San Jose Sharks reach last-minute settlement over Google’s downtown development

In a sudden about-face, the San Jose Sharks — the most vocal opponent of Google’s plans to build an 80-acre urban village and tech campus on the western edge of downtown — have backed down.

In a settlement deal announced just moments before the San Jose City Council was expected to grant Google final approval for its monumental development plan on Tuesday night, Sharks Sports & Entertainment has agreed not to sue Google or the city to stop development plans surrounding the arena.

“The settlement agreement among the city, Google, and SSE (Sharks Sports & Entertainment) resolves the vast majority of concerns raised by the parties,” San Jose Director of Economic Development Nanci Klein wrote in a memo.

The Sharks, whose president previously stated that the tech giant’s plans would undermine the viability of the SAP Center, issued a statement late Tuesday saying that the organization “sincerely appreciates” the efforts by the city and Google to address their concerns.

“Sharks Sports & Entertainment (SSE) has long been a proponent of the urban planning vision that the city has for the Diridon Station Area, including Google’s Downtown West project, so long as it does not endanger the viability and success of the city-owned and SSE-managed SAP Center,” Sharks spokesperson Scott Emmert wrote in a statement.

Within its Downtown West development, Google plans to build up to 7.3 million square feet of office space, 4,000 housing units, 300 hotel rooms, 500,000 square feet of retail space and 15 acres of open space and parks just west of downtown San Jose surrounding the Diridon train station and SAP Center. The areas adjacent to that project could see an additional 6.4 million square feet of office space, 7,000 housing units and 536,000 square feet of retail.

The Sharks, in turn, have raised concerns about how that dramatic growth and ongoing construction could create parking issues and traffic gridlocks surrounding the SAP Center.

Since the city’s planning commission unanimously recommended approval of Google’s Downtown West project on April 28, Google and the city have made a handful of modifications to the project approvals to address the Sharks concerns over parking, according to city officials.

Those modifications include a guarantee that the city and Google will consult with the Sharks about the schematic design of parking facilities to ensure that at least 2,850 parking spaces will remain within 1/3-mile of the south entrance of the SAP Center and an agreement by the city to pay any increased costs incurred by the Sharks for transportation and parking management program fees that exceed 2019 costs. The city has also agreed to consult with the Sharks over the final design and capacity of the street network surrounding SAP Center.

In exchange for such modifications, the Sharks have agreed not to sue the city or Google.

“The city and Google absolutely hear the Sharks’ critical need for efficient access and have worked to incorporate many of Sharks Sports & Entertainment concerns,” Jessica Zenk, San Jose deputy transportation director said during the city council meeting Tuesday.

The settlement agreement marks a stark reversal from the tune struck by the Sharks over the past several months.

The Sharks began publicly lodging complaints about Google’s project in November 2020, saying that the development plans around the SAP Center would force them out of San Jose and that city leaders were not giving their concerns proper consideration.

San Jose owns the SAP Center and leases it to Sharks Sports and Entertainment to operate and maintain. An agreement between the two parties, which is supposed to last until 2040, outlines the city’s roles and responsibilities pertaining to the arena, including maintaining a certain number of parking spaces for events there.

City officials, Google representatives and Sharks executives have met more than 75 times since 2019 to address issues raised by the sport and entertainment company. But up until Tuesday, the Sharks were not content with what had come from those discussions.

Klein wrote in her memo that while the revisions to the project’s approval process resolved the “bulk of the issues,” not every issue raised by each party could be addressed in the agreement. To address ongoing concerns and those that may arise in the future, Google, the city and the Sharks have agreed to “meet and confer in good faith to find amenable resolutions to both outstanding and forthcoming issues.”

“We firmly believe that the sharks will be able to succeed and in fact thrive with the proposed project as its neighbor, particularly given all the new people and access brought to live by this project,” Jessica Zenk, San Jose deputy transportation director said during the city council meeting Tuesday.

Check back for updates. 

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Author: Maggie Angst