Big tech campus entangled in lawsuit
SAN JOSE >> A megacampus in downtown San Jose is mired in a lawsuit filed by a group that claims the office complex would endanger the local environment, court papers show.
The Sierra Club filed the litigation against the city of San Jose, claiming that the municipality violated its own planning rules when it approved the tech campus at 235 Woz Way near Almaden Boulevard, according to documents filed with the Santa Clara County Recorder's Office.
The lawsuit is holding up the development of the project, which was proposed by Boston Properties and would total 1.73 million square feet of office space and ground-floor retail totaling 37,600 square feet, would feature a pair of towers connected by a podium and would rise on a 3.6-acre site, said city planning documents.
The curving office project would sprout near the banks of the Guadalupe River between the San Jose Convention Center and the Children's Discovery Museum.
“The project comes at a substantial environmental cost,” the Sierra Club stated in court papers. “The project would crowd the Guadalupe River trail and riparian area with an imposing 16-story office tower.”
San Jose officials, however, stated that the open spaces and river areas next to the project are not significant habitats for wildlife, according to an August 2021 memo prepared by Chris Burton, San Jose's planning director.
“This reach of the Guadalupe River is highly fragmented with very little undisturbed habitat due to
the highly urbanized surrounding environment and human-related disturbances,” Burton wrote in the staff report. “The riparian corridor adjacent to the project is extremely limited in its habitat value and influence.”
The Sierra Club, however, claimed in the litigation that the perils for the environment are real and severe.
“(The office campus) will significantly degrade existing riparian habitat, both through physical encroachment and shading the area, which is expected to harm the long-time health and growth of plants,” the environmental group stated in court papers. “The project's large glass towers also endanger native and migrating birds by increasing the risk of collisions.”
City officials declared in the staff report that the office tower would be crafted in a fashion to greatly reduce the chance of bird collisions with the structure.
“This project is not subject to the bird-safe design guidance outlined in City Council policy since the project site is south of State Route 237,” Burton wrote in the staff report. “However, the project would incorporate bird-safety design measures at the building's north, west and south-facing
The lawsuit, filed in October 2021, has raised the specter of significant legal delays before the development could begin construction.
On Tuesday, Judge Sunil Kulkarni, who is presiding over the civil case, issued a notice that directed the parties in the lawsuit to appear in August for a hearing to manage the procedures in the case.
Settlement talks occurred in December but failed to produce a resolution, court papers show.
City officials believe the office complex would provide significant economic benefits. These include 7,700 construction jobs and $777 million in construction wages over the life of the construction period. Once it's complete, an estimated 6,400 people could work in the new campus.
The office campus would be a dramatic and welcome addition to the city, Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association, opined in an August 2021 letter to the city.
“Aesthetically and architecturally, we anticipate it will be a significant part of the downtown skyline, an emblem of a growing, changing, and improving city,” Knies wrote in the letter.