REDWOOD CITY -- The city of San Jose shared its latest vision Wednesday for expanding Diridon Station and transforming the surrounding downtown area into the "Times Square of Silicon Valley."
The ambitious plan calls for a central entertainment district, possibly including a new major league baseball stadium for the Oakland A's, in the midst of new residential and office development.
The Diridon Station Area Plan would add nearly 5 million square feet of office space, 420,000 square feet of retail, roughly 2,600 residential units and 900 hotel rooms to a 240-acre area that includes HP Pavilion. Most of the office space would be situated to the north in an "innovation district" that city officials hope will attract green- and high-tech firms.
Senior planner Michael Brilliot laid out the city's plan for the California High-Speed Rail Authority board of directors at its monthly meeting. Brilliot's presentation highlighted an otherwise anticlimactic session at the San Mateo County seat in Redwood City, where the high-speed rail board had expected to formally approve a key memorandum of understanding with Caltrain. But the matter was postponed when the short-handed board hit an unexpected roadblock and could not produce five "yes" votes.
Blank canvas vision
Brilliot explained that the expanded Diridon Station -- which would add a BART extension and bullet-train hub to its existing service,
The plan represents a chance "for the first time in generations to paint on a blank canvas a vision for what the city can become," said San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo.
"There are extraordinary opportunities for development around the station, whether there's a ballpark or not," added Liccardo, whose district includes the downtown. "This will be a critical opportunity for our downtown to grow to a size more appropriate for a city of San Jose's stature."
The plan could take about 20 years to realize, according to Hans Larsen, the city's transportation director. But it could also happen much sooner if the A's move to San Jose in the next few years, Larsen said, because the stadium would serve as a catalyst for surrounding development.
The city expects to release a draft environmental impact report on the plan in June. Later this year planners will begin the second phase of the project. That effort will focus on implementation: coming up with a zoning framework for the district; bringing the city, VTA and Caltrain together in a joint powers authority to oversee development of the central zone near the station; and looking for ways to connect the station to nearby parking spaces.
Speed bump for bullet trains
Lynn Schenk, vice chairwoman of the high-speed rail authority board, said that, while she hasn't studied San Jose's Diridon plan, establishing a bullet-train hub will likely revamp the area "in ways people can't even imagine at this point."
"I think high-speed rail will transform every area where there is a station," Schenk said. "I've seen it in France, I've seen it in Spain, I've seen it in Japan."
It was Schenk who derailed the authority's approval of its new agreement with Caltrain. The memorandum of understanding lays out the rail board's $706 million commitment to a "blended" system on the Peninsula, meaning high-speed rail will mostly adhere to Caltrain's existing two-track alignment.
Schenk, who is skeptical of the blended system, announced she would vote against the agreement. With board member Michael Rossi absent, and three positions on the nine-member board unfilled, the body did not have five "aye" votes. The board rescheduled the tally for its meeting in April.
The Caltrain board is expected to vote on the agreement at its meeting Thursday morning.
Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.