The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Nov 10, 2014

Knight challenge grant supports urban transformation in San Jose, Calif.

Posted by Jennifer Warburg

Jennifer Warburg is special projects manager of SPUR, a nonprofit that promotes good urban planning and civic engagement in the Bay Area. Knight Foundation supports SPUR to transform San Jose, one of 26 Knight communities, into a vibrant urban center. Photo: SPUR San Jose bike tour by Sergio Ruiz

San Jose is a sprawling city built largely around the automobile. Its dilemma – shared by many American cities – is how to retrofit its suburban fabric to improve the sustainability, livability and economic vitality of the city, while accommodating the enormous growth projected for the next 25 years.

In the coming decades, San Jose will add more new residents and jobs than any other city in the Bay Area. If it continues to build in a low-density pattern, San Jose will confine people to their cars in worsening traffic, increase economic disparity and add unsustainably to its carbon emissions.

Knight Foundation’s support for SPUR’s new office in San Jose – a $1.775 million challenge grant over five years – will help catalyze the civic conversation around our city’s urban future. The funding provides a runway as we build capacity to be the leading civic partner for the city of San Jose as it undertakes the most ambitious growth plan of any city in the country.

San Jose proposes to direct growth into walkable, transit-oriented urban villages through its new general plan, Envision 2040. If it is successful, the next generation of San Joseans will enjoy the benefits of urbanism: improved health, access to economic opportunity and better places to live, work and play. 

SPUR San Jose

SPUR is well positioned to help realize this vision. Founded in San Francisco in 1910, SPUR brings over 100 years of experience working on urban issues in the Bay Area. In 2012, we opened an office in San Jose, and it has grown rapidly thanks to dedicated engagement by the local community. In just two years, we have held over 100 forums and events, attracted over 3,000 people to join the civic conversation, opened a SPUR San Jose Urban Center and released three major policy reports: the “Future of Downtown San Jose,” “Getting to Great Places” and “Freedom to Move.”

Knight’s support will help boost SPUR San Jose to a position of fiscal sustainability so it can serve our community for the long term. Meanwhile, we plan to take the lead on the following projects during the next five years:

  • Help Downtown San Jose succeed: Mobilize resources and engage citizens to achieve a thriving urban core with better connectivity, better-designed public spaces and more people.  
  • Catalyze urban village creation: Provide in-depth planning and technical assistance to build the first urban village projects and catalyze the realization of San Jose’s broader “Envision 2040” growth plan.
  • Reimagine the transportation system: Start the process of reimagining the city, county and regional transportation network.
  • Build the community of San Jose urbanists: Nurture an active, well-informed citizenry through convenings and public programming at the SPUR San Jose Urban Center and new simulcasting of SPUR public programs for wider viewing online.
  • Rethink the corporate campus: Research and produce a new report on the future of work, examining traditional suburban office parks and new, best practice examples; establish a peer-to-peer learning network to convene influencers and key corporate decision makers.

San Jose has the potential to be a model for change across California and the United States as cities once built for the suburban lifestyle now seek to retrofit for urban values, connections and community. Join SPUR’s movement in San Jose!

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