The way people work, commute, and live is rapidly changing and the way in which we respond to those shifting demands, realities and expectations will do nothing less than determine the future viability of San Jose.
Our March program, sponsored by ABC Silicon Valley, focused on jobs, transportation and housing as the most powerful ‚ÄòEconomic Drivers‚Äô in our community and engaged class members in a variety of discussions and experiences with many of the local stakeholders who are approaching these topics in innovative and impactful ways.
We began the morning at WeWork Valley Towers, and after a tour of their offices, common spaces, stocked kitchens and - yes - beer taps, class members settled in for a panel discussion on The Future of Work.
The panelists addressed topics ranging from education and workforce development to automation and millennial work/lifestyle. Their collective enthusiasm of the panelists around the vibrancy of San Jose today and tomorrow was infectious, even when being challenged by class members around issues of diversity; challenges to doing business in the City of San Jose; and the seemingly perennial state of ‚Äúalmost great‚Äù that seems to have dogged San Jose for decades.
A short walk to SPUR provided the group with a great venue for lunch and the opportunity to hear from Laura Tolkoff, the San Jose Policy Director at SPUR, and Scott Knies, Executive Director of the San Jose Downtown Association.
Both speakers emphasized the centrality of public transportation as a transformative element for a city and spoke about their efforts in creating a ‚Äòsense of arrival‚Äô in San Jose. BART‚Äôs extension to and through San Jose will heighten the importance of making smart land use choices which support affordable housing, office space, and mixed use development in order to ensure the long-term health of San Jose.
Class member Emily Lipoma from the city‚Äôs Planning Building and Code Enforcement division shared her own expertise on the topic, explaining the ‚ÄúUrban Villages‚Äù concept that is designed to capture a walkable, bicycle-friendly, transit-oriented, mixed use setting that provides both housing and jobs.
After boarding one of the VTA‚Äôs newest buses (check out the new blue!), cohort members put on their hard hats and laced up their boots for a tour of the new Berryessa and Milpitas BART stations. Leading the tour was Brandi Childress, Community Engagement Manager for the VTA and proud alum of LSJ Class of 2015. Brandi highlighted the use of Measure B & C tax dollars and discussed the relationship VTA has fostered with BART to bring service to the South Bay.
Cohort members took away a better understanding of the regional and local stakeholders who are working together to bring rail service to areas previously difficult to access.
‚ÄúIt was nice to see money being spent to provide greater connectivity between disparate parts of this huge city and allowing people to access both jobs and more affordable neighborhoods,‚Äù observed one class member, encapsulating the essence of the afternoon
Stay tuned for more next month when the group explores our local arts & culture scene.