Quakes get green light for stadium

February 23, 2012, 6:30 am
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SAN JOSE -- Since being named Earthquakes president in October 2010 DaveKaval has repeatedly made clear that his primary objective has been to secure asoccer-specific stadium for the team. On Wednesday, he and the team overcame amajor hurdle to making that dream a reality. The San Jose Planning Commission gave a unanimous 6-0 voteto uphold the Earthquakes' Planned Development Permit Wednesday night.The vote was necessary after a member of the NewhallNeighborhood Association appealed an original approval for the permit.It was the final hurdle preventing the beginning ofconstruction for the new, privately-financed, 18,000-capacity stadium at 1125 Coleman Ave."Tonight's decision to uphold the Planned DevelopmentPermit that we received in December is a milestone not just for the San JoseEarthquakes but all Bay Area soccer fans," Kaval said. "Our club and its stakeholders have worked hard throughthis process and we feel that we have a great plan for our new stadium. Kaval explained that it could take another few months beforegroundbreaking could occur, as the team still need to draw up the blueprintsfor the stadium and finish securing financing. We obviously have to commission the working drawings and atthe same time finalize the financing, which could not be finalized with theuncertainty around the permit, Kaval said. Its going to take three or four months at least to createour working drawings. And thats to create the base of the constructiondocuments, to build the stadium. That needs to be done right and its important that itsdone in an effective way, and well start that right away with DEFCON, with ourconstruction partner, Kaval said. Kaval said that with the appeal process out of the way,the team could move closer to securing naming rights, and said the team hadtalked to five or six different companies seriously about the rights, thoughthere wasnt a set timetable. The specifics of the Neighborhood Associations appealnamely involved concerns that there was inadequate noise analysis inEnvironmental Impact Report (EIR) conducted for the stadium. Despite the concerns, Joe Horwedel, the Director of the Cityof San JosesDepartment of Planning, Building and Code Enforcement maintained that theproposed stadium met the EIR standards. He added that the San Jose planning staff had recommended tothe commission that the appeal should be denied and approval should be given tothe new stadium. Both the appellate (Nancy Thomas, represented by JohnUrban), and the applicant (the team, represented by owner Lew Wolff, who willbe funding the stadium, and Kaval) were given opportunities to speak for andagainst the appeal, respectively. Kaval and Wolff highlighted the concessions the team hadmade in order to ease the neighbors concerns, including forgoing the option tohold concerts at the stadium, and emphasized the proposed project as a qualityof life boost for the area. Like weve been saying for a long time, not havingconcerts, reorienting the stadium, putting additional dollars in the stadium,these were big concessions, Kaval said.These were things that we felt were accommodating thecommunity and the folks who needed the mitigation, and thats why we felt likewe had a good plan. We executed on that plan, and I think that bore itself outtoday with the decision. After both parties spoke, the floor was opened for publiccomment, which took up the majority of the session. The initial speakers were overwhelmingly in favor of theproject, with parties ranging from fans, local businesses, neighborhood leadersand members of various trade associations speaking in favor of the project,highlighting the various benefits the stadium would bring to the community. MLSPresident Mark Abbott also spoke on behalf of the project during the publiccomments time. Those that supported the appeal and delay of the stadiumspoke mostly towards the end of the public comments and a more narrow view,focusing on the noise concerns and how they were addressed in the EIR, whichone Commissioner reminded the chamber was the focus of the appeal.The speakers in support further emphasized that they werenot against soccer or even the construction of the stadium, but had concernsabout the way the EIR and permit processes had been conducted and urged theCommission to uphold the appeal so as to give more time to analyze the noiselevels of the proposed project. After statements from both parties to close out the publiccomment, the Commission deliberated and voted unanimously to deny the appealand let the project go forward.Its the goal of all of our clubs to have a stadium to calltheir own home, Abbott said. Its important forthe club, its important for the fans, its important for the community and Imjust so pleased that we were able to achieve that this evening.For moreEarthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter, you can follow Nick Rosano onTwitter: @nicholasrosano.

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