Sharks warn San Jose downtown development may force them out 
SAP Center inks a five-year extension with the city to keep its name at the downtown arena, home to the San Jose Sharks. Photo courtesy of the San Jose Sharks.

    The Sharks fear the impacts of a massive redevelopment of Diridon Station — which includes Google’s megacampus — could force them out of San Jose. The NHL team says its concerns have fallen on deaf ears for more than a year.

    Now, they’re pleading with the public to help save the SAP Center, home to the Sharks’ games, which neighbors Diridon Station.

    “We don’t want to go — San Jose is our home. We were born here, we were raised here,” Jonathan Becher, president of Sharks Sports & Entertainment, told San José Spotlight. “But if people can’t get in and out, we might get forced out.”

    In an open letter asking for public support, the Sharks said the ongoing construction, lack of parking and street closures from redevelopment within the Diridon Station neighborhood could jeopardize access to the SAP Center and turn the area near Diridon Station into a ghost town.

    “For more than a year, we have been sharing our concerns with you regarding the proposed, massive development projects within the Diridon area of downtown San Jose, which surrounds SAP Center,” team officials wrote in a letter that was widely distributed.

    “For the past several years, we have been sharing those same concerns with city of San Jose officials and Google,” the letter continued. “Unfortunately, those discussions have yielded limited results and the planners of these projects appear intent on moving forward in a manner that could force the Sharks out of San Jose.”

    An outline of the Diridon Station area is pictured.

    The team’s fears escalated when San Jose last month released its revised Diridon Station Area Plan (DSAP), which outlines the redevelopment of approximately 250 acres. It also released an environmental report for the sprawling Google campus, called the Downtown West Mixed-Use Plan.

    The two proposals could add an additional 60,000 workers to the Diridon Station area. Google’s campus will add 65 new buildings over 84 acres, the largest development project in the history of downtown San Jose.

    The Sharks say there’s not nearly enough parking to accommodate the army of new tech workers in the area. Google’s project plans call for just 2,850 parking spots for their 30,000 employees.

    “Without an adequate supply of parking for the tens of thousands of additional cars coming to the area, the streets surrounding SAP Center are likely to be hopelessly gridlocked,” the team’s letter says.

    These shortfalls will be exacerbated by the extension of BART to Diridon Station, Caltrain and high-speed rail, the team said. None of those projects plan for additional parking in the area to support their ridership.

    San Jose cut a deal in the 1990s with the hockey team to ensure parking near SAP Center would be readily available for fans. That deal was renewed in 2018. Now that Google is seeking to buy three parking lots traditionally occupied during Sharks games for its tech campus, the team is being squeezed out of the city.

    Becher said he’s hoping the city will hold up its end of the bargain.

    Nanci Klein, director of economic development, said the city fully intends to provide the Sharks with the resources they need to thrive.

    “The city of San Jose has always deeply valued the Sharks and we will continue to,” Klein said, adding as the projects progress, the city will work out a “very thoughtful and detailed construction plan.” Such plans typically don’t happen until later in the development stage, according to Klein.

    Klein said the city will honor its parking agreement with the Sharks but that transitioning and coordinating with new public transit will take time to sort out.

    “It’s not a lack of willingness or a lack of understanding,” Klein said. “I assure you there will be a tremendous amount of coordination on construction mitigation. We totally get the Sharks need to do that. It’s strictly wanting to know more about the specifics of the project.”

    This is not the first time a massive project threatened the future of parking near the arena. In 2018, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority teased a 1,300-space parking garage as it drafted plans for upgraded BART facilities at Diridon Station. VTA never followed through, leading the unhappy Sharks to sue in both Superior and Federal Courts.

    SAP Center is not just home to hockey games. It also hosts dozens of concerts and live events every year. The Sharks are eligible to play at SAP Center through 2025 but can potentially extend their contract until 2040.

    In addition to parking concerns, Sharks officials say they also worry about street network access.

    The 2040 San Jose General Plan predicts that in 20 years, 60% of all trips will still be made by car, according to the team’s letter. Google’s development plan alone is projected to increase automobile trips to 136,600 a day from 19,200.

    But San Jose is planning to reduce future street access in and out of Diridon Station.

    Traffic on Santa Clara Street in front of SAP Center is proposed to be reduced from four lanes to two lanes and the main routes connecting SAP Center to Highway 280 and Bird Avenue are also expected to be reduced from four lanes to two lanes — one in each direction.

    Becher said projects such as BART, Caltrain and high speed rail will add thousands of automobile trips to the Diridon Station area.

    Diridon Station in downtown San Jose is at the center of massive redevelopment plans, which includes Google’s proposed megacampus. Photo by Carly Wipf.

    “It all comes down to the city honoring their commitment they made to the Sharks years ago,” said Bob Staedler, a principal with Silicon Valley Synergy, a San Jose land-use development firm. “It’s time that the city steps up to the table and figures it out.”

    Staedler said the current traffic management plan for the arena is “one of the most effective arena traffic plans in the country.” He said the Sharks’ concern over ease of access amid development is a valid one.

    “When the Shark Tank lets out, it clears in like 20 minutes,” he said. “The city has not been able to find the will to just maintain what’s been working for 20 years.”

    The team said it is also deeply concerned that simultaneous construction from all these projects — which could last 10 to 15 years — will hinder fans’ ability to access the arena.

    “There does not appear to be a plan that ensures SAP Center patrons can continue to safely and conveniently access the arena, and that our neighbors can maintain their quality of life during this transformational period,” the letter said.

    Becher cited lack of coordination between Google and DSAP projects as a major roadblock. He said the Sharks are asking the city to refrain from narrowing roads and ensure Google and VTA construction does not happen simultaneously.

    In past public meetings, Google has indicated efforts to accommodate some of the Sharks’ needs.

    Woody Hanson, with San Francisco-based design firm, SITELAB urban studio, which is working on the Google plans, said the campus could include an event plaza capable of hosting Sharks pre-game activities.

    Becher said the team has had productive conversations with Google and the tech giant has listened to the team’s needs, but ultimately, the power lies in the city’s hands.

    “The parking obligation is actually the city’s obligation, not Google’s,” Becher said. “Google may help them out. But that would be a Google deal with the city — not with us.”

    In the letter, the Sharks urged residents to help save SAP Center by providing feedback on the city’s Diridon Planning page or speaking out at a community meeting on Dec. 3. The San Jose City Council is holding a study session Nov. 16 to go over the plans.

    “We hope that you will share your concerns with your local elected officials and ask them to ensure that city planners address the street capacity issues, parking shortfalls and construction impacts in a manner that does not jeopardize SAP Center,” the letter concluded. “Without this support, the arena simply cannot survive.”

    Contact Carly Wipf at [email protected] or follow @CarlyChristineW on Twitter.

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