SECOND HARVEST OF Silicon Valley could be close to breaking ground on its new headquarters in Alviso, but the nonprofit food bank must clear one more hurdle.
Plans for the massive, 250,000 square-foot warehouse — which will serve as a food handling facility with 31 loading docks, operations offices and a volunteer center — received approval from San Jose’s planning division assistant director in late May. Then one Alviso resident, Marcos Espinoza, filed an appeal opposing the project on the grounds it needs further environmental review. The San Jose City Council will decide Tuesday whether to grant Espinoza’s appeal, or deny it and let the project move ahead.
If allowed to proceed, the project could be complete by 2024, according to Diane Hayward, spokesperson for Second Harvest. The local food bank bought the roughly 10.4-acre site at 4553 and 4653 N. First St. in April for $37.2 million from South Bay Development Company, she said.
The site was previously envisioned as part of a larger 152-acre Cisco Systems development. Those plans included up to 2.3 million square feet of office, manufacturing and research and development space. The city previously evaluated the environmental impacts for the Cisco development in 2000 and approved them. Since then, a total of 1.8 million square feet of offices, warehouses and a hotel have been constructed on the 152-acre parcel, according to city reports.
Second Harvest’s plans wouldn’t create any new or significant impacts that haven’t already been considered and approved, city reports said, so the project should be clear to move forward under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
Concerns about traffic
Mark Espinoza, who filed the appeal on behalf of his son Marcos Espinoza, says the project will generate nearly 900 daily vehicle trips, including 100 “heavy diesel truck trips and 45 trucks with diesel-burning top-mounted refrigeration units,” according to city reports.
Mark Espinoza said frequent truck runs and the 24-hour operation cycle of the headquarters could increase cancer risk and create distracting noise for children attending George Mayne Elementary School, which is located across the street.
The city’s health risk analysis showed the project would not exceed any of the significant cancer risk thresholds set by the Bay Area Air Quality Management District for the school or the Balaji Temple across the street. The city also noted in staff reports the food bank center would create less vehicle trips than the prior Cisco plans.
Mark Espinoza said the project should be halted while a new environmental impact report is completed, and that he is prepared to sue the city and Second Harvest if the appeal is denied. He has previously sued San Jose and a developer in an attempt to halt the Topgolf facility in Alviso from being built, but later settled out of court. He also recently appealed the city’s environmental review of a 214-room hotel in Alviso, also on North First Street, but the council denied his appeal on Aug. 11.
“This is another slap in the face to poor Hispanic people. The city is saying, ‘You have no value. Your life has no value.’ It generates money for the city, but they will never put that into Alviso.”Mark Espinoza, project opponent
Espinoza said he is preparing to sue the city and developer for that project, as well.
“I hope that they go away. I hope that they find another location in San Jose,” Espinoza told San José Spotlight.
He said organizations build in Alviso because the community is largely working class and can’t easily fight the developments.
“This is another slap in the face to poor Hispanic people. The city is saying, ‘You have no value. Your life has no value.’ It generates money for the city, but they will never put that into Alviso,” he said.
District 4 Councilmember David Cohen, who represents the area, declined to comment due to the pending appeal decision.
Second Harvest officials are standing by plans for the food bank’s new headquarters.
“The CEQA documentation and determination are thorough, exhaustive, and complete,” CEO Leslie Bacho said. “Our new home enables us to continue our 30-year partnership with the Alviso community and feed 450,000 people in the region every month who are struggling with food insecurity.”
The San Jose City Council meets at 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday. Learn how to watch and participate.
Contact Joseph Geha at firstname.lastname@example.org or @josephgeha16 on Twitter.