San Jose Sharks take another bite out of Google development proposal
The San Jose Sharks said the Diridon Station development could jeopardize fans’ ability to access SAP Center and turn the nearby area into a ghost town. Photo courtesy of the San Jose Sharks.

The San Jose Sharks say they want 4,800 parking spaces in exchange for their approval of Google’s proposed downtown campus—nearly 2,000 more than what the city promises to maintain during construction.

The team took a bigger bite out of the the city’s development agreement with Google on Sunday, posting a newsletter that urged fans to contact the San Jose Planning Commission ahead of their Wednesday night hearing on the project.

“We are disappointed that we cannot support the Downtown West project as currently planned,” the newsletter sent to fans on April 25 reads. “The city should not allow this project to proceed at the cost of the arena’s future or the success of the Sharks franchise in San Jose.”

The Sharks have long been vocal about the need for parking near SAP Center, publishing an open letter specifying their needs during construction of Google’s proposed 80-acre megacampus. Weeks ago, the team stated its opposition to the 495-page development agreement during a Diridon Station Area Advisory Group meeting, the first remarks since the agreement became public on April 6.

In its latest letter, the team said the city is offering Google an unprecedented level of freedom to build as it pleases on the project site.

“The city will give Google broad and guaranteed long-term development rights, which basically provide them carte-blanche to develop within their project as they see fit without concern of how that may impact the greater Diridon area,” the newsletter reads. “These rights would eliminate the City’s authority to fix or alleviate future, unexpected problems that the project may cause towards the safe and successful operation of SAP Center—or any other business in the region.”

The city and Google have not met any of the team’s requests, according to the newsletter. These include keeping Google from developing the parking lots until the company and city devise a logistical plan to preserve parking. The draft development agreement for the Downtown West proposal requires at least 2,850 parking spots to be maintained throughout construction, but doesn’t say exactly how this would be achieved.

The Sharks are calling for the city to up the minimum parking requirement to 4,800 spaces and to build more parking on the north side of the arena. The team also asked the city to create a construction impact management plan to show how construction of the campus would be tailored to minimize negative effects on the area.

Economic Development Director Nanci Klein said the city has worked extensively with the Sharks and has incorporated suggestions from the team into its plans for the area, such as entertaining the possibility of extending Autumn Parkway southward to St. John Street. Klein said staff consulted with traffic experts to estimate the impact of construction on the area, and said Google’s proposal should be able to accommodate traffic during events.

“The combination of investments in the Diridon area, including the Downtown West project, will collectively improve the arena goer experience—adding things to do before and after events, enhancing transportation options, and increasing safety through more street life,” Klein said. “The city will continue working with the Sharks to address their concerns prior to City Council consideration of the Downtown West project and in any subsequent phases of work.”

San Jose collected comments from residents during its outreach for the Diridon Station area between Sept. 16, 2020 and Jan. 25, showing their top concern was that the Google project would push the Sharks out of the city. Commenters said the city should work with the team to provide parking and transit options to limit traffic congestion in the area.

Sharks Sports and Entertainment, the managing entity of the hockey team, signed a letter of intent with San Jose in 2018 to maintain fan access to parking near SAP Center. Last year, the city granted Google the option to purchase parking lots A, B and C, located directly next to the arena, so that the tech giant could eventually develop the property.

But the Sharks say Google’s ability to buy the lots require the team’s consent, adding that the team allowed the city to grant Google the purchase option “with the understanding that SSE’s rights under the Arena Management Agreement would not be diminished.”

Parking Lots A, B and C directly abut SAP Center. Image courtesy of Google.

“Unfortunately, to date we have not been able to come to an agreement with the City and Google about these important matters,” the Sharks wrote in their letter. “At this time, (Sharks Sports and Entertainment) is not willing to consent to the sale of parking lots A, B & C to Google.”

San Jose Councilmember Raul Peralez, whose district includes SAP Center, said he’s not surprised by the Sharks’ opposition to the agreement.

“They have been voicing opposition since the beginning,” Peralez said.

The councilmember said the Arena Management Agreement the Sharks and city signed earlier in the millennium requires the city to maintain a minimum number of parking spaces near the arena.

The city could face legal consequences for failing to meet that agreement, but Peralez said he doesn’t expect a Sharks lawsuit to hold water in court. The team sued the Federal Transit Administration in 2018, litigating the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority’s handling of the BART extension to downtown San Jose. The judge denied the Sharks’ motion for a judgment in August.

“The direction that we are trying to go as a city in developing out this area… the goal is not to keep it car-centric,” Peralez said. “This is what makes the Sharks nervous.”

The city plans for cars to deliver no more than 35% of trips in and out of the Diridon area, with Google on the hook for millions of dollars in fines if vehicle trips exceed that proportion.

Shiloh Ballard, executive director of the Bicycle Coalition, said the Sharks’ plea for parking amounts to little more than entitled blubbering. She said stadiums in many cities are able to hold events without providing fields worth of parking spaces.

“(The Sharks) are a tantrum-throwing child who threatens to run away from home if they don’t get their way,” Ballard said. “Given where they are situated, adjacent to the bike trail and across from a future world-class transit station, (they) should be putting every bit of energy they have into leveraging those assets instead of trying to put San Jose in reverse to a 1950’s auto-oriented mentality.”

Peralez said times are changing and that it’s not fair to generalize Sharks fans as people averse to public transit.

“We want to get more people out of their cars… it’s a shift for all of us,” Peralez said. “People will be more than willing to come in through Diridon.”

Peralez said he doesn’t foresee any dramatic changes to the agreement.

“Regardless of who is developing here, it’s the goal for the city to create multimodal neighborhoods and communities,” Peralez said. “This is not about Google, or taking sides against the Sharks.”

The Sharks urged fans to contact the San Jose City Council to voice their concerns, as well as the San Jose Planning Commission ahead of their Wednesday hearing on the Google proposal.

Contact Sonya Herrera at [email protected] or follow @SMHsoftware on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.