As part of efforts to pay down $4 billion in redevelopment debt, the City of San Jose is listing numerous properties owned by the now-dissolved San Jose Redevelopment Agency for sale. Included are the Jose Theater (Improv), Billy DeFrank Center (LGBT), two separate pieces of land on which the Hilton and Camera 12 sit, and numerous others. Many of the properties have liens on them or are tied into long-term ground leases, making them rather unattractive for speculators.
Notably absent from the list are the ballpark parcels near Diridon Station. Those properties were transferred to the San Jose Diridon Development Authority. The state may try to sue for those properties and put them under the control of the SJRA successor agency, though we haven’t seen indicators one way or another on such a move. For now any property sales have to be approved by the successor agency’s board, which is basically under the county’s control.
The notable property on the list is the $31 million North San Pedro site, also known as the Brandenburg property. It’s under contract with developer Barry Swenson for 600 housing units as well as a one-acre park, plus a rerouting of Julian Street through the area. Tony D. suggested a few weeks ago that the ballpark properties could be “swapped” with the North San Pedro parcels, resulting in a very clear site (10+ acres) for the stadium.
There are several issues with the Brandenburg property that could potentially outweigh any advantages it has in its ease of acquisition.
- The western edge of the site is less than 600 feet from the approach to the 30R runway at SJC airport. I’ve measured noise in the area, and it’s typically 10-15 db greater than at Diridon when a plane is flying over.
- Due to its proximity to the airport and landing approach, the FAA is going to put up a fight if any building proposal is higher than the one already approved for the area. According to project documents, the apartment buildings that have been approved for Barry Swenson are at most 76 feet tall. A ballpark will be at least 10-15 feet taller, probably more depending on how the lighting elements are designed and incorporated.
- At 0.8 miles walking distance from Diridon Station, Brandenburg is at the outer limits of what people are usually willing to walk to get to a stadium.
- A brand new EIR would have to be done, given the change of location and scope. It could take a year to complete, though the City could leverage some existing work such as the recent traffic study. While the NIMBY element at Shasta/Hanchett would be reduced, new NIMBYs from Ryland Park and the Northside could emerge. On the other hand, support could solidify from former Mayor Tom McEnery, who has several interests in San Pedro Square just two blocks away. San Pedro Square is situated so well that I figure that 60% of fans would end up going through it to get to a Brandenburg ballpark.
I don’t know exactly how the land swap would work. Santa Clara County is supposed to get half of the selling price due to its settlement with the City last year, but other than that wrinkle it’s a cut-and-dried deal. Since both the ballpark and Brandenburg sales are at option stage and have not yet been consummated, it could require recalculation of land prices since the ballpark deal was based on a specific land use. For Barry Swenson, the ballpark land probably isn’t all that attractive unless all of it can be acquired, including the AT&T and AERIS properties. Otherwise the developments would look very disjointed and there would be some potential hazards (high pressure flammable gas, electric substation).
It’s not a great option, but it’s out there if someone got really frustrated with how land negotiations were going. Of course, we’d have to get to the point of land negotiations first.