The San Jose Sharks want 4,800 parking spaces in return for approving Google’s planned downtown campus – nearly 2,000 more than the city is promising to get during construction.
The team took a bigger bite out of the city’s development deal with Google on Sunday and released a newsletter urging fans to contact the San Jose Planning Commission prior to their hearing on the project on Wednesday night.
“We are disappointed that we cannot support the Downtown West project as currently planned,” said the newsletter sent to fans on April 25th. “The city should not allow this project to continue at the expense of the future of the arena or the success of the Sharks franchise in San Jose.”
The Sharks have long been vocal about the need for parking near the SAP Center and published an open letter specifying their needs during the construction of Google’s planned 80 hectare megacampus. Weeks ago, during a meeting of the Diridon Station Area Advisory Group, the team announced their opposition to the 495-page development agreement, the first comments since the agreement was released on April 6th.
In their latest letter, the team said the city offers Google an unprecedented level of freedom to build however they want on the project site.
“The city will give Google extensive and guaranteed long-term development rights that basically give them a free pass to develop their project at their own discretion without worrying about how that might affect the greater Diridon area,” it said Newsletter. “These rights would remove the authority of the city to resolve or alleviate future, unexpected problems that the project could cause for the safe and successful operation of the SAP Center – or any other company in the region.”
According to the newsletter, the city and Google did not respond to any of the team’s inquiries. This includes preventing Google from developing the parking spaces until the company and the city work out a logistical plan to maintain the parking spaces. The draft of the development agreement for the Downtown West design stipulates that at least 2,850 parking spaces must be kept during the entire construction period, but does not say exactly how this is to be achieved.
The Haie are calling on the city to increase the minimum parking requirement to 4,800 spaces and to build more parking spaces on the north side of the arena. The team also asked the city to prepare a construction sequence management plan to show how the campus construction would be tailored to minimize any negative impact on the area.
Economic Development Director Nanci Klein said the city had worked extensively with the sharks and included suggestions from the team in their plans for the area, such as the ability to extend Autumn Parkway south to St. John Street . Klein said staff had consulted with traffic experts to assess the impact of the construction on the area and said Google’s proposal should be able to accommodate traffic during the events.
“The combination of investments in the Diridon area, including the Downtown West project, will work together to improve the arena visitor experience with additional activities before and after the events, improved transportation and increased safety with more street life,” said Klein. “The city will continue to work with the Sharks to address their concerns prior to the city council’s review of the Downtown West project and at all subsequent stages of work.”
San Jose gathered comments from local residents while serving the Diridon Station area between September 16, 2020 and January 25, showing that their greatest concern was that the Google project would drive the sharks out of the city. Commentators said the city should work with the team to provide parking and transit options to help limit traffic jams in the area.
Sharks Sports and Entertainment, the senior unit of the hockey team, signed a letter of intent with San Jose in 2018 to maintain fan access to the parking lots near the SAP Center. Last year, the city gave Google the option to buy the A, B and C car parks right next to the arena so that the tech giant can eventually develop the property.
However, the Sharks say that Google’s ability to purchase the land requires the team’s approval, adding that the team allowed the city to grant Google the option to buy, “with the understanding that SSE’s rights are under of the Arena Management Contract would not be affected ”.
Parking lots A, B and C are directly adjacent to the SAP Center. Image courtesy of Google.
“Unfortunately, we have not yet been able to come to an agreement with the city and Google on these important matters,” the Haie wrote in their letter. “At this time, (Sharks Sports and Entertainment) is not ready to approve the sale of car parks A, B and C to Google.”
Raul Peralez, a councilor for San Jose, whose district includes the SAP Center, said he was not surprised by the Sharks’ rejection of the agreement.
“You have expressed resistance from the start,” said Peralez.
The city council member said the arena management agreement that the Haie and the city signed at the beginning of the millennium required the city to maintain a minimum number of parking spaces near the arena.
The city could face legal ramifications for failing to honor this agreement, but Peralez said he doesn’t expect a Sharks lawsuit to be upheld in court. The team sued the Federal Transit Administration in 2018, suing the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s handling of the BART expansion to downtown San Jose. The judge denied the Sharks’ motion for a verdict in August.
“The direction that we as a city want to take in developing this area … the goal is not to keep it auto-centered,” said Peralez. “That makes the sharks nervous.”
The city plans that cars make no more than 35% of trips in and out of the Diridon area, with Google facing millions in fines if car trips exceed that percentage.
Shiloh Ballard, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition, said the sharks’ plea for parking was little more than legitimate chatter. She said stadiums in many cities could host events without providing fields’ worth of parking.
“(The Sharks) are a tantrum kid who threatens to run away from home if they don’t get their way,” Ballard said. “Given the location, next to the bike path and across from a future premier transit station, (they) should invest whatever energy they have into utilizing these assets instead of trying to reverse the state of San Jose from the car-centric mentality of the 50s Years. “
Peralez said times are changing and that it is not fair to generalize Sharks fans as people who are reluctant to use public transport.
“We want to get more people out of their cars … it’s a change for all of us,” said Peralez. “People will be more than ready to get through Diridon.”
Peralez said he did not foresee any dramatic changes to the agreement.
“Regardless of who develops here, the city’s goal is to create multimodal neighborhoods and communities,” said Peralez. “This is not about Google or taking sides against the sharks.”
The Sharks urged fans to contact the San Jose City Council ahead of their Wednesday hearing on the Google proposal to share their concerns as well as the San Jose Planning Commission.
Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.