San Jose residents say no to Costco

(BCN) — For three years West San Jose residents have been fighting the city over construction of a Costco in their neighborhood, especially when there are four others just minutes away.

The dustup over Westgate West Costco has been ongoing since 2021, when residents began rebelling over the idea. The issues remain unchanged, with concerns about increased traffic, road safety, climate change and neighborhood aesthetics dominating the conversation.

The warehouse, at 5287 Prospect Road, will be located on the roughly 20 acre-wide Westgate West shopping center across the street from Prospect High School and take up around 9.7 acres. If approved, it’s slated to be more than 165,000 square feet and stand 40 feet tall, but residents are hoping it doesn’t go through.

Residents voiced their concerns about the project at a Feb. 1 meeting hosted by grassroots community organization Save West Valley! at Prospect High School

Janelle Greenlee, mother of a Prospect High School student and 10-year resident of the area, called the project tone-deaf and is worried about the increased traffic and students crossing major intersections after school. According to the environmental impact review draft, it will create 11,000 car trips per day.

“Every student in this school, especially if they’re denied bussing, especially if we’re impacted with cars, should have a safe walking and biking route wherever they need to go,” she told San Jose Spotlight.

Through the city’s Vision Zero plan, which aims to reduce and eliminate traffic fatalities, injuries and collisions, Saratoga Avenue and Lawrence Expressway are designated as a priority safety corridor. The Costco would sit close to this busy intersection that students crowd after school.

There are numerous Costcos within 15 to 20 minutes from where the proposed site is located, including the Almaden, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and Great Oaks locations.

“Unfortunately, it is our company policy to not comment regarding future Costco warehouses until we are ready to share details about the new location (usually 2-3 months in advance),” a Costco spokesperson told San Jose Spotlight.

The project still needs to finalize its environmental impact report and go before the San Jose Planning Commission and City Council for approval. Residents have until Feb. 20 at 5 p.m. to submit comments on the environmental impact review draft released last December.

“Whether it’s the Costco project, or any project that process (of listening to the community) holds up,” Cheryl Wessling, planning, building and code enforcement department spokesperson, told San Jose Spotlight. “There’s lots of room for input and room for considerations, modifications.”

If greenlighted by the city, the Goodwill store, Ethan Allen Furniture Company, Bikram Yoga San Jose and former Smart & Final and Orchard Supply Hardware building will be demolished. The project will include rooftop parking and a tire center. Additionally, part of the parking area will be reconfigured to close off the driveway across the street from Graves Avenue residences.

According to Costco’s website, the store would bring 250 to 300 jobs to San Jose.

Marc Pawliger, co-founder of Save West Valley!, has lived in the Country Lane neighborhood for about 25 years and has been a Costco member for about 20 years. He said he is not opposed to development in the community, but the project is too large.

“When I see someone come in and basically try and turn a profit on things as opposed to looking at what the neighborhood needs, that’s when I get concerned,” he said.

Vice Mayor Rosemary Kamei, who represents District 1 where the Costco is being proposed, did not respond to a request for comment.

The environmental review draft does offer an alternative layout on the same parcel that would set the warehouse further away from the residences to the east. Under this plan, the footprint of the building would be the same, but it would be located along Lawrence Expressway. The plan, however, could significantly affect vehicles lining up to enter the warehouse and delivery trucks accessing the site compared to the other proposal.

Roberta Witte, 36-year resident of the area and teacher at St. Leo’s The Great School in downtown San Jose, said she is concerned about the noise from the tire center. She lives across from Lawrence Expressway, where the center will be located, and would rather have a smaller stores conducive to the urban village plans.

“If I wanted to live in downtown Manhattan or LA, (I would),” she told San Jose Spotlight. “Who would want this in this beautiful valley? Once they build a Costco, it’s going to be forever damaged.”

San Jose’s planning commission and city council are expected to vote on the development this spring or summer.

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