Appeal delays progress on Earthquakes' stadium

The fight for approval of the San Jose Earthquakes' proposed soccer-specific stadium is not yet over.

The City of San Jose confirmed Tuesday that residents who live near the Coleman Avenue site have filed an appeal seeking to overturn the planned development permit awarded to the club last month. The move will at the very least delay progress on the Quakes’ 18,000-seat stadium by a few weeks, as the appeal won’t be heard by San Jose’s planning commission until Jan. 25 at the earliest.

At worst, it could force serious alterations to the team’s plans or derail them entirely.

“We think we have a great plan, and we’re excited to show that to the planning commission,” Quakes team president David Kaval told MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday afternoon.

The Quakes received approval of their planned development paperwork on Dec. 14, but have been waiting to move forward with working drawings and a financing plan with a potential appeal hanging over their head. Last month, Kaval said he hoped that the team’s proactive outreach would forestall any appeal, but it didn’t turn out that way.

The four-page appeal, filed by a property owner who lives within 1,000 feet of the stadium site, asserts that the stadium’s noise and light impacts “have not been properly simulated” and therefore can’t be shown to meet the limits set in the project’s environmental impact report. It also calls for a ban on artificial noisemakers (such as vuvuzelas) and fireworks at the stadium. The Quakes have already agreed to not stage any concerts — a potentially lucrative revenue stream — as a concession to noise concerns.

The planning commission could choose to uphold the appeal, deny it in its entirety or stake out some middle ground. Unlike the PD permit, which was signed off by planning director Joseph Horwedel, the planning commission’s decision cannot be appealed to the City Council and will therefore be binding, according to David Vossbrink, communications director for the City of San Jose.

“We think the fact that it’s 100 percent privately financed, that it vastly improves the quality of life by providing a meeting place and gentrifies an area that’s been an industrial zone [is why] it’s a great project,” Kaval said.

The appeal is another delay in a process which began in March 2010, when the Coleman Avenue parcel was rezoned for stadium use. It’s coming up on two years later, and though the existing buildings were demolished last summer, there has been no progress on building up a foundation.

Stadium construction is expected to take nine to 12 months, so if there are any significant changes made to the PD permit — which outlines exactly what events the Quakes can stage in the venue — it would imperil the team’s hoped-for opening in time for the 2013 season.

“I think that’s just a reality of building a public venue in a large community in California,” Kaval said. “We knew when we signed up for it it wasn’t going to happen overnight.”

The team can’t directly lobby planning commission members, but Kaval noted that supporters of the club are able to do so.

“The fans groups and individuals are free to express their opinions on the project,” Kaval said. “A lot of them, I think, are frustrated [at another delay], and this is an opportunity for them to get engaged and advocate for their position. I’m encouraging people to participate in an open, democratic process.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.