South 1st Street Development at Major Crossroads - What a difference 80 feet can make


City Council Denies PAC*SJ Appeal of San Jose's Planning Department Demolition Permit of Historic Building 


On Tuesday evening May 14th, San Jose's Planning Department recommended to San Jose City Council, that the City reject PAC*SJ's March 4th Appeal of Planning's approval of a developer's request to demolition of the historical building at 27 S. First Street.  


In case you are not familiar with this area, on the East side of South First street between Santa Clara Street and Fountain Alley, stands the iconic Bank of Italy building.  On the West side, at 27 South First street, between Santa Clara Street and Post Street stands a building listed in San Jose's Inventory of Historic buildings, the old F.W. Woolworth's Building, which is currently occupied by artist collective, Living Color.   


The Bank of Italy is listed as a City of San Jose Landmark and is the anchor of the Downtown Commercial National Register Historic District, the immigrate founded bank that started in a bar with a business model that ushered in small business banking, while funding the fledgling Hollywood movie industry on its way to becoming the Bank of America. 


The Bank of Italy building is currently being renovated by Urban Community and being readied to house new tech start up incubator and other businesses.  Urban Community's Gary Dillabough of Hillsborough, California is from the tech world (eBay) and is working with local investors to develop and operate this property over a 25-30 year period.


27 So. First Street sits 80' across the street in the center of yet another economic and commercial center dating back to Hispanic and early-American periods.  Nine adobes where originally built within the site with subsequent commercial buildings dating back to the 1850's.  By 1906, the site was occupied by E.P. Charlton and Company, a five and ten cent chain store established in 1890, and eventually merged with Woolworth's in 1912.  The building was renovated in 1926 as a one story brick building that remains today.  It is surrounded by no less than 12 buildings identified within San Jose's Historic Resources Inventory.with many sharing a zero lot line or wall, with nearly third eligible for State and/or National Landmark status. 


The F.W. Woolworth's building is authorized for demolition by developer Alterra Worldwide and replaced by a 22-story, 242' tall mixed use building with 374 luxury residences.  Alrerra Worldwide's Mike Sarimsakci of Dallas, Texas, with international investors with a business model to potentially sell the property within 5 years.  This developer intends to build two more 15-30 story buildings on historic sites on the West side of South First Street.


PAC*SJ believes that any project that requires the demolition of a historic building, particularly ones that are inconsistent with the historic context of the target build area will have a tremendously negative impact on San Jose's historic fabric, starting with the demolition of the FW Woolworth's building with unavoidable cumulative impact to surrounding historic structures which date back to the mid-1800's.  


In preparation to defend the public's interest in this matter, PAC*SJ met with Planning Staff, City Council members and the developer advocating a thorough Environmental Impact Report be performed per California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) standards versus the City's current more limited analysis.  We believe that the cumulative impact of developing 200'+ buildings adjacent to a Historic District, and in an area with literally a dozen buildings with rich historical backgrounds is too great to sit on the sidelines and watch.


Please let us know how you feel about the demolition of our remaining historic buildings, and let your Council Person know what you think too.   PAC*SJ will never stop fighting to protect our rich history.


Mike Sodergren

VP Advocacy - PAC*SJ     

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