The Bank of California:
San José's Lost "Sphinx"

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 was 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, even though the 3 proposed new towers would have easily fit onto the site without the Sphinx's demolition.

 

PAC*SJ strongly opposed the project and identified numerous significant errors and omissions in the project's Environmental Impact Report. San José City Council nevertheless approved the building's demolition in June 2020. Our appeal of this decision was unfortunately denied by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Sunil Kulkarni in November 2021, and the Sphinx was promptly demolished over the following days and weeks, even though new construction on the parcel is not slated to begin until 2026.  

PAC*SJ Appeals Court Decision 

 

Despite the loss of the building, PAC*SJ is nevertheless appealing Judge Kulkarni's decision to the California Court of Appeals. We believe the decision contained critical errors and misinterpretations of applicable law that, if allowed to stand, would set a terrible precedent for historic preservation in the future.

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Media Coverage

About César Pelli

About Brutalism