Google recently bought up a large parcel of land in San Jose with plans to erect a new building, but activists are calling for the search giant to refrain from building its new proposed campus, and instead repurpose the land to help house the city's many homeless. While Google's activities usually go without high-profile protest on a local level, this move is set to displace a number of homeless people who call the neglected area around Diridiron the closest thing they have to a home. On top of that, local residents worry that Google building its planned village, full of offices, homes, shops, and art installations, will drive up property values in the area and cause rent and mortgage spikes that will force many lower-income and financially vulnerable individuals to leave the area.
Background: Google paid around $100 million to buy up some 50 acres' worth of city-owned and redevelopment land in the downtown area of San Jose, and has plans to develop it into a village of sorts. It would host a number of nature, cultural and art installations, along with places for its employees and others to live and work, and some retail installations. While this sounds like a great revitalization of a struggling downtown area on paper, there could be a real human cost to such an ambitious project. To demonstrate this point, activists obtained public records regarding the number of homeless people who died in 2017, and that figured turned out to be no less than 135, with the obvious exception of homeless people who may have stayed mainly in San Jose and died elsewhere or not been counted for any number of other reasons. Google's project will increase the overall wealth of an area, bringing in some 25,000 jobs and making the area much more attractive for both residents and tourists. This will inevitably cause gentrification and displacement, as has been demonstrated throughout southern California in the past. Another side effect of this project is the elimination of 50 odd acres of relatively safe land that the city's homeless population would otherwise be able to use without much issue.
Impact: Google, for its part, has stated that it is already involved in multiple charity efforts for the city's homeless population and other groups, and it is open to working with the city council and other entities to decide the best course of action. Developing such a large space into housing and other resources for the homeless would come at great cost to Google, who has already dropped over $100 million on the project, and would put a damper on the projected job growth that would come with such a program. There are serious costs and risks involved in both going forward with the project as planned and taking activists' wishes to heart and using the land to help the downtrodden. For the time being, it appears that Google will be moving forward with its original plans for the area, though the large-scale protesting push could cause the company to come to some sort of compromise regarding its planned transit village.