20 February 2006

San Jose's big vision

A new report from the San Jose Business Journal explains a bold, $1 billion vision of a revamped (again) Downtown San Jose, with new baseball and soccer facilities, museums, a concert hall, and other wide-ranging entertainment. While the proposal has not yet been finalized or presented, it is thought that the changes would be funded by a 1/2-cent sales tax or some combination of use taxes (Mello-Roos business districts or something similar, gross receipts, hotels, car rentals, etc.). Payoff would come over 30 years.

One of the interesting things about this initiative is that it's not being pitched by the mayor, city council, or other government entities. It's being pushed (and the study financed) by "Adobe Systems, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, among others." (That means the "H" and "P" in HP if you're wondering.) Lew Wolff was also asked about the proposal. He called it "a fantastic idea." It's no secret locally that Wolff doesn't see eye-to-eye with the current administration, especially budget head and Mayor Gonzales' right-hand man Joe Guerra. Wolff also doesn't believe the transformation of San Jose's downtown is complete, so bold, innovative thinking is welcome in hopes of making Downtown San Jose more of a destination that it had been previously.

Also notable is the fact that the plan, called "Creative Urban Center" is backed by a new consortium called 1stAct Silicon Valley. Recently announced mayoral candidate and proclaimed outsider Michael Mulcahy is part of this group. It's quite possible that the plan may become part of his platform as he seeks to contrast himself from the scandal-ridden and slow-moving city government.

The tax part is a big concern. Combine a 1/2-cent sales tax hike with the county's additional 1/4-cent for the BART extension and San Jose's sales tax comes to a whopping 9%, the highest in the Bay Area. It's likely that the powerful Silicon Valley Leadership Group would support both, but one could rob votes of the other if voters had to choose on the same ballot. The article also discusses how the fact that the proposal is so broad may allow it to fund stadia using an endaround past the current sports facilities funding law, which requires a 2/3 or supermajority vote instead of a majority vote.

So if you're wondering what San Jose's strategy is, it looks like it's taking shape, and without the assistance of anyone in City Hall. Something tells me that any ballot initiative wouldn't occur until June 2007 because of competition with other funding measures, chiefly the $222 billion public works proposal the Governor is currently pitching all over the state.


Kevin said...

ML, What is the current status of BART to San Jose? If funding does become available, what kind of timeframe are we looking at before we actually have service to the downtown area. Also, are there plans to have a station anywhere near the proposed ballpark site?

Marine Layer said...

BART-to-SJ is in limbo. While some federal funds were approved for studies to be continued, the project has not been able to secure the much greater federal matching funds for construction. Supporters were forced to withdraw the funding request after it was deemed that the project didn't meet required ridership estimates. That's led to talk that the BART extension would be funded by an additional 1/4-cent sales tax, but that probably won't go over well in part because voters had already approved the BART project through Measure A over 5 years ago.

tony d. said...

Any chance BART/SJ will get funding from Arnolds proposed Infrastructure Bond? If they're going to leave out High Speed Rail, at least give us BART! And correct me if I'm wrong, but wouldn't there be a BART subway station right outside HP Pavilion (beneath Santa Clara ST.)? I know this wouldn't help East Bay A's fans much, but a hypothetical ballpark at Diridon/Arena would be easily accessible via VTA Light Rail and Caltrain.

Marine Layer said...

The transportation part of Arnold's proposal is more focused on highways than mass transit. There would be competition if mass transit became an integral piece since LA's mayor wants the state to fund an extension to the Red Line along Wilshire Blvd. The cost of that extension would be about the same as BART-to-San Jose.