 minutes or less to get from one place to another. Riders pay overtime fees for rides longer than 30 minutes. The system is expanding to the East Bay this year. In San Jose, the City Council approved 100 stations totaling about 1,000 bikes by 2018.


Soccer complex moves forward: The City of San Jose announced plans to move forward with the Guadalupe River Park Conservancy and the Earthquakes on a seven-field soccer complex. The city and the Federal Aviation Administration came to financial agreement on the price of the land. The FAA controls the land because it is on the airport flight path. The official address is 1125 Coleman Ave., at Taylor Street. The 14-acre soccer complex will have three fields of natural turf that will serve as Earthquakes Soccer Academy and will be available for public use about half of the year, plus four synthetic-turf fields always open to the public. Construction is expected before 2017.



Silicon Valley Gives on May 3: San Jose Downtown Foundation will be involved in the May 3 Day of Giving campaign by Silicon Valley Gives. The foundation’s primary program is the award-winning Downtown Doors program, which features the artwork of San Jose high school students on 100 downtown service doors and utility boxes. Downtown Doors beautifies downtown’s public realm while giving young artists the opportunity to express themselves in public and learn about art as a profession.


Through the SV Gives program, the foundation hopes to expand its programming to include mentoring programs for student artists that connect them with professional artists and add nighttime effects to Downtown Doors. For every dollar donated by individuals, SJDF will receive a matching grant dollar from two beneficiaries: Willoughby Stuart Bening & Cook downtown law firm and Donor Circle for the Arts at Silicon Valley Community Foundation. To make a donation, go to, or the San Jose Downtown Foundation page on Contact Chloe Verrey,, for more information.


From the Archives

10 years ago – May 2006 – Santa Clara County Grand Jury’s investigation of San Jose police agreed with SJDA’s position paper that key night culture stakeholders, including police and businesses, work more closely together.

15 years ago – May 2001 – The Redevelopment Agency’s fiscal year 2001-02 budget included $378 million in capital spending for upcoming projects including the joint city/university library, Fourth and San Fernando parking garage, Fox (California Theatre) renovation, Guadalupe River Park, Montgomery Hotel, River Street Historic District and Jose Theatre restoration.

20 years ago – May 1996 – As part of an ancient Greek tradition, the Olympic torch spent the night in a downtown hotel, the Park Center Plaza Holiday Inn. Starting in Los Angeles, it was the fifth stop on a 75-day torch tour to the Games in Atlanta.

25 years ago – May 1991 – After sitting vacant for seven years, the old Hartfield’s building at First and Post streets began its rehabilitation into six retail spaces.


Next SJDA meeting

May 13: The next meeting of the San Jose Downtown Association open to Business Improvement District members and the general public will be May 13 at Trinity Cathedral’s meeting hall, 81 N. Second St., starting 8 a.m. Kim Walesh, director of economic development and deputy city manager for the City of San Jose, will outline the business tax proposal going to voters in November. Please RSVP through or send a note to


At the Convention Center

May 16-19 – SuiteWorld (7,200)

May 21-22 – Fitness Expo (11,900)

May 24-25 – High School graduation ceremonies

May 27-30 – Fanime (25,250)

June 5-10 – CLEO (3,500) (estimated attendance)


Downtown Dimension is published monthly by the San Jose Downtown Association, a nonprofit organization established in 1986 to serve the Downtown business community. It is printed on recycled paper. Editor-in-Chief: Scott Knies Editor: Rick Jensen