With a massive Google campus coming to San Jose, community activists want to make sure that the tech giant’s huge project benefits everyone and not just a select few. So they’ve begun a plan to make sure that happens.

“Now is the time for you to envision what you want from them,” City Councilwoman Magdalena Carrasco told a room full of more than 100 people who gathered Wednesday night at the Mexican Heritage Plaza where Cesar Chavez launched his famous grape boycott to protest poor pay and working conditions decades ago. “It’s our job to make sure that we hold their feet to the fire.”

The meeting was organized by the group Silicon Valley Rising, which has been critical of tech companies earning huge profits while the low-wage workers feed and clean up after computer scientists and engineers struggle to get by. In the past, the group has called broadly for affordable housing and living wages. But on Wednesday, organizers offered more specifics.

A discussion letter circulated at the meeting calls for building more than 5,000 affordable and 12,000 market-rate homes. It raises the possibility of developing a “large-scale model for shared equity homeownership for low-income families that is permanently affordable.” And it calls for a fund devoted to providing families facing eviction with legal help.

Organizers urged residents to come up with their own wish lists, too, and brainstormed ways to get council members on board — from appealing to their religious convictions to plying them with cold, hard data.

“This project is overwhelming for many of us,” acknowledged Salvador “Chava” Bustamante, the executive director of Latinos United for a New America (LUNA), adding that he is excited about the prospect of more jobs coming to San Jose, but wants to make sure they pay a living wage.

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Dividing people into tables for small facilitated discussions in multiple languages, Sarah McDermott of Unite Here Local 19, a union representing hotel workers and other service industry employees, urged the community to be as specific and detailed as possible.

“We need absolute clarity around what we want and who can give it to us and how,” McDermott said.

While some of Google’s plans are public — the property they’ve purchased around Diridon Station, for instance, and the tech giant’s commitment as part of a bid to buy city-owned land to offering a series of community benefits — many of the details have yet to be worked out. And while it will be years before any semblance of a massive tech campus begins to rise, that’s created a void of information that has left people nervous about the possibility for even more gentrification in an area where housing prices and living costs are already some of the highest in the nation.

“I think showing face helps,” said one community member. “They’re not really presenting firm numbers on things.”

Organizers circulated copies of an online petition and asked residents to sign on.

“In exchange for these public resources,” it says, “Google should address the impacts of its expansion by negotiating a comprehensive community benefits agreement with the Silicon Valley Rising coalition.”



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