Quakes stadium looms large for Wolff, A's

February 21, 2012, 8:38 pm
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Lew Wolff is waiting to hear about a stadium in San Jose this week.

No, not that one.

The As stadium in San Jose -- which is in the infancy stage -- gets all the headlines. But Wolff is much further along with plans for a soccer stadium for the San Jose Earthquakes.

On Wednesday night the San Jose Planning Commission is expected to make a decision on the building permit.

The permit was approved in December but was appealed by a neighborhood group.

The 60 million, 18,000-seat Earthquakes stadium is the canary in the coal mine for Wolff. How this process goes could very much impact his plans to build a 500 million baseball stadium in the same city, dealing with the same planning department and same public.

The history of the project shows just how difficult it is to get even a small stadium built that will host only 30-35 events a year.

A quick review of the Earthquakes stadium plans would put anyone off from assuming they can be watching baseball in San Jose within the next few years.

Thoughts that the four-year contract the As just gave Yoenis Cespedes could take the As into a new ballpark? Well, maybe into the first round of neighborhood appeals.

The Earthquakes stadium was proposed in 2007 as part of larger mixed-use plan, complete with retail and a hotel. By 2008 the plan was reduced to a smaller site. By 2009, in the midst of a cratering economy, Wolff backed away from his planned 2012 opening date. Finally, in early January of 2011, Wolff submitted an application for a development permit. That was approved in December.

But in January a neighborhood group appealed, saying the impact of noise and lights hasnt been properly analyzed and that some of the language in the permit is too vague.

So even a small plot of industrial land hard by an airport and railroad tracks is going to face obstacles.

If the planning permit is approved tonight, the team will still have to apply for a building permit.

Anyone who is surprised that the process of getting any kind of a stadium built in California takes this long must be a) new here or b) not paying attention.

For five years Wolff and associates have had to play nice, massage the process and accommodate everybody for the rights to build a soccer stadium.

But the real goal isnt a soccer stadium. The real prize lies ahead.

Freelance writer Ann Killion is a regular contributor to CSNBayArea.com and Chronicle Live.

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