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Community-Based Efforts and Community Urban Planning: A Formula for Assessing San José’s Diridon Station Area

SJSU Capstone Studio Class, Fall 2018. Seated front row l-r, Christina Vu, Judea Grier, Laura Maurer, CommUniverCity Program Coordinator Matthew Gustafson; middle row l-r, Frank Arellano, Reyhane Hosseinzade, Alverina Weinardy, Clelia Busadas, Nathaniel Redmond, Tiffany Chao, Michael Flemming, Instructor Jason Su; top row l-r, Jake Potter, Mehedi Chowdhury, Michael Mulligan, Mathew Chacko, Fran Lopez Tapia, Evan Kenward, Alexandre Hughes, Instructor Richard Kos. Photo: SJSU Student Videographers Andrea Perez and Aiko Allan


Authored by: Alex Hughes, Masters Student in Urban and Regional Planning, College of Social Sciences and the SJSU MURP Writing Team

San Jose State University’s Master of Urban and Regional Planning students, in partnership with CommUniverCity’s Community Urban Planning Project and the City of San Jose, assessed the existing conditions of the Diridon Station area in Fall of 2018. Changes to the area include California High-speed Rail, the VTA’s BART extension into downtown San Jose, and the expected Google campus—which recently acquired 21 acres around the Diridon Station for $110 million dollars.

The class structure followed two major phases to best gauge the ‘temperature’ of the community. Phase one included methods such as conversations and meetings with public officials and non-profit organizations, walking tours led by community leaders, and an urban design analysis of the major transportation corridors in the area. The product of this phase culminated in a public facing presentation of four major corridors which bisect the Diridon Station area: West Julian Street, West Santa Clara Street/The Alameda, Park Avenue, and West San Carlos Street. The topics of each board varied widely, including topics such as green space, land-use, and transportation, among others. The major theme throughout all of these centered on the fragmentation throughout the Diridon area, the lack of East-West travel, the poor quality of active transportation infrastructure such as bike paths, the heavy congestion that breaks up travel in the area during peak times, the lack of regional transit connectivity—the list goes on.

Graduate team members discuss the Big Map before the December 1 event. Counterclockwise from top left: Juan (Frank) Arellano, Evan Kenward, Alverina Weinardy, Judea Grier, Reyhane Hosseinzade. Photo: Francisco Lopez Tapia


Phase two broke the class into four pieces—the Events team, Stakeholder team, Graphics team, and Writing team. The goal of this phase was to hold several focus groups in close concert with Lori Severino, the Civic Engagement Manager for Diridon Station, hold a community event on December 1 to gather further relevant information, and write the final assessment report.

The Events team, in close partnership with Matthew Gustafson, CommUniverCity Program Coordinator for the Community Urban Planning Project, held a community event at Poor House Bistro—a local favorite– on December 1. Over 80 adults and 10 children attended the event which was entertained by a three-piece jazz band made up of SJSU music students. To obtain further community feedback twelve displays which featured questions ranging from safety to recommended improvements were disbursed throughout the establishment. Most of the people who attended used the station frequently. Most respondents were somewhat satisfied or not completely satisfied with the transit service of the Diridon Station. Roughly 43% or 31 people had a commute of between 0-20 minutes, seven walked and six biked. The majority of respondents felt the Diridon Station area was safe and the most popular suggestion was to include better ticketing systems—such as a universal ticket.

A community member examines the refined collage-posters at the December 1 event. Photo: Judea Grier

The focus groups—established by the Stakeholder team and Lori Severino—totaled four sessions with a total of 22 people overall. The groups were formed based on shared interests and fields of expertise. Participants in these sessions consisted of transportation and environmental groups, neighborhood associations, San Jose State University students, business development firms, and community organizers. The major themes from this stakeholder engagement were several: a desire to see the Diridon Station become an attraction for San Jose, easy logical pedestrian access, seamless transit connections amongst various services, caution regarding cars, parking, and strategies, and the need for increased affordable housing and quality jobs.

The collage presentation board for West Julian Street filled with on-site materials, notes, photographs, and findings. Photo: Matthew Gustafson

The Graphics team was responsible for producing graphical material such as flyers, event posters, and the final visual layout of the assessment report. This team worked closely with the Writing team to proofread and deliver the assessment on December 12, 2018. The Writing team gathered the course material from August through December, including both phases, to create the assessment report which includes the graduate team findings, community engagement efforts, interviews, and report synthesis, among others.

Community Posters. A community member looks on as another interacts with the last of twelve display boards. This one asks for suggestions on or around the Diridon Station.

The assessment is meant to be not only a resource for planners or the community but as the foundation for next year’s class. Every semester, for sixteen weeks, a graduate team is gathered to build on the previous years’ experiences—both the successes and shortcomings. Partnerships such as the one with CommUniverCity and the City of San Jose, as well as the dedicated guidance of instructors Richard Kos and Jason Su, make this a class for students grounded in the real world. By engaging with the community, building relationships with stakeholders and city officials, this course puts the right foot forward for future planners whether that be in the private, public, or non-profit sector.




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