SAN JOSE — After losing a long and winding legal fight to bring baseball to the heart of downtown, San Jose leaders appear to be abandoning their quest for a stadium and are turning their focus to new development prospects in the highly coveted area around the proposed ballpark site.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear San Jose’s last-ditch appeal of its antitrust claims against Major League Baseball for stalling a plan to move the Oakland A’s to Silicon Valley. The high court was considered San Jose’s last hope in forcing the league to allow the A’s to build a ballpark in downtown San Jose.
The proposed stadium would have spanned more than eight parcels near San Fernando Street and Park Avenue, taking over the land previously owned by San Jose’s redevelopment agency, near the region’s largest transit hub, the Diridon transit station. There are many other possibilities for the land, however, which is also close to the city’s arena.
“This is a very prime area because of its multi-mobile usage with a great transportation network,” said Richard Keit, the successor agency’s managing director.
Last month, developer Trammell Crow announced a major office, retail and housing project on 8.3 acres nearby. The project, called #Diridon, calls for a high-tech campus, including two office buildings and 325 apartment units in a nine-story building.
Mayor Sam Liccardo said the unique location of the proposed ballpark site, especially its proximity to the region’s major transit center, makes it a jewel for development — with or without the new stadium.
“The great news is downtown is revitalizing at a pace that we haven’t seen in generations without Major League Baseball, and it’s going to continue to revitalize,” Liccardo said. “So if anything, I think this helps us really focus on the opportunities that are squarely in front of us. We’ve got an enormous amount of development interest, and we’re seeing a real boom in the downtown.”
Former Mayor Chuck Reed, who was in office when the litigation began, agreed the high court’s decision won’t diminish San Jose’s downtown landscape. “Having a stadium would have had a big impact on downtown, but it’s doing quite nicely without baseball,” Reed said.
Despite the legal decision Monday, the Oakland A’s still have a multiyear option agreement on the downtown San Jose land until November 2018, Keit said, which means it can’t be sold to anyone else.
“They still have an option to acquire the land if they were to proceed with moving the team down here,” Keit said. “My guess is Lew (Wolff) is not going to eliminate the option agreement yet — until they know for sure they have a site in Oakland.”
Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio disagrees with holding the land for Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff. The push to bring the A’s to San Jose was a “one-way sales pitch,” Oliverio said Monday, with Major League Baseball failing to communicate with city officials. The veteran councilman said the land should now be put back out to bid.
In addition to building a ballpark, the option agreement allows Wolff to develop a mixed-use development with retail and office space, similar to the #Diridon proposal.
“Right now, Lew Wolff has an option on this land, and he’s going to think he’s first in line to develop the property,” Oliverio said. “But now that baseball is dead, we should look at the parcels and zone them for the maximum economic impact for the city.”
An artist’s rendering of the proposed San Jose ballpark, looking east toward the downtown skyline. (Wolff Urban Development) (None)
The Diridon site is one of the most underutilized parts of downtown, land use consultant Erik Schoennauer said, but has booming potential because of projects like a future BART station, high-speed rail and access to the SAP Center, one of the busiest sports and entertainment complexes in the country.
Schoennauer, who represented Trammell Crow in the #Diridon project, said the stadium would have brought an estimated 2.4 million people to the city for 81 baseball games a year. But the economic benefit of having a new retail and office development — including the estimated 9,000 jobs it brings — will deliver a longer-lasting boost to the local economy.
“You’ll never have 30,000 people all at once,” he said, “but you’ll have a constant amount of people more days of the year.”
For their part, the A’s are now focusing their efforts on Oakland, having held several talks with Oakland city officials and retained an architecture firm to draft designs for a new ballpark adjacent to the aging O.Co Coliseum. But the team so far hasn’t submitted a formal proposal. The city is also talking to the Oakland Raiders about a possible stadium at the site, but the teams have indicated they don’t believe there is enough space or sponsorship dollars for two facilities at that location.
Not everyone has given up on San Jose’s baseball dreams. And just as in the world of sports, some Oakland A’s enthusiasts are still hoping for a walk-off home run in the ninth inning.
“I don’t think it’s over. We’ve got another inning or two to play,” said Scott Knies, executive director of the San Jose Downtown Association. “We are a city that’s deserving of a Major League franchise.”
Former Mayor Reed predicted the A’s will come knocking on San Jose’s door sooner than later.
“I think they’ll fail again in Oakland as they have many times before, and the A’s will be back talking to Mayor Liccardo,” he said. “Now we wait for Oakland to strike out again, and we’ll still be here.”
Staff writer Howard Mintz contributed to this report.
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