SANTA CLARA VALLEY, CA — San Jose Sharks Sports & Entertainment LLC is suing the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and all other agencies involved in the South Bay BART extension project, a spokesperson the hockey organization confirmed today. John Tortora, the co-president of the Sharks entertainment company, stated that the Sharks “strongly support” the project through downtown San Jose but do not think that the current plan addresses issues pertaining to the SAP Center.
These issues include failure to ensure adequate parking in the proposed Diridon Station area and a safe accessible environment for customers during construction, Tortora said in a statement.
The entity has been pushing the VTA “for more than two years” to work with them on these components, the co-president said, but has had no success.
“We did not take this decision lightly,” Tortora concluded his statement.
Sharks spokesman Jim Sparaco sent over a PDF of the Santa Clara Superior Court lawsuit filed against the VTA that names the Federal Transit Administration and BART as included parties.
BART spokeswoman Alicia Trost redirected comment to the VTA because it’s a VTA project, as they will own the extension.
“The Sharks are challenging VTA’s environmental document,” Trost said in an email. “It’s Sharks vs. VTA, the FTA and BART are simply listed as a party of interest as an FYI since the FTA is funding the project and BART will operate the service once the stations are opened.”
The four-station extension set to provide service from Fremont into Santa Clara County through Milpitas, San Jose and Santa Clara will have a large impact on the SAP Center via the “most important planned station on
the Phase II project route,” the entertainment company said in the lawsuit.
The Sharks argued that the arena attracts more than 1.5 million people from various Bay Area cities, primarily suburban areas, and that “mass transit is not a viable option for the majority of the arena’s patrons.”
Sharks Sports & Entertainment LLC said that on top of not accounting for mitigating long-term parking impacts, the VTA plans to permanently eliminate 715 existing spaces in the area.
The final VTA environmental impact report provides “only inadequate, vague promises of future disclosure and future planning for mitigation,” the lawsuit says. Any use of surrounding streets such as Autumn Street would block the arena on two sides and the main entrance blocked entirely.
The Sharks company is also concerned that the project is expected to take eight years but has already faced delays such as the VTA versus BART single or double bore tunneling debate that was settled at the end of March with a letter of support for double tunneling from BART’s general manager.
The entertainment company says that it was understood, for more than a decade, that the BART Diridon Station would include a parking garage and would not dramatically disrupt traffic operations and pedestrian flow on Santa Clara Street where the SAP Center is located.
“It is obvious that Santa Clara Street in front of the arena will be disrupted for years,” the lawsuit says.
The Sharks LLC states that they are not the only ones that will be affected by “unmitigated traffic disruptions.” Nearby bars and restaurants that depend on sports games and concerts for business will also suffer from the poor access.
The Sharks Sports & Entertainment LLC demands in the lawsuit’s conclusion that the VTA repeal the project’s approval as well as approval of environmental documents for the project until the VTA has complied with the
California Environmental Quality Act.
The CEQA is a set of guidelines requiring state and local agencies to identify notable environmental impacts of their actions and to eliminate or monitor the impacts if possible, a page dedicated to the act on the
California state website explains.
The VTA acknowledged the lawsuit but declined to comment as spokeswoman Brandi Childress said that they will not issue any statements on pending litigation.
By Bay City News Service
Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images