San Jose approves Draft Diridon Station Area Plan

As expected, the San Jose City Council approved the Draft Diridon Station Area Plan, which seeks to transform much of the area around the current transit hub into a destination district anchored by HP Pavilion and Cisco Field. Next up is an EIR for the entire 240-acre vision. Projected impacts will probably force a scaling down of the vision, especially because of limited future redevelopment funds.

Full buildout. North of the arena is the industrial/commercial sector. South of the ballpark is residential. Retail/commercial is between the ballpark and arena. Autumn Parkway is completed through the area.

Tracy Seipel’s article makes mention of the potential need for a master developer, as was the case for Mission Bay (Wilson Meany Sullivan) and the Kansas City Power and Light district (Cordish). The same strategy was employed during planning for the Fremont ballpark, with Gensler as the master developer. While such a strategy could properly unify what would probably be disparate elements of the plan, threats to redevelopment make such a broad scope less realistic. As long as the plan sets out proper guidelines for how development should occur (which it does), the spirit of the area plan should be fairly easy to uphold. Just about everything larger than a single family house will require an EIR on its own.

Lew Wolff said in the past few months that he wouldn’t have anything to do with developing the critical Central area framed by the train station, arena, and ballpark. Knowing how the city fathers have failed time and time again in trying to turn the original downtown into a viable retail district, current civic leaders and developers should not have grand designs on proceeding down a similar path with this. There are three key reasons:

  • No free parking. I don’t mean validated parking, I mean unfettered free parking. Valley shoppers are too used to it and won’t react well to not having it, even if it’s a good idea to charge from a multimodal planning standpoint. Even though Valley Fair and Santana Row are logistical nightmares during the holiday shopping season, people deal with it. A big reason for this is free parking.
  • Inflexibility with events at the arena and ballpark. Parking and access will be heavily impact on event days, especially days when events are happening at both venues. It could create an environment in which locals stay away from the area while events are on. Locals want convenience, and events make convenience difficult to achieve.
  • Market conditions. Development could stretch out over a decade after the project begins thanks to the timing of the BART and HSR projects. That could make it difficult for developers and retailers to gamble on moving in as long as the area remains in a seemingly perpetual state of upheaval.

Historically, San Jose has sought to bring in high-end brands to attract the more well-heeled. The Pavilion downtown failed miserably in that regard, and stopped being a mall over a decade ago. Santana Row opened with numerous tony boutiques. Several years later, most of them have been replaced by typical mall stores.

None of this is to say that the Central area can’t be successful. There is one brand that could conceivably defy San Jose’s jinx and make things work in the end: Apple. Apple could open a store in a toxic waste dump and it’d be successful. They’ve looked at opening stores at or inside highly trafficked transit hubs, including Grand Central Terminal. So if there’s one tenant that the developers and landlords should pursue, it’s the Cupertino tech company. But wouldn’t it be ironic if this district, which at 900-feet long is less than a block shorter than Santana Row, stole business from the San Pedro and SoFA neighborhoods? I could see it.

10 thoughts on “San Jose approves Draft Diridon Station Area Plan

  1. Anyone who thinks high speed rail is coming through San Jose any time soon is delusional. The state is broke, the federal government is bankrupt, and the fares from the proposed system won’t cover operating costs, let alone construction costs. They might as well remove it from the plan.

  2. Simply beautiful. Hey RM, looks like Tea Party folk read your blog as well; “no taxes for nothin!”

  3. I like this plan. However, the one thing that’s always bugged me about downtown San Jose is the awkward way of getting there from the 880 corridor. Will they ever build an interchange at 87-880 or will it forever be closed off? It’s so weird. Right now I have to slog through either First St. or Coleman Ave. Are they expecting people to take Coleman then the connecting Autumn Parkway?

    • @John – Unfortunately there’s no room to build the kind of interchange that people want (880 S to 87 S and vice-versa). Elevated ramps are a no-no because of FAA height restrictions as the runways are only a few hundred feet away. People coming down 880 will, as you suggest, have to take Coleman-Autumn or The Alameda. It might actually be faster to take 1st and jump over to 4th, or Gish to 10th. The city doesn’t like people speeding down there, not that I know anything about that. 😉

  4. That area between the HP Pavillion and Cisco Field would be just awesome

    • That area between the HP Pavillion and Cisco Field would be just awesome

      It’ll definetely be the place to be!

  5. That’s a shame about a potential 87-880 interchange. Having it would make life so much easier. Couldn’t they construct a loop ramp instead of a flyover? Besides downtown SJ, not having an interchange makes getting to parts of South SJ a pain like the Oakridge Mall area. Right now if I travel there I take 880 S –> 101 S –> 280 N –> 87 S. A little convoluted but it works. I guess I could exit at Brokaw and get on 87 S from either Charcot or Skyport but I hate using surface streets if I don’t have to.

    Speaking of Charcot, wasn’t there talk a long time ago about creating an exit for it on 880? To relieve traffic from Montague and Brokaw? If they did that the city could potentially turn it into a mini-expressway to facilitate traffic from 880 to 87. I know in Fremont Mission Blvd. and to a lesser extent Automall are used this way to move traffic between 880 and 680 in lieu of a real freeway.

  6. John,
    Old Thomas Guide maps of SCCo showed a dotted proposed interchange for 87-880. Since around 2000, the proposed interchange (complete with high-speed ramps) has disappeared from the maps. Probably coincided with the second SJC runway built closer to the terminals and 87 (why SJC has two full-length runways is beyony me). However, the city/county/state could still build a “half” interchange at 87-880 (if you will); high-speed ramp from north 87 to northbound 880, complete with braided configuration with 1st. Street off-ramps, and cloverleaf connector for south 880 to southbound 87 (to address height issue with SJC). This could work I believe.

  7. @TonyD/John: I believe the issue that Mr Roadshow always quotes is that 880 already has way more than the recommended number of exits per mile in the stretch between Gish and the Alameda to be able to add yet another one for 87.

  8. Thanks for the info erw. Perhaps the VTA, City of SJ should (in the future) consider sacrificing the 1st Street ramps for a limited interchange at 87/880.
    Think I’ll send Mr. Richards an email.

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