By Yolanda Reynolds
Redevelopment Agency staff and City Council members David Pandori Frank Fiscalini recently held a meeting September 20 with the residents and property owners of the neighborhoods surrounding the newly opened Shark’s (City) arena.
Community residents and business people were asked by the Redevelopment Agency staff to voice their opinions over several parking site alternatives that are being considered to increase “on site” parking.
According to members of the Arena Oversight Committee the Spam/Arena Authority (City of San Jose) promised that within four years of the opening of the arena, the City would build 450 more “on site parking spaces for the Sharks (Gund Brothers).” Rumor has it that the Sharks will leave San Jose if the parking is not constructed.
Sandy Christiansen says that his copy of the Arena Management agreement between the City and the Arena Management Corporation says that the City is not obligated to build the additional parking since the Arena construction costs exceeded $125 million.
According to Redevelopment staff spokespersons John Lusardi and Bill Eker, the cost of the additional 450 spaces is estimated to be $15 to $28 million. Many in attendance scoffed at the $15million ﬁgure since the Agency is not known for bringing any project in at budget.
Two sites were offered as possibilities for the new parking. One, seemingly the “preferred site” of the Redevelopment staff, appeared to be the property between Montgomery and Autumn Streets.
That block is a mixture of businesses and homes. The area is one of the oldest residential and commercial areas of the city. There is a mixture of typical California style bungalows and some very well cared for and beautiful Victorian era homes.
The community members who gathered together that evening were not receptive to the city’s proposal. A number of objections were raised. First of all was the added arena costs. Bruce Noonan, a former President of the Shasta/Hanchett Neighborhood Association reminded City officials that most of the residents in the area, along with nearly 50% of the voters of San Jose, opposed spending tax payer dollars to build the arena. He reminded the City officials that a promise was then made that the costs of the arena would be kept at $100 million or less.
Noonan pointed out that according to recent reports the cost of the arena is already over $136 million and that the added parking will bring that cost to over $150 million. Others believe that even without the $15 million arena costs are already over $15O million.
Councilman Pandori said that both he and neighborhood advocates have pointed out the need for more parking. This writer was very involved in that debate and what Pandori has chosen to ignore is that the residents of the neighborhood then said that if an Arena was to be built that it would be a mistake to build it on the Alameda because there was inadequate space for parking at that site without destroying many homes and small businesses and that traffic congestion would be a nightmare.
At the time of the arena election, the original arena plans included a multi decked parking facility “on site.” That did not happen because of heavy soil contamination that would have been very costly to remove.
Again, soil contamination was another reason why this writer and others urged the City to consider another site – but again that information was ignored.
Many San Josean opposed the Arena and in particular its location. The reason were numerous. One major reason was the prediction that eminent domain would be used to destroy and remove businesses, homes and people to accommodate the Arena.
Some might believe that since the City is short of money more parking is not a bad idea. It costs $10 dollars to park at one of the on-site parking garages and far more if one is found parking illegally or without the proper permit in the adjoining neighborhoods. After much questioning at the neighborhood meeting- what was revealed was that all of the proceeds from the new parking and all of the 1650 existing “on site” parking spaces will go directly to the Sharks (Gund Brothers). That amounts to a tidy sum at $10 a car per event per year.
Some spokespersons say that the “permit parking (in the neighborhoods adjoining the arena) is working beautifully.” But don’t tell that to Rae Aguilar whose family home, is a beautiful well-kept Victorian which is located on Montgomery Street less than a half block away from the Arena. Her family has lived in this home since 1940.
Aguilar and her sister Mary say that there are many problems. Both say that there should be different permits issued to the businesses and the residents. Rae says that some of the businesses seem to be giving friends, or others, business permits which are then used to park in front of other people’s homes for the evening games. Before the arena there was no problem parking in the neighborhood day or evening.
Also, they say that, during the day, some of these businesses put permit signs on autos that they are working on and then leave them in front of people’s homes for days at a time.
Rae says that she complained to the nearby auto body shop owner for leaving a couple of cars in front of her home for eleven days. The shop keeper responded by moving the cars to the street side space in front of a neighbor’s home across the street. Rae says that there are many other problems as well, such as traffic and noise from the increased traffic to and from the Arena.
Overall there is less street space since much of the available street side parking has been eliminated because of the size of the Arena and to ease the ﬂow of traffic.
Reyes Ruiz who lives on Montgomery, echoes complaints. Ruiz also says that it has become almost impossible to sleep because eighteen wheeler cannery trucks ﬂy down the street at all hours of the day and night and the noise. The trucks routinely drive by at 3 and 4 in the morning and Ruiz feels that something needs to be done about that since Montgomery is a narrow residential street. Montgomery, Ruiz says used to be quiet. Ruiz is not sure exactly why these trucks drive down Montgomery – thinks it may be for easy access to Highway 87.
Christiansen who lives near-by on St. John street says that the noise from honking horns and people going to and leaving arena events has made it very noisy.
Further down the street at Autumn Court, a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Crowley, who have resided in their home for 40 years and have been married 67 years, say that they do not want to see a parking lot nearby. They also hate to see the small compact neighborhood and all of their neighborhood memories destroyed. They raised their two children there.
Grace Crowley says that she is disgusted with the way that they have been treated. Crowley says that ﬁve years ago they were told that their home was going to be taken away to make room for the Guadalupe River Park. Since that years old notice, nothing more has happened nor has there been any more contact.
Mr. Crowley says that he expects that the government officials will be fair. Mrs. Crowley says. “don’t be so sure – they have kept us in a turmoil for years and they haven’t offered us anything.”
They were not able to attend the evening meeting hosted by the
Redevelopment staff (Mr. Crowley is blind) but, when told the suggested parking sites, both suggested that the Agency build the parking garage at the Option 2 site along the Alameda. Mr. Crowley points out that “there is nothing there so why do they want to come here.” Option 2, if any more parking is to be built, is the site favored by a good majority of the neighbors who attended the Thursday evening meeting.
With all of the noise, drifting paint and traffic some of property owners of the Montgomery/Autumn area have left.
With a list of rentals in hand and preparing to look for a quieter more
readily accessible place to live, Jacqueline Castellanos her mother Refugio and Victoria Garcia decided that they just have to leave the area. Victoria says that it has become too difficult for her to get home from work in a timely manner and that the increased trafﬁc along Montgomery has ﬁnally prompted them to find a new place to live.
Further away but near the arena, already two children have been struck by cars rushing to the arena.
People living along Montgomery and the other adjoining narrow residential streets say that “people drive them as if they were on a freeway”.
The last Shark’s event was even more distressing to the neighborhood when arena attendants deliberately directed the excess cars turned away from the on site parking lot to instead park on Montgomery, Autumn and St. John Streets. The City has tried to monitor this type of problem but “without a better plan and better enforcement”, Rae says, “nothing will improve for the Autumn/Montgomery neighborhood.” Rae says that she and her neighbors have repeatedly told city officials of the problems but that they seem to be “deaf.”
These problems and the efforts to resolve them are being closely watched by many residents of the Shasta Gardens. Hanchett Park, Garden Alameda. St. Leo’s and Parkside neighborhoods since each of these areas can be equally impacted. Many in the Shasta/Hanchett Park Neighborhood Areas have the sentiments and concerns of the Autumn/Montgomery residents.
Even most of the businesses of the area say that their preference is that no more public money be spent on the Arena and that the only acceptable new parking site is the vacant site along the Alameda. A few business people would like to have their parking spaces used for arena events but it was promised that regular and overflow parking would be available in garages to be found in the newly renovated downtown which has cost the taxpayers over $1.5 Billion.
Lois Columbus, a native San Josean and a resident of the Shasta Gardens Neighborhood, is very concerned about the impacts of traffic and parking on all of the nearby neighborhoods. She says “wait until it rains and you will then see problems – when people will likely decide not to walk or ride public transit.”
Bruce Noortan who serves on the Arena Citizen Oversight Committee’s special committee on noise control, says that some people are saying that noise from inside the arena is not overly bothersome but, he says, no one knows for sure since there has not yet been a rock concert.
At the time of the election for the Arena – not only was the cost promised by Arena proponents to be limited to $100 million but many promises were made to the neighborhood residents. The residents are watching to see if City officials promises mean as little as the promise on the Arena cost.
A meeting of the Autumn/Montgomery residents is scheduled for Thursday evening, 0ct. 21 at 6p.m. in Suite 1,000 on the tenth floor at Fourth North Second Street. That is the ofﬁces of Streets and Traffic.
For more information, Sandy Christiansen may be paged at(415) 907-4752. © La Oferta Newspaper.