The Bank of California:

San José's Endangered "Sphinx"

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San José's Bank of California was designed by internationally significant architect César Pelli (1926-2019) as chief designer for Gruen Associates, one of the most influential architectural and planning firms of the 20th century. Completed in 1973 as part of Park Center Plaza, the city's first urban redevelopment project, the building is one of San José's best examples of Brutalist architecture and its only known Pelli design. Many have likened its sculptural, monumental form to an abstract Sphinx. 

 

In 2019, San Francisco developer Jay Paul Company purchased the 8.1-acre Park Center Plaza site (now known as Cityview Plaza) and announced plans to demolish the entire 10-building site, Bank of California included, in order to construct 3 new office towers. Despite the "Sphinx" being a known Candidate City Landmark and eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, Jay Paul made no attempt to integrate it into its redevelopment plans, despite the fact that its 3 proposed towers would easily fit onto the site without the Sphinx's demolition.

 

PAC*SJ is opposing the project as presented and urging the San José City Council to require the building's preservation as a condition of the site's redevelopment.   

Sphinx Demolition Approved

On June 16, San Jose City Council unanimously rejected the advice of its own Historic Landmarks Commission and denied landmark status to the Cesar Pelli-designed Bank of California Building, simultaneously approving its demolition as part of the proposed redevelopment of CityView Plaza. PAC*SJ believes CityView Plaza is a high-quality project that will bring needed jobs and revenue to San Jose, but preservation alternatives that preserve the Sphinx can and should be part of the project. We are currently evaluating possible next steps to prevent its premature and unnecessary demolition.

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