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East Santa Clara Urban Village: Engaging the Community Towards a More Livable Neighborhood!

Author: Winnie Gee

This spring, CommUniverCity partnered with the City of San Jose and seventeen Urban Planning students from SJSU to organize a series of community workshops for the East Santa Clara Urban Village Plan. East Santa Clara Street is a major thoroughfare in Central San Jose, and serves as the principal connector between East San Jose and Downtown. The City of San Jose has designated a portion of this street as a future “Urban Village”. Stretching from City Hall to the banks Coyote Creek, this section of East Santa Clara boasts an abundance of historic sites, mom and pop shops, and vivid local character. According to the San José 2040 General Plan, the goal of an Urban Village is to funnel future jobs and housing into a walkable, bike-friendly, mixed-use area with plenty of recreation and open space. Naturally, this does not happen overnight! A great deal of careful planning and community input is required so that city staffers can design a plan that reflects the needs of both current and future residents. This is achieved through a series of  community workshops, aimed at gathering public opinion on what should or should not be developed along this very busy street.

Round table with legos and sign
Photo Credit: Andrew Nguyen












Graduate students in the Urban Planning program at San Jose State University worked with CommUniverCity staff in organizing one of these workshops. The event took place twice this spring, first at the Roosevelt Community Center and then at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library on the SJSU campus. The workshops welcomed an influx of community members, business owners, City of San Jose planning employees, students and residents, all eager to share their thoughts and express their concerns. City staff and urban planning students of SJSU were right there to answer any questions, and to engage the community in activities such as building blocks, shared round table discussions, and analysis of the draft land use plan pictured below.

Draft Land Use Plan for East Santa Clara Urban Village
Source: Bottomley & Associates













The response and feedback from the community was amazing. Christian mentioned he wanted “to bring art and cultural to the downtown area with affordable rentals for businesses and homeowners.” Jamie F would love to see “more pop ups and different types of small businesses and changing the cliental in the area.” Andrew N, a student from San Jose State, added he would like to “add a more rustic aspect and cool street vibes” to the area. And one of our youngest members to attend, Issac, wanted to have more “two lane roads so cars can go in one direction and I can still cross the street safely.” To sum it all up in the words of an active community member, “let’s bring the outside in, making it comfortable for the neighbors and be there with our students. I’ve been wanting that since 1960. We have a brilliant city and downtown and I would love to see more pedestrian traffic.”

The City of San Jose, CommUniverCity, and San Jose State University’s Urban Planning 201 Community Assessment class taught by one amazing Rick Kos are the three pillars of partnership that brought this event together. Each party had their own aspect to contribute to the Urban Village Community Meeting and it wouldn’t have been possible without each and every single participant. What makes this and every event possible is the involvement of our community members and the group effort inputted by our partners.

NOTE: Are you interested in voicing your opinion about East Santa Clara Urban Village? Consider leaving online feedback, which will be transmitted directly to Staff at the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement.


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