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Mercury News: San Jose Giants fans outline gripes with A's stadium plan


By Tracy Seipel 


The attorney for a group of San Jose Giants fans fighting a proposed A's ballpark downtown said a revised report being prepared on the park's environmental impacts is seriously flawed.


Todd W. Smith, a senior associate at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in San Francisco, filed a nine-page letter last week with the city that outlines objections by the group, which is partly supported by the San Francisco Giants.


The Giants are fighting the Oakland A's move to San Jose, saying they own Major League Baseball's territorial rights to Santa Clara County.


Beyond the fan group's primary argument that building a ballpark would divert tax money from essential services such as schools, libraries and firefighters — a claim San Jose leaders deny — Smith details a handful of problems he said planners need to address. They include:


• Updating the potential traffic impacts on Interstate 880 from A's fans driving down from Alameda and Contra Costa counties;


• Analyzing if the original environmental impact report certified in 2007, before current talks with the A's began, considered whether a stadium in the Diridon/Arena area was consistent with San Jose's land use policies; and


• Studying the impacts of residential, commercial and mixed-use projects proposed near the stadium site.


A planned regional transportation hub at Diridon Station also must be considered, he said, along with a pro soccer stadium A's owner Lew Wolff is proposing to build nearly three miles away.


Finally, Smith said the revised report must analyze the potential for urban decay around the Oakland Coliseum that could result from the A's relocation.


Smith, an environmental and land-use attorney, told the Mercury News he hopes his points will be considered before a draft of the revised environmental report is made public early next year.

Akoni Danielsen, a principal planner with the city of San Jose, said Smith makes fair points that "by and large, we were already considering."


Smith and city officials agree that some parts of the 2007 environmental impact report for a then-proposed 45,000-seat ballpark must be updated to reflect the smaller 36,000-seat stadium currently under review.


At the time, for example, the city indicated that because it had yet to identify a specific major league baseball team to occupy the ballpark, analyzing impacts on I-880 traffic could be deferred. Now that the city has decided to pursue a ballpark for the A's, Smith said officials must address that issue.


Smith also questions the 2007 report's assertion that traffic distribution for A's games would likely be similar to that for San Jose Sharks games. He said that while Sharks fans mostly come from the South Bay, the A's fan base comes from the East Bay.


And Smith noted that since the 2007 report, planning for two significant regional transit projects — a high-speed rail line from San Francisco to San Jose and the BART Silicon Valley project — have advanced, and both identify Diridon Station near the A's site as a proposed hub.


"High-speed rail will deliver 15,000 people a day to Diridon Station," Smith said.


That, taken together with the BART project and the many cars that will likely transport people to and from the station, will impact not only traffic but air quality, he said. Danielsen said planners will be studying traffic impact from not only I-880 but I-680 as well.


And he said the city is in touch with representatives of both rail projects Smith cites, noting that the transportation confluence is a key focus for city officials.


As to the matter of urban decay, Smith cites as legal precedent a case in Bakersfield in which a state Court of Appeal held that two environmental impact reports for large commercial shopping centers failed to analyze the centers' potential to indirectly cause urban decay in that city's downtown.


In his letter, Smith says the Oakland Coliseum, where the A's now play, is a centerpiece in the city's Coliseum Redevelopment Area Plan. Since the A's use the Coliseum more than any other tenant, their exit would mean the facility could sit empty and unused on at least 81 additional dates.


Under the California Environmental Quality Act authority, Smith said, the potential adverse impact on the redevelopment area must be analyzed in the revised environmental report.


Danielsen said San Jose will give that "careful consideration" — and that, in fact, planners may look to what happened when the Giants left Candlestick Park in 1999 to move to what is now AT&T Park.

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