SAP Arena Wants Parking Crater Around San Jose Diridon Caltrain Station

SAP Center Parking Lot
SAP Center called San Jose’s plans to reduce parking demand with transit improvements “highly speculative”, and wants over 20,000 new parking spaces built near the Diridon Caltrain Station. Photo: Richard Masoner

SAP Center, the corporation that owns the 19,000-seat arena across Santa Clara Street from San Jose’s downtown Caltrain station, doubts that the next 30 years of transit improvements will bring more visitors to events at the “Shark Tank.” Instead, they insist that 20,000 new car parking spaces be built within its redeveloping neighborhood.

“It is unlikely that public transportation will allow convenient transportation from throughout the area the Arena draws from,” wrote SAP Center Vice President Jim Goddard in the Arena’s EIR comment letter on the draft Diridon Station Area Plan, which aims to guide future development toward land uses that support transit ridership, and to “create a world-class cultural destination” within the walkable radius (1/2-mile) of the Diridon Caltrain Station. The plan will allow 2,600 housing units, 420,000 square feet of retail space, 5,000,000 square feet of office space, and 900 hotel rooms — and up to 11,950 new car parking spaces to support this infill development — over the next 30 years.

But SAP Center claims that its customers will always drive in, and that they will demand an extra 8,050 parking spaces, creating a parking crater in downtown San Jose. “Vehicular access will be the most significant method for our patrons and their families to attend Arena events for the foreseeable future,” wrote Goddard. “Any limitation in the effectiveness of vehicular access to the Arena… would degrade the customer experience and discourage attendance at the Arena.”

Future Diridon Station Area - Facing Downtown San Jose
Electrified Caltrain, BART, High-Speed Rail, and BRT lines will all connect at Diridon Station in 15 years. Mid-rise office and housing development are planned for the area. Image: California High-Speed Rail Authority

In April, the City of San Jose responded by recommending against SAP Center’s request to add more car parking.

“To revise the Diridon Station Area Plan to include the more than 20,000 off-street parking spaces as suggested in the comment would be contrary to the City’s goal to encourage the use of public transit, bicycling and walking and to discourage the use of single occupancy automobile trips, particularly for everyday work related commute trips, in an area well served by transit, bicycle and pedestrian facilities,” wrote city staff.

But SAP Center representatives were not convinced, and Mayor Chuck Reed appears concerned that the city’s prediction of future parking demand might be too low.

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed
San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed. Image: City of San Jose

“I have to confess I don’t fully understand the differences in the fine points between [SAP Center] and the city staff over the parking analysis,” said Mayor Reed at the City Council’s May 20 preliminary review of the plan. “They assume that the parking demand is going to be much greater than [city staff] assume.”

“I don’t want the Sharks to become endangered in San Jose,” said Reed, referring to the far-fetched possibility that the San Jose Sharks professional hockey team might relocate from the arena to another city just because some fans can’t readily park cars right at the stadium.

City staff summarized the key differences between theirs and SAP Arena’s predictions for future car parking demand in their April letter:

“The Diridon Station Area Plan parking analysis is based on a projection of 60 percent total auto trips with the remaining 40 percent of trips by other modes of travel (transit, walking, and bicycling). Given this goal, parking ratios for commercial office land uses were adjusted from the current downtown ratio of 2.5 spaces per thousand net square feet of development to 1.51 spaces, which is a 40 percent reduction.”

This goal to reduce vehicle trips was one of many set by the city’s Envision 2040 General Plan, adopted unanimously by the City Council in 2011.

The letter also explains that greater transit connectivity will result when an electrified Caltrain, BART, High-Speed Rail, and new Bus Rapid Transit feeder lines all connect with each other at a centrally-located Diridon Transit Center. SAP Center’s estimates claim that few will connect between these new transit services, and so 6,082 new parking spaces will be needed to get transit passengers to Diridon Station — basing its claim on outdated estimates issued separately by each of the transit agencies. The city instead projects that between 1,350 and 2,200 spaces will be needed around Diridon for transit passengers.

A recent analysis conducted by SPUR explained how a shift to transit, bicycling, and walking is not only feasible but likely, given that San Jose is already pursuing efforts to expand more transportation choices to more people.

The Diridon Station Area Plan will allow increased development near the Caltrain Station and the SAP Arena. Image: City of San Jose

“People choose to drive less — and take transit more — as you combine pedestrian-friendly and transit-oriented land use with a set of policy tools and transit improvements, like Bus Rapid Transit feeder routes, discounted transit passes, and flexible parking standards that can include shared parking,” said SPUR Regional Planning Director Egon Terplan. “Not every building has to provide parking for every car that might be driven there, but instead some of the space for car storage can shift to more productive uses.”

The Arena’s assumptions also preclude the sort of walkable stadium experience that have proven popular with fans and lucrative for cities. “If their customers are mostly driving to the stadium for events, and our freeways continue to get more clogged, they’re not going to enjoy that experience,” said Greenbelt Alliance Regional Director Michele Beasley.

“SAP Center’s request to double the parking would severely degrade the quality pedestrian experience that San Jose is trying to create in the Diridon Area,” said Beasley, adding that a walkable entertainment district outside the arena will draw more visitors. “A place dominated by parking cannot also be a destination that attracts visitors to the area.”

Despite the city’s clear response to its parking plan back in April, an SAP Center representative said that his team was continuing to “negotiate” with city staff over the levels of parking recommended by the plan. According to sources in City Hall, those negotiations continued this week.

The Bay Rail Alliance has set up a customizable email asking the City Council to reinforce the Diridon Station Area Plan, and to create a great place to visit by foot, bike, or transit, and with an appropriate amount of car parking. The San Jose City Council will hear public comment and then conduct its final review of the plan, item 10.2 on the council’s agenda, beginning at 7:00 pm this Tuesday, June 10.

  • Greg Costikyan

    San Jose might learn something from the Yankee Stadium parking disaster…

  • bobster1985

    SAP Center is being ridiculous about this.

  • Michael Mathews

    That’s more parking spaces than the building holds for most events. Many people come 2, 3 or 4 to a car.

    To me, horrible transit options to get home are the reason I rarely to go to anything but hockey games, and I’m seriously considering going to 30-40% fewer games next season. I’m just too tired to do a good job at work the morning after the 90-minute Caltrain ride plus time to get home from the SF station. Driving in the awful Silicon Valley traffic has zero appeal to me.

  • MajorPenalty

    The Sharks are completely right on this. For weeknight games, fans are likely to go straight from the office to the Arena (or a restaurant nearby). And after the games, which end after 10PM most nights, most of the buses have stopped running so Light Rail and Caltrain will only work for those who live near a station.

  • poncho

    Arena probably only has 5 years of life left in it anyway judging by the lifespan of contemporary American arenas.

  • timsmith

    20,000 parking spaces is never an appropriate land use for a dense urban core. The Sharks need to get more creative about how their fans will access the arena.

  • MajorPenalty

    One, it’s not that dense. Two, the 20k spaces aren’t just for Sharks fans, they are everyone (workers, residents, fans, retail customers) who might be in the area on game night. And, three, aside from scheduling the games mid-day when the buses are running, there is little the Sharks can do to control how their fans go to and from the games.

  • Idrather Bebikin

    If SAP Center and the SJ Arena Authority (and by extension the City of San Jose) want additional parking, they should build parking garages around the SAP Center.

    Oh what? The reason NO parking garages were built around the SAP Center/HP Pavilion?

    Yes, that’s right there was oil and other lovely items left behind when Downtown Nissan and other facilities were there. And the CIty of San Jose via expensive consultants told SJ that if you put pilings down for parking garages that it will cause all of this to leech into the underground aquifer with the creek next door. So the best thing to do is “cap it” with a parking surface.

    So instead of dealing with the real issue, they “capped it.”

    So why don’t the SJ Sharks/SAP Center/SJ Arena Authority step up and do the right thing and fix the mess that’s underneath. It’s probably not that bad as it was just auto dealerships and not a semiconductor plant.

    And leave the DIridon Area Plan alone. Citizens spent countless hours and more than 40 meeting to make sure this is right.

    Just say NO to the SJ Sharks/SAP Center/SJ Arena Authority when it comes to Diridon and have them put their own house in order.

  • Idrather Bebikin

    Small parking garages can also be built along The Alameda and other areas one mile away. Use the San Pedro Square model where people come in, buy dinner, walk to the Arena, watch the game then walk back.

    But if they must be close to the arena, build the parking garage on the land immediately next to the Arena AFTER the SJ Sharks/SAP Center/SJ Arena Authority clean it up!!!

  • steve m

    so coordinate with the transportation providers to allow people to park at remote sites and get back and forth from those remote sites before and after events.


  • murphstahoe

    Adding event specific light rail and caltrain would cost a lot less than a parking garage.

  • Sprague

    Once BART is extended to Diridon (which remains a good number of years away), this will likely become the most transit accessible location in the entire Bay Area. Funding the extension of BART to Diridon, and expediting its planning and construction, would be the best use of private and public funds to enhance the “customer experience” and ensure attendance to the Shark Tank.

  • Richard Mlynarik

    this [Rod “Not Technically Yet Dead But Already Memorialized Already” Diridon Pangalactic Interdimensional Megaplex Transitateria] will likely become the most transit accessible location in the entire Bay Area

    Just as long as you ignore the SF CBD, the SF Mission District, a significant portion of the rest of SF, and all of downtown Oakland.

    All of which the whackjobs of San José, the hollowed-out nowhere self-described (but not in any way functioning as) the “Capital of Silicon Valley” do all the time.

    And whatever you do, never count the number of passengers on those empty trains and sad buses.

  • Nick

    Please no big parking structure, allow americans to change their ways and adapt to the future. Public transit should be the main source of transportation, with minimal parking needed. Keep SJ clean and green for the future

  • cardinal2007

    As someone else mentioned once BART service is provided here the 2-3 blocks directly next to the Caltrain station, BART station and in between will become the most transit connected location in the Bay Area with Caltrain, BART and light rail service. Demanding that there be enough parking in the area so that all people going to a hockey game + 1000 more people can drive to the location by themselves is ridiculous. At that point one could drive to BART park for free and take a roundtrip for relatively cheap if they wanted to. Event parking at SAP center is not cheap.

  • jltulock

    I looked to the sky and haven’t noticed any aerial be-winged pigs yet. Until I do, I would say any delusional transit projections that include BART tunneling or through high speed service at Diridon would be slightly premature. Much as I would like to attack SAPs projections, I doubt their planners are believing San Jose’s porcine fantasies either.

  • TonyPlatus

    More parking would be nice for those commuting by Caltrain to other places…the Diridon parking lot fills up so early in the mornings and more people would probably take the Caltrain from SJ if there were actually places to park the car.

  • Anandakos

    Well too fucking bad, Mr. Goddard. You knew that Diridon was there when you built your temple to muscle. You knew that San Jose had and has plans for a major urban center there.

    If you don’t like people taking transit to your “events”, take. a. hike.


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