Author: Mariaclara Zazzaro
CommUniverCity knows that a city is only as strong as its neighborhoods. It was therefore our great pleasure to partner with the City of San Jose, SJSU Urban Planning Students, and community members to envision a plan for the East Santa Clara Street Urban Village. This plan was focused on meeting the future jobs and housing needs of San Jose while also improving public spaces such as streets, sidewalks, and parks.
Professor Rick Kos, AICP led 50 students in a thorough neighborhood analysis through his Community Assessment class, while Ginette Wessel oversaw 19 students in her Urban Design Studio course. Collectively they observed, photographed, mapped, sketched, interviewed, and analyzed every square inch of the site, which lies on East Santa Clara between 7th and 17th Streets. The proximity to campus meant that the students had easy access to the area at all times of day, which no doubt had a great impact on the breadth and quality of their output.
Each semester culminated with a series of Community Workshops. The fall 2014 workshop aimed to present the Urban Village concept to the public and then collect feedback from community members as to how they envisioned their neighborhood growth. The second workshops presented draft plans pertaining to land use and building heights, and solicited further feedback to include in the final report. The events were almost completely organized by the students in conjunction with staff at both the San Jose Planning Department and CommUniverCity. Students organized logistics, prepared excellent graphic material, and acted as facilitators and note-takers throughout the workshops. Their efforts were complemented by a team of Community Artists who created a series of beautiful postcards reflecting the many voices and faces of East Santa Clara.
The workshops were a resounding success –attendance for both sessions netted over 250 people. This far exceeded the City’s expectations, and is testament to the excellent outreach work accomplished by the students. City staff and residents alike were bowled over by the students’ professionalism.
San Jose city planner Matthew Van Oosten reported that “community members took well to the students and it shows in the great amount of community member comments, ideas, and positive feedback that was received.”
Students received equal praise from their own professor.
“When it came to the conceptualization, design, and execution of the community workshops, this year’s 201 classes exceeded my expectations on every level,” said Rick Kos.
The East Santa Clara Urban Village is one of 70 such villages throughout the city, and planners are busy working alongside residents to come up with a set of neighborhood goals. These goals will help bring more vibrancy to the area and allow people to live closer to desirable amenities and jobs. But these goals cannot be carried out alone – like all plans, they require continued commitment on the part of residents and community leaders to ensure they are carried to fruition. If a city is only as good as its neighborhoods, then its neighborhoods are only as successful as its people. In the case of East Santa Clara, the neighborhood is in good hands.