Skip to content

If you ask most people what they want in a community, they’re likely to mention aspects like sustainability, vibrancy and equity. In fact, Catalyze SV is so committed to those values that it has become a strong force for change by meeting with developers and the community to weigh in on how well proposed developments hit those marks, helping them pivot to greater success.

With its aim to be an exceptional neighborhood partner, Mission Point has been directly engaged with the group to seek feedback and input that will help the development even more closely reflect the needs and desires of the community. As a mixed-use urban neighborhood that emphasizes “live-work-play,” with affordable housing, ample open spaces and a design that emphasizes walking and biking, it brings to life the vision that Catalyze SV seeks.

We sat down with Jake Wilde, Manager of Development Projects for Catalyze SV, to discuss the group’s impact, hear some best practices and find out how community members can get involved.

Q. Tell us about Catalyze SV and its roots.

A: Catalyze SV was started by citizens who were seeing projects come into neighborhoods, and realizing that the community should be part of the process, working in collaboration with the developer and the city. Initially we only focused on Santa Clara and San Jose, but we are now expanding to other cities, projects, people and organizations we work with.

Our goal at Catalyze SV is to bring together community members, developers and other decision makers, like city leaders, to promote the principles of sustainability, equity and vibrancy to the projects coming into Santa Clara County. In my position, I facilitate our project advocacy committee that meets monthly with members, along with anyone from the public who wants to join, and a presenting developer. Afterward we discuss and score the project on how well it rates in our three core categories and then produce a summary letter we share with decision makers, the developer, and anyone else who has a say in the community.

To us, it’s important that the developer be a key member of the process because most of us don’t have a lot of expertise in urban planning and what it takes to finance, build, design and construct these projects. It’s a complex process, which is not always easily understood by many of us in the community, so it’s really helpful to bring together people who can facilitate this knowledge transfer. Take Mission Point, for example. It’s a big project and we needed everyone to be involved to better understand its scope and how it could best serve Bay Area residents.

Q: How does Mission Point align with Catalyze SV’s vision of developing a community-friendly environment?

The two main areas we were impressed by were Mission Point’s sustainability and vibrancy. First, the projects will energize the area around Levi’s® Stadium. Currently when you attend a game or concert, you go directly to the venue, since there aren’t any nearby restaurants or gathering places, missing out on opportunities to connect with others. Mission Point will bring a lot of life to that portion of Santa Clara by creating an environment where people can enjoy themselves and socialize —at the restaurants, the shops and in the large park space. It’s a nice design for facilitating that, which will entice visitors to stop and spend quality time there.

As for sustainability, people will be able to take advantage of light rail and the multi-use path that Mission Point is developing, which is so much better than people driving their own cars.

When our members scored and reviewed Mission Point, they all had a lot of really good feedback.

Q: How would you characterize Catalyze SV’s impact so far?

A: The two things our members want to see more of in their communities are more homes and more affordable homes, therefore, anytime we get involved in a project and bring a developer and decision makers into a room, we feel that’s a “win” as they largely listen to our input.

Among the projects we are very proud of and where we feel we made a significant difference with our input, is Cambrian Park Plaza in southwest San Jose. We encouraged the developer to increase their allocation of affordable housing, and to see them be responsive was very gratifying. This is just one of several projects we have reviewed and rated.

Our membership has also grown, which speaks to the level of interest in our organization and the impact we are making.

Q: How do you perceive that real estate development can create community?

A: I wouldn’t say that real estate development alone creates community, but there are considerations that can encourage the formation of community bonds. The beauty of living in a city is the proximity of services and how it brings people together to increase interaction via its many amenities. If individuals and families aren’t living where they work, where they buy their groceries or visit their healthcare providers, then by default they are driving everywhere and community bonds are harder to form.

Then there’s also the development side of things, which entails the design of how the spaces built will interact with the public. Unfortunately, often the first point of interaction is through a parking garage, where one encounters a lot of windows, rather than faces, which doesn’t help enhance the sense of place or community that people can derive from a development.

Having people-oriented places can go a long way to building community. Ask anyone in the Bay Area where they want to spend a couple hours or an evening, and they’re going to name small downtown areas, like Mountain View, Saratoga, Campbell, or Los Gatos. Or they’ll head to an area like San Pedro Square Market in San Jose where there are a lot of activities.

A project like Mission Point is exciting because they’re building a whole new neighborhood from scratch, which is a rare occurrence, so there’s a real opportunity to create a variety of spaces tailored to diverse populations and interests.

Q: How can individuals and organizations get involved with Catalyze SV?

A: The Project Advocacy Committee meets every fourth Wednesday for project reviews and scoring processes, and we’re always looking for community organizations or neighborhood groups to get involved, as every voice in these conversations matter.

Another great way to engage is to join our educational events where we look at design considerations for certain demographics that have different needs, for example seniors, with a focus on mobility.

We truly welcome anyone who wants to join us to find out more and let their voice be heard as we work together to create more sustainable, equitable and vibrant places in Silicon Valley and surrounding communities.