29 March 2006

No fireworks, but...

Tonight's session ran for two hours. The format was explained at the beginning:
  • Presentation of different Draft EIR findings
  • Break - during which the public could fill out comment forms
  • Q&A session based on responses to the comment forms
While the format allowed for most comments to be addressed, there was little room for any kind of debate or exchange. This didn't sit too well with the large contingent of Quakes supporters on hand, all of whom were looking for some indication that the City is still interested in bringing MLS back to San Jose in the next millenium. I'll go into more detail on that tomorrow in a commentary piece.

Any questions that were addressed were narrowly focused on the EIR. This meant that anything that might have been missed or glossed over in the Draft - well, there were no clear explanations other than the fact that comments would have to be noted, addressed, and inserted into the Final version. This included:
  • Little explanation of the TPMP (Traffic & Parking Management Program). Residents of the St. Leo's/Cahill Park and Delmas Park neighborhoods have not been impressed by the TPMP imposed when the Arena was built, so many eyes rolled. The City really needs to get this piece in place or else it risks severe backlash. I happen to live in the Horace Mann neighborhood just to the northeast of City Hall. Horace Mann has a daytime parking enforcement plan because of its proximity to San Jose State, and for the most part it works well. I imagine it's harder to make this work at night. Some combination of street closures and increased police/metermaid presence will be required.
  • The parking study may be significantly flawed and not reflective of downtown's typical parking usage patterns. Mark Morris submitted a seven-page document outlining his concerns over the parking data (I'll post that sometime tomorrow). Merc reporter Barry Witt also explained that the consulting group doing the traffic study was the same one that did Santana Row's traffic study. That study was also flawed as its sampling was not as "worst case" as it should've been. Anyone that drives in the Santana Row/Valley Fair area knows how much of a nightmare it presents on a normal day, let alone the holiday shopping period.
  • Dual stadia (baseball/soccer) is not looking good. It wasn't just merely shot down, it appears that that none of the concept that was floated regarding a soccer stadium in December had ever been considered. More on this later.
  • No study was done on the impact of weekday games (business person specials). The lots in the area tend to be used for transit-related parking, so scheduling games during a weekday at noon or 1 p.m. would severely impact available parking. This will be investigated and put into the study.
  • The concert sound contour was not considered realistic because of the way sound would propagate in the "amphitheater" configuration. Such a setup would use a single-point source at the stage instead of the ballpark's distributed sound/PA system, which is designed for efficiency. I have a feeling that should this get built, any concerts will be limited to the daytime hours, such as weekend music festivals. Night concerts could be off the table early.
Some good came out of the meeting, especially since my other ballpark-specific comments were addressed.
  • It was acknowledged that the environmental impacts presuppose a worst-case scenario featuring a 45,000-seat stadium. However, I had also asked Planning to include an alternative that featured a 35,000-seat stadium, since its advertised impacts should be less and may include built-in mitigation measures. I didn't get any assurance on that.
  • Planning will check into the field orientation change. I suggested 15-30 degrees (preferably to the north). I can't say how much impact it would have, but if such a change were combined with special site considerations in the ballpark design to absorb more noise and light pollution, mitigation could be significant.
  • There will be an alternative that includes "perimeter lighting," which places lighting on the rim of the ballpark's roof instead of on poles/standards. On a related note, there was an inquiry about the impact of a ballpark's light on Lick Observatory. UC-Berkeley looked into it and stated that it would have no negative impact.
The format doesn't lend itself to open discourse, so if you come to one, you probably don't need to come to the rest. When it came to the inevitable question about the "East Bay team that shall not be named," there was more awkward dancing than a typical junior high Sadie Hawkins. For the April 27th meeting, I might just show up dressed like Stomper. At least then everyone would have to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

One last thing - I saw around 20 Quakes/Soccer Silicon Valley supporters decked out in Quakes jerseys. I didn't see any A's apparel anywhere, which highlights a problem: since the Baseball San Jose site is no longer active, it's hard to get the word out locally to Valley baseball supporters. Then again EIR's tend to be pretty dry so I can hardly blame folks for not being interested if they don't live in the affected neighborhoods