06 May 2006

Complaints, comments pile up for SJ EIR

Extending the comment period for San Jose's Ballpark Draft EIR to last Thursday fairly allowed for a much greater amount of time for neighborhood residents and interests to properly review the document. Again, the traffic and parking estimates were roundly assailed as unrealistic or incomplete given the nature of event traffic. If you're interested in understanding the tenor of these comments, I refer you to the recap of the first outreach meeting.

Now it's come out the the Sharks have expressed concerns about the ballpark plan. From the Saturday Merc's Barry Witt article:
A consultant for the Sharks wrote that the report "does not demonstrate that the baseball stadium can be developed without causing significant negative traffic or parking impacts on HP Pavilion.'' Among other complaints, the Sharks questioned a conclusion that wider sidewalks near the ballpark would help keep large numbers of people walking toward games from tying up vehicle traffic.
This may be the Sharks' way of saying "This town ain't big enough for the both of us." It could also be a way of the Sharks' trying to get concessions out of the ballpark plan. Look at the graphic below (taken from the EIR, click for a more expansive version) and you'll see why.

The dotted gold line represents a boundary 1/3mile away from the ballpark site. If you've frequented HP Pavilion, you'll see that the parking that exists there is the exact same parking that would be claimed for the ballpark. As the SJWC lot is developed, parking there would be at least temporarily impacted, making it difficult in the near term to fulfill the city's obligation to provide at least 6,650 spaces within 1/2 mile of the arena. The numbers on the map also tend to be misleading because not all parking lots and garages are used the same. Adobe, for instance, doesn't allow event parking in their existing garages because of security concerns. If Adobe goes ahead and builds another set of office towers on the SJWC east lot, how can Pavilion management and the city convince Adobe that it's safe to allow event parking?

Should the city proceed with plans to redevelop the area between the arena and the proposed ballpark, even more parking would be reduced. The parking lots immediately to the east of Diridon Station are generally full during the weekdays because of commuters taking Caltrain and downtown workers, who use the lots as cheap all-day parking (they get a free shuttle that takes them downtown).

Complicating matters even further are the possibility that Diridon will become a major transit hub in the future. The station already services Caltrain, ACE, Amtrak, and VTA light rail. A BART station is planned for the area, and should high speed rail become a reality, Diridon will serve as either a terminal or hub station. Add all of that demand up and it would seem absolutely essential for additional parking to be built - not just for a specific interest such as HP Pavilion, but to properly accommodate all of the different services that are supposed to be built there in the next 10-20 years. That's not even including the ballpark's several thousand spaces or the requirements of high-density residential that could be built in the area.

San Jose desperately needs to have open, frank discussions with residents about its plans for Greater Downtown. The infrastructure that's currently in place is not going to cut it, and if city leaders want to build more infill housing, greater commercial opportunities, or entertainment options like a ballpark, it can't be assumed that existing resources will even come close to satisfying the needs of each project.

One thing that might be a saving grace for San Jose could the influx of mass transit options. The expected impact of greater development would eventually dissuade many from driving downtown. While redevelopment and planning officials referred to this, they didn't give many details. It would make sense for city planners to allot for 3,000-5,000 additional spaces (that's 6,000-10,000 total) on both sides of Hwy 87 to properly accommodate increased demand for commuters, downtown workers, entertainment seekers, and residents. This can't happen until a Greater Downtown development document is discussed and written.

I haven't gotten into the traffic problems. I'll let Marc Morris's traffic comments handle that. And the residents of the Shasta/Hanchett and Delmas Park neighborhoods are rightfully concerned, though I still believe that there are mitigation measures for them that can significantly reduce impacts to them.


Georob said...

You mean to say that the people of San Jose have CONCERNS? And all this time we've been led to believe that they're all a bunch of sports starved techies burning with disposable income willing to do whatever it takes to bring major league baseball to the TENTHLARGESTCITYINTHEUNITEDSTATES

Instead, they're looking like....well, OAKLAND.

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

Marine Layer said...

Could we please try not to get into these little pissing matches? Is that too much to ask?

Anonymous said...

The best place for the A's is downtown SJ--Oakland will never be able to pull a deal together and a suburban ballpark in Fremont is a horrible idea--one that won't produce in down years----the atmosphere downtown when the Sharks are playing is awesome--double the number of times/year and the number of fans--

San Jose has the site, has the infrastructure with the train station/light rail and has the corporate money---

As a big time Sharks fan and season ticket holder I would personally cancel my season tickets if the Sharks oppose MLB in downtown SJ---there is more than enough interest for both---