San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore (left), Sgt. Jason Dwyer (middle) and the chief's adjutant, Gina Tibaldi, exit the empty $90 million police substation. (Photo by Felipe Buitrago)
A walk through the sprawling, state-of-the-art police substation at Great Oaks Boulevard on the south side of San Jose feels like window-shopping a foreclosure. But the truth is, a group of six is perusing the future home of more than a third of San Jose’s police force. When that scenario will come to pass is impossible to say.
Voters approved Measure O in 2002 to bolster public safety throughout San Jose, and the city started issuing $159 million in bonds, with much of the money intended for constructing the substation. Nearly 10 years later, those ambitious days seem like a distant memory.
The 107,000-square-foot facility—officially completed at the end of 2010 at a cost of $90.8 million—is currently one of five publicly funded buildings in the last 15 months that have yet to open or were closed the same day they were completed.
A decade of budget shortfalls has left the city with no option but to keep the substation shuttered along with the Bascom Library and Community Center ($28.4 million), Calabazas Library ($7.4 million), Educational Park Library ($10.7 million) and Seven Trees Library. (Seven Trees did open the community center portion of the building; the total cost of the project was $34 million.)
Leaving aside Seven Trees, the city has spent more than $137 million on four public facilities that deliver no public services.
Leading the processional through the substation are Police Chief Chris Moore and David Printy, a senior architect for the Public Works Department, which maintains control of the substation for now. The tour starts with a look at a piece of artwork in the entryway that features a grid of San Jose.
“An array of LED lights ties to an infrared camera,” Moore says. “As you walk through the site, [the artwork] takes an infrared image of you and any moving object. It’s a little more impressive at night.”
For now, like the facility itself, the artwork remains dormant. Even an environmentally friendly living roof layered atop the building seems to lack life. Seen from the vast, cubicled offices and meeting areas throughout the second and third floors, weeds have overtaken the overhangs. Conference rooms to discuss crime fighting strategies have chairs but no bodies. Sophisticated scramble pads to unlock doors of holding cells go untouched. Not a single cruiser parks in the expansive subterranean garage.