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Urban Planning: Diridon to Downtown

By Mindy Nguyen & Sarah Martinez

Over the next 20 years, Downtown San Jose  will be transformed as a result of developments and transportation investments, so we partnered with SJSU’s Master of Urban Planning students and the City of San Jose to assess the current conditions of the Diridon Station area and specific areas of downtown.

San Jose is undergoing various transportation expansions and redesigns such as the extension of BART to Silicon Valley, first-last mile improvements by the City of San Jose and California Department of Transportation, and Google’s redevelopment of land around Diridon Station. These projects are shedding a well-deserved spotlight on San Jose, specifically the downtown and Diridon Station areas.

“Park activations are great, but if we can’t get … better public transportation, it won’t help,” said a resident of St. Leo’s area and SJSU alum.

The Urban Planning students began identifying opportunities for improved connectivity between Diridon Station and the downtown area. They focused on walking routes a person would take from Diridon Station to the Convention Center and then to San Pedro Square. They assessed these routes for enhanced urban design, activation of spaces, and wayfinding to improve connectivity.

These students connected with residents through walking tours, interviews and community events. The feedback they received ranged from activating more spaces to fixing unprotected crosswalks to more eateries and cafes.

Students discovered the best features of Downtown San Jose include walkable paseos, the lush greenery at Plaza de Cesar Chavez, the urban form of San Pedro Square Market, and activity centers including restaurants, barbershops, and outdoor bars.

In regards to physical streetscape improvements, resident feedback included planting more street trees, placing more public restrooms at heavy pedestrian areas, and installing additional water fountains and seating areas. They also hope to see more farmers markets, outdoor concerts, fantasy or renaissance faires, and comedy shows.

The work carried out by these students has affirmed that, in regards to transportation, activation, and connectivity, the community around Diridon Station shares the aspirations and goals outlined by the City in its Envision 2040 General Plan. By pursuing the goals outlined by the City in its Envision 2040 General Plan, with the hopes and concerns of the community, the new Diridon Station and surrounding area can bring San Jose one step closer to becoming a world-class destination as an urban center, transportation hub, and cultural heart of Silicon Valley.

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