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Old City Hall At Risk


Celebrated as a modern marvel when it opened in 1958, San Jose's old City Hall was one of the first International Style civic buildings constructed on the West Coast and a groundbreaking example of glass curtain wall construction. It survives today as an iconic symbol of the city's 20th-century suburban expansion and one of the most significant midcentury modern buildings in San Jose, eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places for its architectural and cultural significance.


Unfortunately, Old City Hall has been vacant since 2005, when the new downtown City Hall was completed. In 2011, it was given to Santa Clara County to satisfy unpaid redevelopment debts. Now the County intends to demolish the building, citing ongoing maintenance and security costs. They currently have no plans for the site, which could remain a vacant lot for years.  


The County recently issued a Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the project, which concluded that demolition would cost as much as $10 million, while continued maintenance over the next 30 years would cost less than a third of that figure. Given that the primary stated goal of the demolition is to reduce County maintenance expenses, PAC*SJ sees absolutely no justification in proceeding with this shortsighted and expensive demolition plan, especially without any clear reuse plan for the site. On June 16th, the Santa Clara County Historical Heritage Commission (HHC) agreed with PAC*SJ and unanimously recommended denial of a demolition permit. 


Following that decision, PAC*SJ commissioned our own feasibility analysis by recognized adaptive reuse experts Omgivning Architects, Swinerton Builders, Degenkolb Engineering, and Architectural Resources Group. This study further challenges the County's unsupported cost estimates for rehabilitation and presents an alternative vision for repurposing the building and site.

The full County Board of Supervisors will vote on the demolition plan on November 15, 2022 (because the building is now County-owned property, the City of San Jose has no authority to prevent its demolition). Please urge your County Supervisor to oppose the demolition and support an adaptive reuse strategy instead!

Project Links

Public Meetings and Comment Periods

Midcentury Modernism in San Jose

Media Coverage

UPDATE 11/16/2022:

We are thrilled to announce that, on 11/15/2022, the Santa County Board of Supervisors voted to reject the proposed demolition plan and redirected County staff to more thoroughly explore reuse options for the 1958 San Jose City Hall! While there is still much hard work to be done to ensure a new life for this iconic landmark, this watershed vote was an affirmation that adaptive reuse-- not demolition-- should be the preferred path forward.

PAC*SJ and its partners and allies stand ready and eager to help guide the County in this new direction, and we will continue to update you as the planning process and its timeline takes shape. And a special thank you to Supervisor Cindy Chavez for her leadership in removing the demolition plan from the Board's consent agenda, where it would have been approved without discussion, and to her fellow Supervisors for supporting her motion to deny demolition!

Save Old City Hall!

To the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors 

I support the preservation and adaptive reuse of San Jose's historic 1958 City Hall, a civic icon and architectural landmark with immense potential for adaptive reuse. Demolishing this building for a vacant lot would be an environmental, fiscal, and cultural mistake and a lost opportunity for responsible and transformative redevelopment. 


Thanks for your support!

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