SAN JOSE — Activists have decided to appeal a court ruling that cleared the way for a “brutalist” building in downtown San Jose to be bulldozed — even though demolition is underway and the structure can’t be rescued.
At the heart of the litigation is a building designed in the “brutalism” style of architecture that occupies part of a vast office, retail and restaurant campus proposed for a key section of downtown San Jose.
In 2020, the Preservation Action Council of San Jose brought a lawsuit to force the city of San Jose to redo an environmental impact report for the campus project, litigation that was part of a quest to preserve the building at 199 Park Ave.
On Nov. 1, a Santa Clara County judge ruled against the preservation group and denied the petition to redo the EIR, a decision that also stated there was no reason to delay the demolition of the building.
Project developer Jay Paul Co. proceeded last week, within days of the court ruling, to launch a partial demolition of the building.
“We are very disappointed both in the ruling and the developer’s decision to pursue an expedited demolition” of the building, said Ben Leech, executive director of the Preservation Action Council of San Jose.
Excavator machines have knocked holes in the structure and have torn off part of the roofline, visual observation of the site by this news organization showed.
“This appears to be an attempt to rush through a demolition to render an appeal moot,” Leech said.
The group’s attempt to overturn the decision is slated to be filed with the California Court of Appeal, according to Leech, following a vote by the council’s board of directors.
“We will pursue an appeal,” Leech said. “We need to defend our rights.”
The preservationists are aware that the building won’t be rescued and that ultimately it will be bulldozed.
“It’s obvious at this point that it’s no longer in the cards to save the building,” Leech said. “We are realistic. We realize the building is lost. The developer has succeeded in rendering the condition of the building to be irreparable.”
Once this appeal is filed, it would mark the second such petition that the Preservation Action Council has pending before the state appeals court.
The group lost a Santa Clara County court case in December 2020 whereby the preservationists sought to block the development of a hotel tower next to the historic De Anza Hotel in downtown San Jose.
In March, the group appealed the county judge’s decision. Documents posted with the state appeals court show that the higher court is scheduled this month to dismiss the hotel-linked appeal because the preservation group has yet to file legal briefs with the appeals court.
In the brutalist building litigation, the preservationists believe it’s worthwhile to pursue an appeal even if it’s no longer feasible to save the structure.
“There are important issues at stake here that need to be addressed,” Leech said.