San Jose Skyline Could Get Facelift

San Jose's skyline is in for some big changes if local leaders get their way

By Damian Trujillo
|  Thursday, Nov 29, 2012  |  Updated 6:03 PM PDT
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The San Jose skyline could look significantly different in the future if a F.A.A. study deems it safe.

The San Jose skyline could look significantly different in the future if a F.A.A. study deems it safe.

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Misha James is from Los Angeles. She remembers looking at San Jose when she moved here, thinking it looked more like a suburban city in part because it lacks a skyscraper skyline.

“I love the city of San Francisco. San Jose just doesn’t have that feel,” said James.

One of the reasons for a lack of a skyline is that  San Jose buildings have height restrictions because of flight patterns connected to Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

But that all might change.

The Federal Aviation Administration recently completed a pilot study at other airports looking at emergency takeoff patterns. Depending on the results of that study, the FAA might allow taller buildings downtown.

Councilman Sam Liccardo is hoping the restriction is lifted. He says height restrictions force developers to invest their money elsewhere.

“Steel construction is very expensive,” Liccardo said. “It doesn’t make any sense financially for them to start construction unless they can build 30 to 40 stories or more. So being able to build more stories really determines if a project can move forward or not.” 

Right now, the height restriction of buildings varies on their location, but they’re usually between 16 and 22 stories high.

“Obviously if you had the ability to build higher, we want to do that because more people brings more vibrancy to downtown, and more feet on the sidewalks, more people using restaurants and retail, and obviously that attracts more business,” said Liccardo.

As it is now, the city finds itself offering many incentives to developers. That convinced one of them to build a 22 story building on the corner of Market Street and Santa Clara Street.

Groundbreaking there is early next year. Right now, that area is occupied by a parking lot and a vacant building.

The city’s master plan also calls for taller buildings in the north end of town. That’s an area not controlled by FAA height restrictions, and it would mean a second mini skyline made of mostly residential high rises.

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