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20 August 2009

Recap of walking tour

This was the second walking tour put on by the City. Leading the way was SJRA's Kip Harkness, along with several others from the City. The walk started out inside the station depot, where we were informed that the tour would take an hour. Bottled water was graciously provided (your tax dollars at work).

We quickly moved outside in front of the station, where Harkness explained the expanded station vision. The "Grand Central" concept was brought up, though any expansion would be done within the context of preserving the existing depot. As shown in previous materials, the expansion will provide connections to future HSR and BART, along with additional space for other uses. BART will run underground, while HSR could run either underground or above ground. One attendee asked if HSR could run under the ballpark. Harkness replied that it might be possible, but dealing with the area water table could prove difficult, especially if the ballpark were sunken - as it is in some conceptual drawings. He cited an example in The 88, a recently opened high-rise residential tower located downtown. Three floors of underground parking were in the plans, but construction crews struck water only 1.5 stories down, forcing a major pumping/rework effort. 20 million riders are expected to go through the expanded Diridon Station per year. Like most, I'm skeptical of the figures.

Next topic was the area plan. The various agencies whose projects will impact the area have been in contact and are contributing towards the plan. There is a window in which the area will be torn to shreds in order to accommodate the BART cut-and-cover operation, new foundation work for midrise (up to 130' tall) buildings, and the Autumn Parkway construction project. Guidelines will be part of the updated Diridon Area Specific Plan, from building heights to setbacks to streetscapes. Parking is the big unknown, since it's going to take some time to properly formulate the right mix of short and long-term parking.

Then we walked past some of the property recently bought by SJRA along W. San Fernando St. The only building not empty was Patty's Inn, which has a lease through 2011 (hint-hint?). A rep from Parks talked about the Los Gatos Creek Trail. It looks like the City is getting ready to buy the land on the western bank to build the trail. The fire training site south of the ballpark will not be used for a parking garage, as was drawn up in the original EIR. Housing has designs on the land, but that use is not politically feasible given the amount of neighborhood uproar it would cause.

In order to make the new Autumn Parkway streetscape the way it's being envisioned, the City may ask the state to relinquish the State Highway designation (CA-82) for Autumn and Montgomery Streets. Since those streets are state highways, they are subject to state design and maintenance rules, which would either have to be eased or modified to accommodate the changes the City wants to enact. The same goes for The Alameda, which area residents have long wanted to transform into a pedestrian-friendly, tree-lined boulevard.

Next up were the old KNTV studios (acquired) and the AT&T site (not acquired). There was talk of preservation of some kind. There could be some reuse of materials or fa├žades if possible. I would at least expect some monuments to commemorate the historic value of the sites.

The PG&E substation situation proved interesting. The City and PG&E acknowledge that the existing layout is not exactly space efficient, so they are looking at ways to reconfigure the site in a more compact manner. It seems more likely that reconfiguration will occur than a substation move, partly due to lower cost, partly because a 32,000-seat ballpark may not require a substation move.

We then hoofed it back to Diridon Station, under the tracks and out to Cahill Park, which is west of the station. Mostly this was to show how good, community-driven TOD can be built. Keep in mind that there's a good chance that zero housing will be built in the planned area. Finally, we congregated on the Alameda, across the street from the site of the always six months away Whole Foods site. Not much to say about that. I asked about the state of the revised ballpark EIR. Harkness said that it's still in process and that no date has been set for its release, though 60 days is a pretty good guess. Those who want to be notified should head over to SJRA's ballpark page to get on the mailing list.

Questions? Fire away, and try to keep it on topic.

43 comments:

Anonymous said...

ML--what is the status of purchasing all remaining parcels including the gas/welding site and the ATT property? Second, is there a timeframe for beginning construction on some of the infrastructure improvements which will occur regardless of the ballpark---Autumn Parkway for example and third any discussion about tunneling Autumn Parkway around the proposed ballpark?

Paul said...

Did King Bill Neukom sign off on the ballpark end of this? It doesn't matter what the Mayor, Council and residents of San Jose think. Only the King shall decide.

Anonymous said...

Yawn.

Anonymous said...

Walking tour of 'the City'? I thought 'the City' refers to San Francisco. Have you left your heart in San Jose?

Marine Layer said...

5:59 - Parcel acquisition is on hold as the City (capital C means city gov't) awaits a possible raid on redev funds. Autumn Pkwy can't be started until the design elements are approved and City and Caltrans figure out what to do with the CA-82 designation. I don't see a tunnel happening since it's right next to the creek.

Tony D. said...

I believe St. Pancras International Station (Eurostars, Metro, and commuter service) in London handles 6 million passengers a year, so the 20 million for Diridon is a head-scratcher. Still, future Diridon Station should make for excellent critical mass for the downtown.

R.M., haven't they (city of SJ) been "acquiring" the Diridon South parcels since 05? Why has it taken so long to acquire the AT&T and welding shop parcels? A relocation plan for the "Diridon Housing Site" was passed out to all property owners in the area a few years back, including AT&T and welding shop.

A park at the Fire Training Center? Nice!!

Lastly, Stephen's Meat sign (grand ole pig!) will look good beyond the left fied wall.

Marine Layer said...

The St. Pancras number is low because it doesn't include usage from the adjacent Tube station. The Tube station alone brings in 60-70 million per year.

Not buying the remaining parcels has as much to do with relocation as anything else. Finding good new locations and paying for the moves is not something either party wants to do until the time comes. Both AT&T and Aeris have unique requirements. Similarly, City could have moved the fire training site by now but are waiting until the final plan coalesces.

Paul said...

...What I think will happen is MLB will dump the territorial "rights" and allow a ballpark to be built at this location - but only if San Jose agrees to build a 100% publicly funded stadium. It won't happen for a privately funded ballpark. But a privately built park is the only plan that would ever fly.

Jeffrey said...

The mixed use district is the second most appealing thing to me. I wonder what the plan is.

After my recent trip to Fenway, I'd love to see some kind of "Yawkey Way/Landsdowne Street" thing along the back of the left field wall.

As far as public v. private, etc. I think MLB recognizes the situation and it's many complexities (territorial rights, potential for a public stadium anywhere, relative strength of the Bay Area v. other potential markets, etc.) and I don't imagine they will do anything stupid. That said... it wouldn't be the first time.

gojohn10 said...

This 32K stadium size business is really pisses me off. It's one thing to move the team to the South bay to get a stadium built and get access to a potentially larger and more affluent fanbase. It's another to build the smallest park in baseball that, IMO, won’t be able to accommodate demand. I get the argument that keeping the capacity down helps curb construction costs. I don’t care. This still stinks. How the heck am I supposed to afford to take my family to the game?

Anonymous said...

This is off topic, but does anyone think the A's will be winning around the time the new ballpark goes up? Maybe we'll still have Beane?

Tony D. said...

Paul,
Respectfully, I don't understand the logic behind your post. Lew Wolff has already stated that he will PRIVATELY finance the ballpark. So this "T-Rights falling only if a ballpark is publicly funded" logic doesn't make sense and has no standing whatsoever. Sorry.

Gojohn10,
If you look around the league, most ballparks have an average attendance in the high 20k's-low 30k's. Ever notice on Sportcenter MLB highlights how many an upper deck, outfield sections are empty around the league? Most ballparks built in the last decade are simply too big (see Coors Field). Lew Wolff/A's are building at 32k because that's just right!

Anonymous said...

Personally a big fan of the 32,000 seat ballpark here--keep it intimate like Fenway/Wrigley and you will have a ballpark that will become one of the classics---

Ironic that GoJohn's concern is that demand will far outstrip supply (which I agree with)--while you have the OAFC group claiming that a San Jose ballpark will sit empty--I guess like the Coli today--go figure

Beane Counter said...

If you look around the league, most ballparks have an average attendance in the high 20k's-low 30k's.



Actually, we don't know much about attendance, average or otherwise, because the teams don't report it. They report the number of tickets sold for each game, not how many people really attended.

I think a park of 40K to 45K would be better than 32K. You want to be able to meet demand for the big games, not just the average and less-popular draws.

A 32K park is elitist in concept, and freezes out the middle- and lower-income families in favor of better-heeled full-plan and partial-plan season ticket holders. It also works against spontaneity flexibility in attending games.

FC said...

ML,

What kind of timeframe are we looking at for the redevelopment of the area around the ballpark site? You made mention of "nuking" the area in preparation for BART, but isn't Bart still at least 10-15 years away from coming to Diridon?

Also, assuming the A's are granted access to SJ, are we looking at a scenerio similar to ATT where the ballpark gets built, then the surrounding area gets redeveloped?

Anonymous said...

"A 32K park is elitist in concept, and freezes out the middle- and lower-income families in favor of better-heeled full-plan and partial-plan season ticket holders."

I think that's the point. The owners are no longer satisifed with gouging you for the ticket, the beer and the hot dog. They foresee other ways of draining your wallet.

OldBlue said...

"A 32K park is elitist in concept, and freezes out the middle- and lower-income families in favor of better-heeled full-plan and partial-plan season ticket holders. It also works against spontaneity flexibility in attending games."

What Beane Counter said. I guess all of you that favor that 32K capacity will be able to afford ticket prices akin to those in wonderful, intimate Fenway Park. Good for you and corporate folks (are you one and the same?), but how about those working stiffs and their kids?

The Dodgers average 45K a game. I'll bet they really regret they didn't build Dodger Stadium as a nice, small park holding, say, 32K fans.

Are you people so blinded by your lust for baseball in San Jose that you don't see this whole thing for what it is? A way for rich guys to get even richer on the backs of a whole lot of middle income guys. It's OK if you understand the game, but if you don't understand it, well, maybe you'll lose half your retirement in the stock market.

gojohn10 said...

I could live with Fenway capacity (39,000) or Wrigley (41,000).

Check out this graph of MLB ballpark capacities with the new Cisco included. See that smooth line and how it crashes at the end? That drastic change in the slope of the line would be us. Lame.

Anonymous said...

The "rich guys" you are referring to are willing to spend $500M of their own money to build a ballpark in San Jose--I think that they should have a little say in how to manage their overall investment and achieve a return on that investment. At 32,000 they balance overall construction costs, create intimacy and than...as you suggest create a supply and demand market.

I doubt you would be willing to invest $500M of your money without making sure you had a reasonable shot at a favorable return on investment--of course if you want the public to pay for the ballpark I am sure that LW would be fine with 45000 seats.

Marine Layer said...

It would probably cost another $100 million to change from 32,000 to 40,000 seats, or $7 million per year for 30 years. It would be nice if that difference could be easily paid for on the backs of cheap seat buyers but it can't. It won't. The A's have to worry about being relevant in the Bay Area scene when they aren't winning. The Do-yers have never had that problem.

The smart thing to do is to bake into the design some flexibility so that price-sensitive, short and long-term expansion can be done quickly and cheaply. The A's can then incrementally expand or contract on a yearly basis if warranted.

Anonymous said...

Why is assumed that only cheap seats will be axed? Obviously they are desperate to stay profitable as they're playing with their own money, but to cut off a huge portion of the potential fanbase is bad business. Of course the stadium would not be open to everyone, but that doesn't mean it's not open to anyone. Wait and see before crying classism.

gojohn10 said...

I'd rather have 37K or even 35K. But the flexibility of expansion is better than nothing. ML, I'm sure you have some great ideas how it could be done? Hmm, sounds like a potential post. Also, do we have any projections of what kind of draw the A's will be in SJ?

Marine Layer said...

The Camatic beam system used at Cowboys Stadium is a good way to do it. Speaking of which, did anyone catch its NFL debut last night? It is truly a monument to excess. I must visit next time I'm in DFW.

gojohn10 said...

That reminds me. I was in dallas in June. I asked a local what there was to do and he said "you gotta see the new cowboys stadium." He had no other suggestions.

gojohn10 said...

Also, I forgot about the Camatic beam. Here is the orginal post. You estimated that could expand Cisco a couple of thousand seats. It's a start.

Marine Layer said...

One more thing - 40,000 pretty much requires a third deck these days. That's where the cost comes from.

Jeffrey said...

So Ratto said today that the A's were asking San Jose for public financing of a stadium... Where did this come from? Anyone else read that differently?

Paul said...

..I recently talked to a most excellent source (to remain anonymous) who stressed to me that public financing will not happen for the A's in San Jose. Ratto really whiffed on this one. Take this Ratto column and line your birdcage or catbox with it - at least it would then be of soome use.

Marine Layer said...

I don't know where Ratto got that from either. He might be referring to City giving the A's the land, which has only been speculated. If he is, it's a stretch.

Jeffrey said...

Ratto has consistently misrepresented this situation from loooooong ago. If you are an opinion columnist, does that mean you don't have to actually know the facts?

Paul said...

..Frisco-based columnists want the team to stay in Oakland and resent San Jose becoming the over-achieving stepbrother of the favorite-child, flashier Frisco. So they won't offer any words of support for the A's going to San Jose...

Anonymous said...

I actually emailed Ray Ratto asking him to elaborate on the A's asking San Jose for public money. He shot back an email pretty quickly.

Here is Ratto's response:
The city is being asked to foot the bill for a parking structure, which is coming from public funds; this is what we know now, and we suspect there will be more.

Marine Layer said...

Yes, and virtually all parking in the area will be pitched as multi-use infrastructure (transit, ballpark, arena). I've written about this several times. There's no controversy there.

FC said...

Too bad Ratto didn't make the public funding issue clearer in his column. The way it was worded makes it appear as though public dollars would be used for the ballpark itself. This is what leads to public misconception

Anonymous said...

FC--do you think that was unintentional on his part? Thats what Ratto loves to do--throw half truths around to create misconceptions--all in an effort to undermine any effort of the A's to move to SJ---too bad the Merc didn't buy the Chronicle and fire his sorry ass--

Marine Layer said...

While local columnists have some sway, no one's going to them for in-depth reportage. No one's going to remember this particular Ratto column in 6 months. Once details are out the public can judge them on their merits.

Anonymous said...

ML--Agree with your overall sentiment--but keep in mind--the role of a reporter is to report facts and not try to influence perceptions--gotta question someone's integrity and motives who provides sound bites without clarification--

Marine Layer said...

Ray Ratto is a columnist, not a reporter.

FC said...

Aside from the TR, the biggest hurdle facing the A's will be financing. Everyone in San Jose is going to want to know who's paying for the ballpark. To throw out a misleading statement like he did just so that he can spice up his column and shovel more crap on the A's is just plain wrong. Maybe he's just expressing his opinion, but his opinion should be based on some facts.

Paul said...

re: The city is being asked to foot the bill for a parking structure, which is coming from public funds; this is what we know now, and we suspect there will be more.


..Are the A's going to play their games in a parking garage? Looks like Ratto just plain wants to believe the A's want public funding and truth be damned. Like I said, Frisco columnists, watching their city diminish in importance while San Jose rises to worldwide prominence, simply don't want anything else to happen that will further raise San Jose's profile. San Jose is a place where familes go; Frisco is a place where families leave (fewest number of under-18-year-olds of any major city in the US).

Jeffrey said...

I ahve now seen Ray Ratto on Chronicle Live peddling this sort of bull crap. I remember reaidng his takes on the publically funded ballpark in Fremont and having voters approve the funds, and now this sort of intentional misleading... It's a wonder I even waste my time reading that stuff. It's like reading Tim Kawakami in the Merc... Or Monte Poole in the Bay Area News Group papers... They are pretty much full of it and a waste fo time to read.

Anonymous said...

Jeffrey--agree--and what really ticks me off if it was Oakland not San Jose he would not be talking "publically funded" at all--it would be the best deal ever--he's a homer and like you said--one I care not to listen to anymore---

Marine Layer said...

Just to be clear, a ballpark in Oakland - whether at the Coliseum or Jack London Square - would require additional infrastructure such as parking and perhaps even revamped freeway ramps yet there's no new multi-use justification for it.