Another Airport West land deal + Muni budget item approved

Well, there goes a potential backup plan.

San Jose is getting ready to restructure the land deal (also see rendering) at the Airport West (FMC) property. In February, the City approved the Earthquakes Stadium project, which is to be located on the southern end of the property. Originally, the Wolff-Fisher group planned to build offices and perhaps a hotel on the remainder of the land. Now that remainder will be developed by South Bay developer Hunter Storm, with the section closest to the train tracks set aside for new soccer fields adjacent to the Earthquakes training pitch.

Overlay showing how Airport West property will be subdivided. Earthquakes practice field is the green block on the furthest right.

That last part is especially new, because that land was initially destined to be part of a BART maintenance facility. With BART for now terminating at Berryessa while full funding for the rest of the Silicon Valley extension is to be determined, the land would sit idle if not for this change. Plans currently call for an expansion of the Hayward BART maintenance facility to accommodate the extension, and there may be an option along the extension line for another yard if called for.

The controversial part is that in executing this land deal, the total proceeds to the City will go down $10 million. While the City has an equivalent surplus, in the previous agreement Wolff wasn’t expected to complete the land purchase until 2015. In the new proposal, Hunter Storm would pay for its share of the land by the end of the month. Revenues from the Quakes Stadium and the soccer fields would begin in 2013.

As for the Earthquakes Stadium itself, the article mentions that it’s under FAA review/audit. Apparently this is because the FAA wants to check out light spillage from the stadium light design to ensure that it doesn’t create any difficulties for air traffic. Problems don’t seem likely, but this is a bureaucratic government organization we’re talking about. Already the FAA has determined that both the 49ers stadium and Cisco Field would require temporary flight restrictions due to the way they are sited within the SJC flight path. The FAA review is the only issue remaining that delays stadium construction.

I’ll be at the City Council session later today to cover this issue.

Just across the wire – City Council voted 8-3 to approve $85,000 in improvements to Municipal Stadium. Noted is the fact that the City Council can reopen discussions later over how the Giants’ subsidies are spent – especially if they’re used to fund a lawsuit against the City. Later is probably 2013, when the lease is due for renegotiation. Will there still be a lawsuit in play at that point? We’ll see over the next year or so. One thing to keep in mind – as long as the uncertainty regarding the lease and lawsuit hang over the club, it would be hard for ownership to sell the franchise to new San Jose-based interests. Outside San Jose, that’s a different story. The City Council was careful to say that there’s room for both teams within city limits, a posture that has really only come to the forefront in the last couple of years.

11 thoughts on “Another Airport West land deal + Muni budget item approved

  1. Glad to see they’re finally moving along with the rest of the FMC site development. It was going to be pretty sad if the Quakes stadium had to open and be next to nothing but empty lots. Also glad to see their finalizing putting the youth fields into the overall complex. It will really tie in the new stadium and team practice facility in with the youth soccer programs of the south bay. Also thanks for clarifying what the FAA audit was about ML. Initially it had been hinted in Feb that the audit had something to do with the funding mechanism for the site when the city bought it from FMC, but now that it seems it’s just a light pollution issue it is much less worrying. Particularly since the Quakes added a roof to the stadium which will keep most of the light aimed where it belongs.
    .
    Regarding the SJ Giants, also glad to see the city holding the team accountable for their actions while also still abiding by their existing contracts. Right move on both counts since you don’t want the city breaking contracts and at the same time the Giants shouldn’t be using San Jose’s own funds against them. Particularly if Liccardo is right and Selig could use the lawsuit to potentially block an A’s move to SJ if it turns out badly for the A’s and city.

  2. @ Dan – it is not the first ever for SJ, only the SJ Gnats:

    Next year’s event will mark the first time that Municipal Stadium has hosted the California-Carolina League All-Star Game, but will be the fifth time overall. San Jose hosted California League All-Star games in 1949, 1962, 1984 and 1985.

  3. Anon, they’ve only been holding the California-Carolina All Star game for 17 years. The previous All Star games SJ hosted were only California League ASGs.

  4. The land not counting the Earthquakes stadium was planned by San Jose to be part of the development around the Santa Clara BART station. They did want office buildings and some retail. The area to the west of the Hunter Storm property is the city of Santa Clara.
    .
    I was always under the impression that this land would be developed when BART is being built to the city of Santa Clara. This 1.5 million sq. ft. development along with the other 2 developments totaling near 3 million sq ft. near Guadalupe and 101 and 1st seems to show that large Class A space demand is moving down into San Jose from Mountain View and Santa Clara.
    .
    I think this is an OK solution for a soccer stadium but would have been a very poor location for the A’s. It would have been like the current location in Oakland where there is only a small amount of retail within walking distance of the stadium surrounded by an airport, offices and some other industrial uses. Freeway access to 880 is really close so most people would just drive in, watch the game, and then drive out.

  5. STH, no the plan was actually do develop it for the airport originally before it proved cost prohibitive and they went with the somewhat misguided expansion of the airport on the existing side of the field. After that they had no real plans for the land beyond the small portion what was supposed to be held aside for the BART yard (which they also don’t apparently need anymore). The rest of the land was laying fallow until Wolff/Storm came along. And even then they’ve not been in too big of a hurry to develop it since they’ve held the purchase option for several years and have yet to exercise it.

  6. @ Dan – thank for the clarification…

  7. Does anyone know where the San Jose State Baseball team currently play their games? On Campus? Do they ever play at SJ Muni? Just curious..This year the Arizona Wildcats moved their Baseball operations off campus to Hi Corbett Field in Tucson and Arizona State is now talking about maybe moving off campus to Phoenix Muni after the A’s vacate and move their Spring Training to Mesa(HoHoKam). I’m wondering if the city of San Jose would ever be interested in leasing SJ Muni to SJSU? It would probably bring in a lot more revenue than SJ Giants lease…Not sure though if SJ State already has a better facility than SJ Muni or whether that would be a step down or not…..don’t know. It would be kind of funny to see the city tell the Giants to take a hike.

  8. SJSU already use Muni for bigger games and the field across Alma from Muni for smaller ones.

  9. “Apparently this is because the FAA wants to check out light spillage from the stadium light design to ensure that it doesn’t create any difficulties for air traffic. ”

    ??? are you sure ??

    the City Attorney’s office mentions “(…) auditors from the FAA provided the City with a draft audit finding improper use of Airport revenues by the City in three areas of expenditure”, one of which deals with the Airport West property bought with airport lease revenue bonds but not actually used for airport operations/capital improvements, which, since the City receives federal assistance for the airport is deemed improper. The City contests this. See the last couple of pages (under “LITIGATION”) of http://www.sanjoseca.gov/clerk/Agenda/20111115/20111115_0601aappa.pdf

  10. I remember them discussing it at the meeting in Feb, which seems to be a few months after that paper was written up. And the city seemed unconcerned about it since the FMC property was bought for the planned airport expansion in the 90’s that became infeasible later on due to the dot com bubble bursting, loss of traffic in and out of SJC and the 2000’s economic downturn.

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