San Jose plans to reimagine Plaza de Cesar Chavez

Plans are floating around San Jose City Council about reimagining Plaza de Cesar Chavez and incorporating the “Breeze of Innovation” sculpture within it.

Plaza de Cesar Chavez during the day.

Several people can be seen walking around Plaza de Cesar Chavez on a nice day.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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Downtown’s plaza may get a facelift.

San Jose City Council recently unanimously voted to explore Plaza de Cesar Chavez as the new location for Urban Confluence’s art installation, “The Breeze of Innovation.”

A rendering of a 200-ft structure composed of hundreds of flexible white rods that seem to bend in the breeze. Around the structure are people, trees, and buildings in the city. Within the structure, a few people stand on observation platforms.

“The Breeze of Innovation” installation.

Rendering via Urban Confluence

The 200-ft, illuminated art piece has gone through several location changes, and was originally planned for Arena Green. However, environmentalists are concerned the 500 lit-up rods could cause light pollution in the natural area where Guadalupe River Park + Los Gatos Creek meet.

Now, the newest plans place it in Plaza de Cesar Chavez and the city is seeing it as an opportunity to reimagine the area as a central hub for San Jose — further than just its location.

🕰️ A brief history

Plaza de Cesar Chavez was originally the “plaza mayor,” or town square, in the Spanish Pueblo de San José de Guadalupe in 1797 — making it the oldest public space in Northern California.

From 1849-1851, it was the location for California’s state capital, and from 1889-1958, it hosted San Jose City Hall.

The last time the park was renovated was in the 1980s, and shortly following in 1993, it was renamed “Plaza de Cesar Chavez” to honor the civil rights activist who resided and held some of his early protests in the great 408.

Plaza de Cesar Chavez with purple blooms and string lights decorating the plaza.

Plaza de Cesar Chavez is often host to many large city events.

Photo via @cali__v

📐 What’s in the works?

City officials and Urban Confluence have begun pitching ideas for the park’s revitalization — some of which include:

  • Eliminating parking and one traffic lane on Market Street to expand foot traffic
  • Adding a stage at the park’s southern end
  • Connecting six blocks between Guadalupe River + SJSU to create a walking/biking pathway through the plaza and paseo
  • Adding design elements to further honor César Chávez

Though these plans are in their preliminary stages, we’re keeping a close eye on any and all updates.

💭 Asked

Tell us — what would you suggest be improved and/or added at the plaza?

💬 Answered

“The installation of the Breeze will look ugly at Chavez plaza. Put something else like an Ohlone Indian statue or an American Eagle.” -Muneerah L.

“My opinion is this is a terrible idea. That stature is huge and will clog the open feeling in the park. I like how the park is open and can change with the seasons and/or events (SJ Jazz Fest does just fine without a permanent stage). The park is great as it is. Leave it alone, I say.” -Craig C.

“Please don’t spend the money on that “sculpture.” With the poor air quality in San Jose, it will only get dirty in short order and represent our city as a dirty place to be (live). We need to spend the money to get the homeless off the streets, and it appears that we need a lot more money and a watchful eye on how it is spent doing that.” -Margaret M.

“I’m very glad to hear that our leaders are committed to beautifying the city with art installations. I do have qualms with this apparent nod to the tech industry (‘Innovation’) being installed in a space meant to honor Cesar Chavez. The tech industry is terrible in terms of African American and Latinx representation.” -Minh N.

“I like taking my dogs there so not crazy about losing parking, but maybe just around the park. Keep on the other side of the street.” -Erik S.

“I hope they don’t bring that light monstrosity. Complete waste of resources and space.” -Blaise H.


“Forget about this and do something about roads & homeless” -David D

“This park is used for all types of rallies. It is where groups go at the end of marches through the city giving people information etc. I don’t think it is good to put art here and take away the space various groups use” -Mary S.

“The light installation looks great, but does it interfere with the glide path for SJ airport?” -Vickie G.

“I saw where there’s a suggestion of putting a light display in this park. I think that would be a wrong location if that’s what is suggesting. I think it should be at City Hall. City Hall has concrete and has fountains already there and that could be incorporated in that area. Plaza de Caesar Chavez is a natural park with fountains for the children there. There needs to be more available parking so that people can access it. The local businesses are using the public parking that surrounds it, including employees to the local businesses [...] I think it should be located at City Hall right on Santa Clara Street between Fourth and Sixth street[s]. There’s a concrete area it would be perfect for it.” -Tina W.

“Stop reimagining things on our behalf. If we want something changed we will let you know. Just leave us alone already!!” -Kat S.

“Where would it even fit? Take out the fountains? Maybe move the serpent statue to the Mexican Heritage Center? If Google actually ever decided to build their megaplex, put it somewhere within that? Shorten the height of the light installation and put it where the Fallon statue just came down? Sofa area?” -Leah R.

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