Quakes' stadium plans hang on appeal decision

The prospective San Jose stadium

Photo Credit: 
Courtesy of San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes hope the 2012 season ends with the city’s third MLS championship. Yet whatever the Quakes achieve on the field this year, it might be dwarfed by what happens on a Wednesday night in February.

The San Jose Planning Commission meets Wednesday to discuss the final bureaucratic hurdle holding up construction of the Quakes’ proposed new $60 million stadium. If the commission denies a local resident’s appeal of the team’s planned development permit, the Quakes will have all the paperwork in hand necessary to build an 18,000-seat stadium on 14 acres of land just across the street from San Jose International Airport.

Given that the original franchise left town in 2005 in part because of their inability to get a new home built, the planning commission’s vote can be viewed as the most important single event in the life of the new Earthquakes, who were reborn as an expansion team in 2008.

“I don’t think ‘nervous’ is the right word,” Quakes president David Kaval told MLSsoccer.com. “We’re actually excited to continue to push the process forward.”

If things break in San Jose’s favor, this will be the last push of an arduous permitting process which began 11 months ago. The planning department granted the team a PD permit in December, but a nearby resident filed an appeal in January, citing concerns that the stadium’s noise and light impacts “have not been properly simulated” and therefore couldn’t be shown to meet the limits set in the project’s environmental impact report.

Staff from the city’s planning department have recommended that the appeal be denied, which would clear the decks for the Quakes to move forward with the stadium, which the team still hopes to have open in time for the 2013 season.

“We’re excited to present our case in front of the planning commission, and lay out a lot of positive benefits of the project as well as reiterate a lot of the key design criteria and things that have been done to mitigate any sound issues,” Kaval said.

Club supporters are expected to be out in force for the meeting, which begins at 6:30 pm local time in the San Jose City Council chambers.

“It’s been a groundswell of support from our fans and from the community about trying to emphasize the important features of this project,” Kaval said. “We’re talking about tens of millions of dollars of economic impact every year. We’re talking about thousands of permanent jobs. I mean, this is a big deal. And in this economy, I think a lot of people are feeling this kind of stuff needs to be facilitated and moved forward because there are people out there out of work.

“The support, broad-based, has been very positive, and I think you’ll see that at the commission meeting.”

If the appeal is denied, Kaval said the club is ready to begin moving forward Thursday morning on two fronts, initiating production of blueprints for the stadium and working to finalize financing, which has been stalled as the permitting process dragged on.

“We’ll do those things in conjunction and as quickly as we can over the next several months get to a point where we can get groundbreaking [date],” Kaval said.

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