Save the Sphinx of San Jose


Michele Racioppi


Docomomo US staff


Threatened, Advocacy
Image details


The Preservation Action Council of San Jose (PAC*SJ) sounded the alarm back in May over a redevelopment threat to a César Pelli-designed bank that is reminiscent of a Sphinx. From PAC*SJ: Nicknamed the "Sphinx" for its sculptural concrete entranceway perhaps inspired by the ancient Egyptian monument, the Bank of California is one of San José's most important Brutalist landmarks. Completed in 1973 as part of Park Center Plaza, the city's first urban redevelopment project, the building is one of San José's best examples of Brutalist architecture and its only known Pelli design. 

Current Threat

In 2019, San Francisco developer Jay Paul Company purchased the 8.1-acre Park Center Plaza site (now known as Cityview Plaza) and announced plans to demolish the entire 10-building site, Bank of California included, in order to construct 3 new office towers. Despite the "Sphinx" being a known Candidate City Landmark and eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, Jay Paul made no attempt to integrate it into its redevelopment plans, despite the fact that its 3 proposed towers would easily fit onto the site without the Sphinx's demolition. PACSJ started an online petition and many organizations, including Docomomo US/NOCA, submitted letters of support. In May, the Historic Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to initiate the process of recommending to San Jose City Council that Pelli’s work be declared a historic landmark.

Take Action Today

The San Jose City Coucil  is scheduled to vote on Tuesday June 16 on two resolutions that will likely decide the fate of the Cesar Pelli-designed Bank of California, aka the Sphinx. One vote will consider the unanimous recommendation by the San Jose City Landmarks Commission to designate the building a City Landmark. The other vote will decide whether or not to approve Jay Paul Company’s proposed CityView Plaza redevelopment, which would raze the Pelli bank and nine other office buildings for a speculative, multi-phase new office complex. 

The City Council meeting will be held via remote teleconference and public participation is encouraged. A strong show of support for preservation is critical.

The meeting begins at 11:00 AM (PDT), but the two items (10.2 and 10.3 on the agenda) are not likely to be considered until mid-to-late afternoon.

If you would like to speak in support of the Sphinx, please email for a text or email alert with an estimated time of when the items will be heard. Zoom and call-in instructions can be found on the agenda link below.

In 2019, a Historic Resource Project Assessment was completed as part of the environmental review process to addresses the historical significance all of the buildings and the site, formerly known as Park Center Plaza within the larger Park Center Redevelopment Area, now referred to as CityView Plaza.

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