Silicon Valley Rising

An open letter to Google CEO Sundar Pichai

Dear Mr. Pichai,

Google has an important choice before it as the company plans to build a major new campus in downtown San Jose: 

  • Will Google design a project that worsens displacement, gentrification, and inequality?
  • Or will Google pioneer a new model for inclusive tech development, starting by taking a stand for affordable housing and renters’ rights?

Across the Bay Area, we’ve seen the tech-driven influx of high-wage jobs drive rents and home prices sky high. That forces working families – and increasingly even programmers and engineers – to cram together in small apartments, commute for hours from the Central Valley, or sleep in cars, RVs or on the street.

San Jose is one of the most diverse cities in the nation, yet today people of color, young families and women-headed households are all being uprooted by extreme rent increases. As the tech sector works to increase diversity in its workforce, without action Google’s growth risks pushing out the diverse communities that make San Jose great.

Google is one of the most innovative companies in the world. It’s time to innovate how tech grows. This project is your opportunity to work with us on concrete solutions to the ever-worsening housing crisis that affects all of us.

To bring Google to San Jose, our community is being asked to invest an enormous amount of public resources, including:

  • Selling some of San Jose’s most valuable public lands;
  • Investing over $10 billion in taxpayer dollars to make Diridon Station the biggest transit hub on the West Coast;
  • Allowing Google to build much higher and more densely than is currently planned for, increasing the land value by hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars.

In return, we expect you to make just as big an investment to fight the inequality, displacement, gentrification, and homelessness Google’s expansion risks exacerbating. In the coming weeks, we’ll share what we’ve heard from residents across San Jose about our community’s expectations for a comprehensive Community Benefits Agreement, starting today with steps to address the project’s housing impacts.

We strongly hope Google will include significant housing in its plans, but we also know that just building luxury apartments will not keep working families from being displaced. Therefore, we’re asking Google to support a Community Benefits Agreement including:

  • Financing a community-administered affordable housing fund to preserve or construct enough housing in San Jose to stop displacement or homelessness caused by the project. This community-owned fund could acquire land (especially near transit) to build affordable housing, purchase and rehabilitate rent-controlled units at risk of being taken off the market, and provide housing opportunities for low-, very low- and extremely low-income San Jose residents at greatest risk of displacement and gentrification.
  • Allocating 25% of any housing units built as part of the project to be affordable for low-, very low- and extremely low-income residents. 
  • Ensuring all San Jose tenants facing eviction get a fair hearing, by funding legal assistance for 10 years.
  • Supporting policy reforms to protect tenants’ rights, endorsing statewide efforts to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act and the Ellis Act and creating a fund for community groups to advocate for housing-related policy.

Ultimately, the success of Google and of our communities is closely linked. San Jose is home to the cafe workers who serve your lunches, the shuttle drivers who bring you to work, and the security officers who protect your offices. We are the servers at your favorite boba shop, pho place, and taco truck. We are the teachers at your children’s school. We are the owner of your favorite neighborhood small business. We are San Jose, our diversity is not for sale and we want our families to thrive as Google grows.

If Google wants to be a part of San Jose, we expect your company to be a good neighbor. Commit to the goal that this project will not increase homelessness or displacement. Begin a discussion with our diverse coalition to negotiate a Community Benefits Agreement that shows how tech can address its role in our housing crisis and set a new direction for equitable tech growth. 

Sincerely,

Silicon Valley Rising
South Bay Labor Council
Working Partnerships USA
Affordable Housing Network of Santa Clara County
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 332
Latinos United for a New America
Law Foundation of Silicon Valley
People Acting in Community Together
Plumbers, Steamfitters & Refrigeration Fitters - UA Local 393
Sacred Heart Community Services
SEIU United Service Workers West
SMART 104
Sprinkler Fitters 483
Teamsters Joint Council 7
UNITE HERE Local 19

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