San Jose site acquisition continues

Update (10:50 PM): San Jose City Council is expected to vote on the acquisition next Tuesday (November 8).

The City of San Jose is set to buy a key property on the proposed Diridon South ballpark site. The property in question is the former Stephen’s Meat Products factory, which is distinctive for its “dancing pig” neon sign that greets drivers going south on Montgomery Street. The 1 acre site could cost up to $5.7 million.

Unlike what’s happening in DC, the properties at Diridon South are expected to sell for actual market value through negotiations, meaning eminent domain isn’t expected to be used. That should also ensure that there are no lengthy legal battles over the value of the land. That issue has ensnared the DC acquisition process enough to cause some waffling over the plan, even putting the projected timeline in jeopardy.

The downside is that the total cost of the land will be high – somewhere in the neighborhood of $60 million. So far, the money has come from the sale of other properties, notably the Brandenburg/North San Pedro site, upon which new residential towers will be built.

Stadium foes such as Kathy Chavez-Napoli have criticized the acquisition because they believe that it violates the city’s own laws which dictate that no money can be spent on the building of a sports facility without a vote. The city’s redevelopment arm (SJRA) may have an out because the land is being acquired with no specific purpose yet. It could be used for housing (per the Diridon/Arena planning document), a ballpark, or other commercial uses. The city’s legal counsel has signed off on the legality of the acquisitions, though it does appear pretty clear what the greater purpose is. Whatever your take is on the subject, San Jose is well on their way to acquiring the site prior to a November 2006 ballot measure.

The leading question is – how is San Jose going to arrange its proposal? Will it offer to sell the land to a developer who can then build the ballpark? Or will it keep the land and arrange a long-term lease for the ballpark developer (the Giants/China Basin deal)? And what of surrounding parcels, some of which are also ripe for development of anything from parking structures to office towers to mixed-use residential development, such as a ballpark village?

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