11 April 2006

Santa Clara County - San José settlement

The long, bitter battle between Santa Clara County and San José appears to finally be over. A $33.5-36.5 million settlement to be paid by the City will go towards a new crime lab (excellent idea IMO). City and County had squared off in dueling lawsuits over County's desire to build a 7,000-seat, House of Blues-run concert hall on the County Fairgrounds. City wanted the concert hall downtown, either next to the new City Hall or across the street from St. Patrick's Cathedral.

The settlement doesn't mention anything about the concert hall, which leaves County with a dilemma: Do they go forward with it? Frankly, putting a swanky auditorium on County Fairgrounds makes little sense due to its location and lack of ancillary development, and when accounting for rising costs and litigation expenses, the concept may be less feasible than before. There happens to be one other venue that, because of a similar white elephant status, is now closed: Henry J. Kaiser Center in Oakland. SF's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium and SJ's Civic Auditorium have also struggled at times. Here's a suggestion for County: a soccer/football stadium with adjoining fields.

Beyond the concert hall, there are a few important impacts. Chief among them is that City will be able to go forward on its North San Jose development plans. City will still need to contribute other money for transit projects and it has issues to iron out with neighboring Santa Clara and Milpitas, but this is basically a green light. While most of the first phase of 5,000 housing units is spoken for, plans eventually call for up to 32,000 homes and 26.7 million square feet of office space. The glut of available commercial space makes office expansion unlikely, but homes can work should related infrastructure be built accordingly.

This potentially opens the door for the A's, who would have difficulty putting 2,000 homes anywhere near the Diridon South site (my guess is about 800-1000 tops). As part of a ballpark deal, SJ Redevelopment could local steer local tech firms with excess land towards the A's. That would allow the financing of a ballpark to take place and, more importantly, create a more palatable ballot measure for June 2007 that looks quite similar to the deal SF made with the Giants - only the A's wouldn't be overly dependent on ballpark-based revenue streams to pay the mortgage.

One problem with the deal: the settlement will come out of City's Redevelopment funds - the same funds that are being used to buy Diridon South. Will City have to sell additional land to finish the Diridon South purchase? Or will the payment occur after Diridon South is purchased?


tony d. said...

Soccer/Football stadium at the Fair Grounds? I'm assuming a combined stadium for MLS expansion and SJSU I correct? We're not talking about an NFL stadium, are we? And how would SCC pay for such a facility? By the way, I do think it's an excellent idea.

Marine Layer said...

It wouldn't be a NFL stadium, even though the 49ers are have their own trouble with their new plan. The stadium could be for SJSU and MLS, though it isn't clear how the stadium would be funded. Since the A's are interested in the MLS, they could expand their plan to include the stadium, but if County were to raise bonds to make it happen (as it was willing to do for the concert hall), don't expect Wolff to say no public money.

FreeSanJose said...

As a SJSU alum, Spartan Stadium is near and dear to my heart. That said, it's a complete dump. It's uncomfortable, it doesn't have any of the comforts of modern stadia and it's even ugly. What I don't get is why SJSU seems to averse to working with the city or MLS to upgrade the stadium. Is controlling all revenue such a big deal, especially when that revenue is so minimal?

I'd love to see SJSU move its football field to the Fairgrounds and share with a MLS team. But from everything I've heard, Don Kassing wants to go it alone at the current venue. Any insight into any of this?

Anonymous said...


Enjoying your blog! As a Fremont native who now lives in SF, I have been following the Pacific Commons developments pretty closely. I had an idea regarding BART that I think is worth passing along (after I read that you are seriously looking at options from the future Warm Springs Bart Station.) How difficult/costly would it be to split BART lines between the proposed Irvington Station and the Warm Springs Station, at Auto Mall Parkway (which should be renamed Eckersly Parkway, IMO) and run an additional, albeit brief BART line in the Auto Mall Parkway median (or an aerial structure if the land is needed to expand Auto Mall Pkwy or it is too costly to bury the unsightly power lines in the median). They could, for instance, have a San Francisco to Stadium line and a Richmond to Warm Springs line. This new station would also serve the Pacific Commons retail center, as well as whatever businesses that Wolff incorporates into the stadium complex. Very little, if any, land would need to be purchased by/for BART, since the City of Fremont owns the AM Pkwy median. An additional benefit would be that this plan could get BART closer to (if not adjacent to) the Pacific Commons Amtrak/ACE station. If Wolff would want to get involved to make BART to the stadium happen, perhaps he would agree to build a parking structure on BART Warm Springs and/or Irvington stations land free of charge to BART in exchange for granting rights to Wolff to build high-rise apartments/condos offices, and a retail/restaurant center, much like what Arlington, VA has done at Washington Metro stations (i.e., live-work-play facilities). This creates the potential for three separate such BART-oriented communities within Fremont... at the Warm Springs Station, Irvington Station, and Stadium/Amtrak/ACE/Pacific Commons station.

Any thoughts?

Jeff said...

The BART idea sounds intriguing. I read an article on AN that says Wolfe and Cisco are close to reaching on deal on the Pacific Commons site. I can't find the link, so take that for what it's worth. Based on the article it appears that Wolfe is focusing on the Fremont area's potential in the next ten years. Apparently he believes that it is a high growth area, and he envisions his ballpark village as spuring economic activity. How hard would it be to make a small alteration in BART's proposed station?

Marine Layer said...

The cost estimates for such a BART spur would run into the hundreds of millions. The estimate for the *optional* Irvington station is around $40-50 million. There would be cost and efficiency issues with rerouting the overhead power lines and acquiring right-of-way along Auto Mall. Then there's also the cost of engineering the right turn from the at-grade tracks to an aerial going west. There's the potential for political backlash from other communities like Livermore, which has long wanted some kind of BART extension and has felt that it's gotten the shaft. Lastly, Warm Springs is not expected to be the terminus. San Jose is.

I'd actually prefer that BART run west across 880 and then alongside the UP/Amtrak line since the corporate centers in North San Jose would be better served. But that's well past the design stage because VTA is buying excess track for the BART extension.

It would be much cheaper to build a separate non-BART elevated guideway, whether it's a busway, trolley, or people-mover like the one planned for Oakland Airport. It would have separate service that couldn't adversely impact BART.

freesanjose, I think you may be hearing something the MLS and Wolff in the next month that helps SJSU.