SAN JOSE The Sharks Sports & Entertainment company has filed a lawsuit in federal court over parking concerns at a planned BART station in downtown San Jose, even as its involved in conversations to resolve the issue.
Its the second suit from the company against the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which is paying for and managing a 6-mile extension of BART from the Berryessa station through downtown San Jose and Santa Clara. It comes just two months after the VTA and BART both officially approved the project and as the VTA is seeking $1.5 billion in federal funds to complete the $4.6 billion extension.
The company filed the first suit against the VTA in May in Santa Clara County Superior Court, and the federal lawsuit filed Friday is the next step because the VTA is seeking environmental clearance and funding from federal authorities. The federal suit mirrors the earlier suit, said Sharks spokesman Jim Sparaco.
While we support the extension of BART to San Jose, it needs to be done in the right way, Sparaco said in a statement. We have filed these suits to protect one of San Joses most valuable assets and to help ensure we maintain the safety and comfort of everyone who comes to SAP Center.
It was a move the city and the VTA expected, said San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, who also chairs the VTAs governing board.
The suit alleges the VTA failed to adequately plan for lost parking at the SAP Center, as well as construction impacts near the sports and concert venue, which annually draws some 1.5 million visitors, according to the Sharks. Sharks Sports & Entertainment manages the SAP arena and owns the Sharks hockey team.
In addition to VTA light rail and Caltrain service, Diridon Station is preparing to host BART and high-speed rail. The station sits directly across from the SAP along Santa Clara Avenue. Google also has targeted the area in its recent real estate buying spree, indicating it planned to build a mix of offices and residences near the station.
But the VTA plan omitted a parking garage that had been present in earlier drafts of the station area plan, the Sharks organization said in court documents. Only 2 percent of SAP Center patrons use VTA light rail to attend events at the SAP arena and only 5 percent use Caltrain, Jeffrey Lawson of the Silicon Valley Law Group said in a letter to the VTA dated March 6, 2017.
Past predictions of mass transit use for arena events have been grossly overestimated, Lawson said. There is no evidence in the record that BART would do any better.
The VTA did not respond Monday to requests for comment about the federal suit. But, in its formal response to the Sharks comments, the VTA acknowledged earlier plans assumed the need for additional parking at the station, but an updated analysis using more recent data from the Association of Bay Area Governments demonstrated a large parking facility was no longer needed. The station is expected to function as a destination station in the morning commute direction, reducing the demand for parking at the station, it said.
The BART users who elect to drive and park would need to use available public parking in the area or park at Santa Clara Station, which is one stop away, the VTA said.
In the same report, the VTA also acknowledged construction near Diridon Station would pose significant impacts on vehicular, pedestrian, and bicycle traffic, but those impacts could be minimized by working with the Sharks and the city.
The Sharks and the VTA, along with representatives from the city, have been in talks since the Sharks filed its first suit in May, Sparaco said. He declined to comment on how often the three organizations have been meeting or how the conversations had been going, but Liccardo said he was optimistic the two sides could reach a mutually beneficial solution.
Im hopeful that if the parties continue working together, we can collaboratively reach an outcome that serves both the Sharks and the public, he said. Until then, VTA will continue to effectuate the voters will to bring BART to Downtown San Jose.