New proposed Costco near Prospect High School, Saratoga neighborhoods raises concerns about traffic 

March 28, 2024 — by Grace Lin and Ruiyan Zhu
Courtesy of Costco Wholesale
Costco Wholesale’s drawing of the new Prospect location with rooftop parking.
A Saratoga Falcon survey showed 62% of Saratoga students support the new Costco, but its location and potential for traffic issues is a problem for many residents.

The closing of the warehouse company Smart & Final on Prospect Road on Jan. 7 was a surprise for some. Longtime customers expressed their dissatisfaction on the neighborhood app Nextdoor, describing it as “sudden” and “inconvenient”. However, Smart & Final’s closure is only the start of a much grander project: the opening of a new Costco warehouse in the same plaza, officially dubbed Costco Westgate West.

Currently, the plan is waiting for the City of San Jose’s approval after receiving public comments on Feb 20. Though it is situated just outside of Saratoga, its close proximity to the border with San Jose means Saratoga residents living in Saratoga Woods and other nearby residential areas will be impacted.

The new Costco is planned to be in the shopping center across from Prospect High School. It has sparked controversy and opposition because of its location and because it is projected to add 11,000 car trips per day in the area.

Numerous other businesses in the plaza will also close their doors, including Domino’s Pizza, Bikram Yoga San Jose and Goodwill of Silicon Valley. The closures will leave enough space for Costco Westgate West’s 165,000 square foot warehouse.

However, despite the warehouse itself being 14% larger than the Costco located in Sunnyvale, the new Prospect Costco only has 689 parking spaces in comparison to the 838 parking spaces at the Sunnyvale Costco, raising further concerns over traffic on nearby streets. 

Regardless of the proposed store’s limited parking, it seems many younger potential shoppers support the new location, saying it will be more convenient than other locations — such as Sunnyvale’s Costco — that are each more than six miles away. According to a poll conducted by the Saratoga Falcon, 62% of the 120 total student voters support the new Costco, while 38% do not.

How the plan came to be

The first architectural plan for Costco Westgate West was submitted to the city of San Jose in late 2021. Since then, many more revised architectural plans have been submitted to the city with the latest being in December. Around the same time in December, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) was released due to the project’s major land use and significant environmental impact.

The report states that the Costco’s effect on air quality, noise and other environmental concerns are all insignificant. However, Amy Cody, a parent of a Prospect High School student, contends the report did not take into account the traffic the new Costco would create around Prospect High School. 

“The DEIR was clearly insufficient because it did not take into account the pedestrian and bicycle safety alongside Prospect Road. Students at Prospect High School are also opposed to the project and have started a petition,” Cody told The Falcon. “This is a travesty.”

The Costco project also contributes to the city plan: “Envision San Jose 2040 General Plan” introduced in 2011. This plan aims to “reflect the community’s expressed desire to see San Jose grow as a prominent great City that provides environmental and economic leadership roles in the region, nation and world,” using “12 Major Strategies.” One of these strategies includes improvement of existing neighborhoods, as well as the inclusion of new urban villages, specifically 60, across San Jose. 

Urban villages are areas that include residential and commercial developments while providing access to transit. The city hopes to “revitalize underutilized properties” such as Horizons, which are areas designated for “phased development within urban villages.”

The Westgate mall strip is part of Horizon #1. Costco may be an effort supported by San Jose to urbanize neighborhoods and increase the commercial appeal of the Westgate mall strip. The urban villages look to mix housing and employment with a “high-quality urban design” for San Jose’s diverse growing population.

Many local residents speak up about the new Costco

For Saratoga residents like sophomore Brady Liang, the new Costco will be more than convenient. He believes  that the new location will be more convenient as it only takes around 10 minutes to drive.

“It’s just in an area that’s close enough so that it’s convenient, but it’s also far away enough so that the traffic won’t affect us,” Liang said.

On the other hand, most opposition has come from residents living near the planned building site, who voiced their concerns at a San Jose City Planning Commission meeting on Feb. 20. 

Local organizations like Save West Valley have taken action to stop the project ever since the project was announced: they have made signs to be put on supporters’ lawns and petitions on change.org have reached well over 3,000 signatures. Save West Valley is a volunteer-run organization advocating for the quality of life in the communities of West San Jose, Campbell and Saratoga. The organization aims to adopt a “holistic approach” to development and projects that support San Jose’s urban village development.

Both Cody and Marc Pawliger, a longtime resident in the Prospect area for over 25 years, are members of Save West Valley.

“The project isn’t appropriate for the site that it’s been proposed for. There were hardware stores, yoga studios and bakeries before, and they were appropriately sized,” Pawliger said. “A store that is 4 acres in size and generates 11,000 car trips through an intersection where Prospect High School students commute through is not an appropriate scale.”

Save West Valley is also concerned with the negative effects of pollution and emissions on nearby communities, especially senior citizens.

“I don’t want people to get hurt by the traffic or for people to suffer from ill health effects because of the pollution,” Cody said.

Pawliger, who organizes many events for Save West Valley, hopes to let people know that they have a voice. Their website emphasizes that the project “is not a done deal.”

“We started Save West Valley for residents of Saratoga, Cupertino, and Campbell,” Pawliger told The Falcon. “You don’t have to be affected by this project to attend a San Jose city council and speak. The one thing that people can do is to act.”

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