SJ Parks Advocates Opposes Proposal to Eliminate Park In-Lieu Fees

San Jose Parks Advocates opposes the proposal to eliminate the park in-lieu fees for ADU units indicated  in Item 4.3 September 10, 2019 Council agenda.

See attached letter

Activate SJ

This ambitious strategic plan will ensure that over the next 20 years our neighborhood parks are a favorite and nearby destination, our regional parks represent the best of San José, our community centers are true hubs for community life, and that we continue to provide safer, cleaner neighborhoods.

Attached are links two documents that give more detail to what this strategic plan is about.

[ActivateSJ Benchmarks]

[ActivateSJ Document]

Proceeds Sale of Youth Soccer Complex

A letter to Mayor Liccardo and City Councilmembers to direct all $20M unrestricted proceeds from the sale of the Public Soccer Complex land at 1123 Coleman to PRNS capital projects, selecting from the $320M infrastructure backlog as well as rehabilitation of sports fields throughout the City.

[Click here for the entire letter]

San Jose Light Tower

San Jose Parks Advocates opposes the use Arena Green Park for the Light Tower Corporation’s proposed art project.

We believe that :

  • The site analysis report ctains fatal flaws

  • The Arena Green Park site is too environmentally sensitive

  • The proposed use is not compatible with existing policies, plans, and studies of Arena

    Green Park and this planning area,

  • It will negatively impact the fundraising plan of a previously approved major city

    park redevelopment project, St. James and the Levitt Pavilion

  • The proposal is based on a flawed assumption that the Light Tower Corporation’s

    open, uncompensated art contest will lead to great art.

  • A “free gift” should not take park land from a park deficient area nor require the use

    of City Park Trust funds to produce the site analysis, provide uncompensated Senior
    Management time, nor should complete of the project require future park trust
    fund/development fees or Google Community benefit funds.

    We ask that the Council reject the site analysis and ask the proponents to fully fund their
    gift by compensating the city for all expenses and by buying a site rather than taking
    parkland from a park deficient area.

    San Jose Parks Advocates is an all-volunteer organization of neighborhood leaders and
    community members concerned about San Jose parks. Our mission is to bring parks into the
    public political consciousness, to make parks an issue in all discussions of civic priorities,
    neighborhood services, and community interactions with the City of San Jose. We envision a
    City where quality parks and trails for all of its residents is universally supported as a core City
    service. Civic leaders will develop, enhance, and maintain these spaces as a source of civic pride
    and essential to the health and quality of life of the residents, workers, and visitors.

Flawed Site Analysis—paid with City Park Trust Funds

The site analysis was incomplete and erroneous. Some attributes were not fully defined; some
were misleading and made assumptions. A notable absence was what would be lost by park users
and riparian fauna if the site were changed to a built environment. There was no discussion of the
lost amenities and whether they would be relocated or replaced.

1. The analysis does not include full complement of city sites were not included. Why were only
parks and future parks evaluated? Why not City Hall? The promontory point where the Fallon
statue now sits? Bassett Park? North San Pedro Park? Or perhaps a gateway location, like
Coyote Meadows. More importantly, for a project this size, why aren’t the proponents buying
their own land?

2. The environment score was defined as the impact on the proposed art project with NO
discussion of impacts of the new project on the environment. This is contrary to the usual
meaning of environmental impacts as used in CEQA documents. It serves to hide the impacts
and betrays a lack of a real process. It is not defensible in the absence of a true CEQA-like

3. The riparian setback was incorrectly stated. The project cannot extend to the edge of the
walking path, a built environment must be setback a minimum of 100 ft. Further, the city’s
adopted riparian policy would require a 200 feet where there is active recreation, lighted areas, or
mechanical equipment. The site analysis did not discuss the mention this larger setback—even
though the proponents mention dreams of a decoratively lighted structure.

4. The impact of the use of large scale utilities on the park, adjacent users, or sensitive
environmental receivers was not studied even though the site analysis included points based on
the availability of large scale electrical utilities for this piece of art.

5. The massing score for Arena Green Park is too high. The computation was based on an
incorrect riparian setback and considered the land on top of the flood bypass channel as available
for construction when it is not.

6. The matrix included an undefined score for “incentives and cost offsets.” The proponents
have offered a “free” gift to the City. There should not be an expectation to use Park Trust Fund
fees collected from the nearby residential development or Google Community Benefits to pay for
their “free” gift to the City. These monies are already tagged to acquire parkland, perform major
infrastructure repairs on downtown parks, and provide a plethora of community benefits
discussed by the Diridon Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG). This giant art project was not
one of those benefits.

7. The transportation score is invalid. By way of example, Discovery Park scores in the lowest
group with service from two LRT lines and multiple bus lines (routes 23, 81) while Park Avenue
had more than double the transportation score and no public transit service.

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8. The narrative claims that Arena Green Park has the most available acreage of the sites without
regard to configuration and buildable square footage. The site is bifurcated and has serious
restrictions due to the underground flood control bypass channel of the Guadalupe River. The
report understates the riparian setback in two ways—the minimum 100-foot setback and the 200-
foot setback where there is active recreation, lighted areas, or mechanical equipment. In addition,
the report does not mention the reduction in size from the future Autumn Street re-alignment nor
does it include the many easements that further reduce the park’s availability for development of
a built environment. Also, the possibility of a tunnel portal consuming part of Arena Green Park
was never mentioned—even though the Mayor has had multiple conversations with the Boring
Company over the past year.

9. Mitigation is not mentioned. The construction of a large built environment will require
mitigation. There is no discussion of onsite mitigation. Many trees of Arena Green Park West
would be lost and Arena Green Park East cannot accept the replacements due to flood bypass
channel rules. Amenities would be displaced. The costs and relocation considerations were not

10. Existing policies, plans, studies and master park plans were not assessed. No consideration
was made as to whether this large project conformed to or was compatible with existing plans.
For example, the Diridon Station Area Plan calls for art work in the northern portion to focus on
environmental themes. The Arena Green Park’s role in serving 25,000 future residents was not

11. There was no discussion of the coffee shop/restaurant use and its compatibility and
likelihood of success at the location. The proponents talk about building some sort of food
service to generate funds for maintenance. We think it is folly at Arena Green Park but might be
possible at some other sites. Most restaurants fail in the first year.

12. The importance of sight lines was underestimated. The proponents have shared that it is
critically important that their large public art structure be in a location where it could be
photographed easily. They felt it was critical for attracting visitors. However, the site selected,
Arena Green Park will have poor sight lines. Towers are planned north and south. Riparian trees
will block the view from the east.

13. Pending Construction was not considered. The Arena Green Park area is poised to be a
hotbed of construction with the BART construction staging area directly to the south followed by
two towers. The art project is proposed to be completed just in time to be surrounded by
construction impacts. That’s not the best strategy to attract visitors to a new facility. The
possibility of a people mover tunnel portal within Arena Green Park was ignored even though
senior staff knew about it.

14. The Parking analysis is flawed and based on currently available lots that are scheduled to
disappear in the near-term. The reduction in parking is so significa t, as analyzed in the BART
EIR, that the Sharks Organization is suing.

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15. Social considerations. The impact of local homeless persons in the short-term and long-term
was not analyzed. Tourists and visitors tend to avoid places with large numbers of unhoused
persons. For example, the impact of unhoused users was highlighted in the Arena Green Park
2015 study and their presence was cited as a barrier to use for those surveyed. Quantifying these
impacts is important.

16. Analysis of Current Arena Green Park Use was incomplete. The report emphasized park
permit numbers only. Residents’ use of the park and the status of amenities was not considered
nor valued in the analysis.

Environmentally Sensitive

Arena Green Park is the most environmentally sensitive of all the sites. Incredibly, the site report
does not address the impact of the project on the environment. The site report considers the
impact of the environment on the art project. This is unbelievable for a project spearheaded by
experienced construction professionals.

This site is one of the few stretches of intact riparian corridor through downtown. When the US
Army Corps designed its flood control project, riparian advocates made certain that this area was
left intact and deep pools remained so that migrating fish could be successful. The canopy of
trees was protected so that temperatures would remain cool in that part of the creek and river
system. Arena Green Park West was specifically planted heavily with trees to support birds
within the riparian corridor. Community members actively negotiated with the US Army Corps
to create the park as mitigation and compensation for the loss of riverine habitat and homes along
River Street. A built environment would lower the quality of habitat that was specifically
designed to support the riparian habitat. Such development may be in violation of the flood
control project EIS mitigation agreements.

The Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek Confluence area is a critically important flyway for
birds. It is the only area where there is little risk of crashing into tall structures. Lights can cause
birds to become disoriented. They will circle in light beams.1 They can be blinded temporarily
and forced to land if the light contains the wrong spectrum. Importantly, Arena Green Park’s
current status as a park with closing shortly after sunset and minimal lighting is perfectly
designed for the city’s riparian and migrating birds. Other cities have implemented darkening of
their skylines for this reason.2. A tall lighted structure, as is in the minds of the proponent,
would be deadly for the birds.

1 Tribute in Light 9/11 Memorial Turned Off Repeatedly As Birds Get Stuck In Soaring Beams
Birds spend hours flying in circles or crash into windows. Songbirds, seabirds, all kinds.

2 “Many North American cities—including Houston, Boston, and Atlanta—have adapted “lights
out” practices, promoting the darkening of their skylines to protect the biology and ecology of
local insects and animals.”

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Migrating fish are also affected by night lighting. City policy 6-34 calls for a 200-foot riparian
setback for active recreation, lighting, or mechanical noise generating sources.3 We also note,
that there is a trend across the world to reduce night lighting to create darker skies and healthier
habitats for all creatures, including humans. It is important that the park area next a riparian
habitat stay dark at night.

Plans and Policies

General Plan Envision 2040

The Envision 2030 General Plan emphasizes San Jose’s unique character “Living Amid
Abundant Natural Resources,” strong riparian policies, goals for parkland serving residents, both
acreage and distance (PR 1.1 and PR 2.6). The Diridon Station Area/Delmas Park is park
deficient. Removing park land for a large built environment violates these goals for both current
residents and the anticipated 25,000 more residents expected from the Diridon Station Area

Relevant General Plan Policies

(PR4.6) Public Art should reflect the surrounding community, local history or the ecology. The
Light Tower Corp has not stated their artwork will conform to this goal.

(PR5.3). Adhere to Guadalupe River Park Urban Design Guidelines. A large built structure does
(PR 6.7). In design and construction, preserve, enhance, restore existing ecosystems/wildlife
habitat A large built structure does not enhance the riparian habitat.

(PR1.14). Survey park users and surrounding communities to implement improvements. The
Light Tower Corp did one public outreach meeting. Community members expressed significant
. The City studied Arena Green Park in 2015 and community members were interested
in keeping the trees.

We wish the Light Tower Corporation would conform to (PR8.2) “Encourage privately owned
and maintained and publicly accessible recreation spaces that encourage community interaction;
complement the private property uses; and, when adjacent to existing and planned parks, trails,
recreation facilities, or open spaces, connect them to these facilities. This policy is particularly
important in dense, urban areas.”

The Light Tower Corporation should buy land, build their project, and maintain it, just as
is done with the dog parks downtown and at many sites with POPOS (privately owned,
publicly open spaces).

3 Council Policy 6-34

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Riparian Policy

The General Plan calls for a 100-foot setback for all but trails. The subsequently adopted Council
Policy 6-34 calls a 100-foot setback, 200-foot setback for lighted structures and noise making

The use of bright colors, and glossy, reflect, see-through or glare producing building and
material finishes is discouraged on Buildings and Structures. 4

Guadalupe River Park Master Plan 2002 and Urban Design Guidelines

Arena Green Park is part of the Guadalupe River Park and a large built environment as part of a
public art project violates the Guadalupe River Park Master Plan. The process for public art
within the park is laid out and the proposed Light Tower project violates that process.

“The park will continue to grow and change, but the vision that brought it to this
point will remain: it will continue to be a natural heart for San José, providing a
range of passive activities and offering habitat for wildlife.”5

“All public art should be designed to complement the vision of the park. Proposals should
be related to the river or the immediate surrounding area—its history, environment, and
the role they play in the city. Any proposals will be subject to the City of San José’s
established procedures for the development of public art, with review by the Friends of
Guadalupe River Park & Gardens, the Guadalupe River Park Task Force.”

“To preserve the open-space character of the Guadalupe River Park, new buildings
in the park are discouraged.”

“New specific-use facilities such as museums or recreation centers are not part of the
vision or mission of the Guadalupe River Park and should be sited elsewhere.”

Guadalupe River Flood Control Project Collaborative (1997) and Flood Control EIS

Arena Green Park was created as part of the US Army Corps Flood Control project. The
Environmental Impact Study (EIS) called for mitigation measures and subsequently, additional
measures were developed by the Guadalupe River Flood Control Project Collaborative. We
believe the Light Tower project does not conform to these agreements.

The City of San Jose, the Redevelopment Agency, the Natural Heritage Institute, CONCUR
(environmental facilitators and mediators), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the California
Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the State Water Resources
Control Board, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers met

4 Council Policy 6-34. Page 7. Item 4a.
5 Guadalupe River Master Plan 2002

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in response to threatened litigation about the adequacy of the flood control mitigation measures.
The group was able to reach a consensus to modify the plan and successfully addressed agency
and environmental-group concerns, allowing the flood control project to proceed.

Elements of this new design included the underground floodwater bypass creating Arena Green
Park East. This kept important existing riparian habitat within today’s Arena Green Park from
Santa Clara Street to the north and expanded onsite and offsite mitigation, and made refinements
to allowed recreation features, including their location.

Arena Green Park User Study 2015

PRNS performed outreach via two community meetings and an online survey about Arena Green
Park East. Some members of the community had complained about “too many trees” and PRNS
was looking for guidance. The results show that many members of the community specifically
liked the trees. Complaints focused on the number of unhoused persons hanging out the park
making it feel unsafe. The closed carousel and the worn and vandalized playground also attracted

Arena Green Park was once more heavily used when the Carousel’s operating costs were
subsidized by the Sharks, the playground was not worn, and fewer people unhoused people were
residing nearby. The shaded trees and river breezes still attract many residents in the summer.
The vacant lots to the north and the south combined with the intermittent nature of Arena
operations contribute to low usage rates. We believe the addition of 50,000 employees nearby
will increase use of the park.


The BART EIR addressed parking during and after construction. Importantly, the Sharks
Organization believes that the analysis indicates they will have insufficient parking after
development. The Light Tower Corporation wants to attract tourists so they will depend on the
same parking spaces. If the Sharks Organization foresee negative impacts to events on which
their fans spend significant dollars, the more passive Light Tower project will be negatively
impacted too.

Diridon Station Area Plan and Midtown Specific Plan

These two specific plans called for the area around Diridon Station to be served by parks at
Arena Green Park and at the Fire Station Training Center. In additional the Los Gatos Creek
trail, and the Diridon Station Promenade were identified as open space.

Unfortunately, the Fire Station Training center was sold to Google. Caltrain Integrated Station
Concept plans suggest taking most of the Promenade. No new park sites have been identified to
serve the 25,000 new residents and 50,000 new employees. Current park acquisition ordinances
prohibit transfer of parcels und 1⁄2 acre, posing an additional obstacle to creating a non-
continuous chain of park and recreation facilities.

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This leaves only Arena Green Park to serve all 75,000 new residents and employees expected in
the Diridon Station area. Perhaps, some privately owned public recreation areas will be built.
Fees on residential units will be collected and a community benefits fund is suggested to meet
many needs, including open space, housing, public art, road improvements, trail improvements,
and much more..

The construction of a large scale art project at Arena Green Park, creating a large built
environment, will take from the only open space that we know will be available to serve all these

Diridon Station Area Advisory Group (SAAG)

The SAAG Group has been meeting in response to the proposed Google development proposals.
They have discussed concerns and issues. Public open space was a priority and they highlighted
the Diridon Station Area plan, the General Plan, and the Greenprint as their guiding principals.
They felt that quality of life was dependent on the presence of green open space, not just paved
plazas. They will continue to meet to make recommendations on the allocations of the
Community Benefits Fund.

Project Subsidies and Costs

The Light Tower Corporation claims it wishes to offer a free gift to the City however, the
Corporarion has already received significant subsidies and appear to be requesting additional
subsidies. We oppose any subsidies for this project.

Subsidies already given

Site Selection Study Paid by City Park Trust Fund (PDO/PIO money)
Senior Management, Park Staff Time serving as project manager and consultant

Paid by City Park Trust Fund and General Fund
Senior Management, Public Works, City Manager, Airport, Office of Economic

Development, Office of Cultural Affairs. Over 50 hours to Develop Site Selection Study
Paid by General Fund, Hotel Tax, and other funds

Subsidies Expected

Parkland worth millions of dollars per acre
Unspecified money from grants and other funds linked to Arena Green Park location6—
this appears to be

Park Trust Fund

Community Benefits Fund
Senior Park Management Serving as project management

Art Contest Likely to Fail

The Light Tower Corp proposes an open contest for their icon. They cite only ONE example of a
successful open contest leading to a public icon: the Washington DC Vietnam War Memorial. In

6 Site Selection Study. “Incentives and cost offsets.”

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contrast, when the city initiated the St. James park re-visioning project, the Office of Cultural
Affairs recommended that the City proceed with soliciting qualified competitors and pay them a
stipend for their submissions. The regular city process requires artists to submit their portfolios,
i.e. pre-qualify.

Any large scale project will require advanced construction knowledge. Great artists with these
skills are unlikely to spend time on submitting to an open art contest. If the Light Tower Corp
has enough money to pay for a giant project, then they should use their money to conform to a
method of soliciting ideas that the city has found to successful here.

Fundraising Competes With City Priorities

The Light Tower Corporation fundraising activities will be competing with a previously
approved project—the Levitt Pavilion and St. James Park Re-visioning. Fundraising will start in
earnest when the EIR is completed and certified. We do not think both projects, Light Tower
and St. James Park, can compete in the philanthropic environment.

Lightning in a bottle

We believe in public art. We also believe that creating “world class, iconic art that will attract
tourists” is like catching lightning in a bottle—nearly impossible. The world and our city is
littered with failed and divisive art projects. We believe there are other places that are more
appropriate to take the risk of an ordinary or divisive piece of art. Further, we believe that a true
gift to the City would mean buying the land needed for the project rather than taking land from
the park system, compelling neighborhoods of modest means to give up access to parkland in
order to receive a “gift” subsidized by the city.

We urge the Council reject the site analysis and ask the proponents to fully fund their gift
by compensating the City for all expenses and by buying a site rather than taking parkland
from a park deficient area.


Jean Dresden
San Jose Parks Advocates