On Wednesday night the San Jose Planning Commission denied a neighborhood appeal over a permit allowing the Earthquakes soccer to build a new stadium.
It was the final act of a four-year planning and permitting drama for the city and the team; the denial can't be appealed or reversed by the City Council. A statement from Quakes president Dave Kaval on the club's website gives the next steps:
Our club will now begin the work of finalizing the stadium design and financing plan. The goal is to put shovels in the ground this year.
Here's an interview with Kaval from earlier in the week, before the planning commission's vote.
The Earthquakes' experience is being seen as a preview of coming attractions. Quakes owner Lew Wolff is also an owner and the managing partner of the Oakland Athletics, and Wolff wants to move that team to San Jose. The situations aren't parallel -- among other things, the A's have outstanding territorial rights issues with the San Francisco Giants that Major League Baseball has yet to resolve, and a substantial portion of the A's fanbase wants the team to stay in Oakland. But as Kaval said in our interview, there may be applicable lessons on "best practices, and how to work with communities".
Here's a short video of the largely pro-Quakes crowd in the Council chambers reacting to the vote.
Some quotes from the public comment at the meeting (apologies if I've misspelled names):
Season ticket holder Michael Gonos of San Francisco:
It's not just the thousands of people like yours truly who would never have known all the attractions of this city unless the Earthquakes had drawn us here, but it's the thousands of children who put down their PS3 controllers and went and played football (soccer) because of the Earthquakes.
Don Gagliardi, president of fan group Soccer Silicon Valley:
This is the best fan group in all of American professional sports, and we’ve been fighting all along to have a permanent home for soccer here in the Bay Area. A generation from now, I predict that (the Earthquakes) will be more valuable to Lew Wolff and company than the A’s will be.
David Ma of San Jose:
There’s an abundance of amateur and youth soccer players in the Bay Area who deserve to see the sport played at a higher level. Without a local team, we wouldn’t have Brandi Chastain, who as a child had season tickets to the Quakes. There are thousands of kids in this area who want to step up to be the next Pele or Brandi Chastain or Wondo.
Helen Chapman of San Jose:
I am a soccer fan, and I am a soccer mom. The debate tonight is not about soccer, it is about a development, a development that borders an existing neighborhood. Our neighborhood (near the proposed A's park) is watching the stadium development, and hoping that a respectful process will take place when the discussion on baseball arrives.
David Vandegrift of San Jose:
We can’t really enjoy our backyards during the games (at the Quakes’ current home, Buck Shaw Stadium). There are loud noise spikes every minute or so, horns, drums, PA announcements. The drums are particularly intrusive, since they generate a low-frequency rhythmic sound. Going inside doesn’t solve the problem since these older homes don’t have triple-pane windows or air conditioning.
Jonathan Martinez of San Jose:
Noise? Are you kidding me? There's a train that goes by (the stadium site) and it's not exactly quiet, and you've got an airport right there, and an airplane doesn't make noise? And you have a freeway that doesn't have a curfew. So, noise? are you kidding me?
Joanne Kern of San Jose:
There's a strong sense of impatience tonight -- "build it now". What we are saying is, take a moment to make sure that you build it right.
Marc Morris of San Jose:
Collectively, (neighborhood residents) invested probably $300- 400 million of private investment in their homes. That deserves a lot of consideration. That dwarfs the Earthquakes' investment of $60-70 million in a stadium.
Mark Abbott, President of Major League Soccer, New York:
I’ve been involved with the league for almost 20 years now, and part of my job is to travel around and speak to commissions such as this to talk about facilities. In those 20 years, this is the first time I’ve ever spoken before a group like this and not been asking for public money. It’s unique in this day and age to find an ownership group willing to provide 100% private financing for a facility. The commitment that they’ve shown not to have concerts really shows their commitment to the neighborhood and the community. In all of our other facilities, concerts are a big part of the economic plan, and not to have them is a real concession.