SAN JOSE -- Thirteen years after San Jose voters passed a $228 million bond measure to fund new sports fields, the City Council on Tuesday is set to settle on a site for one of its promised marquee projects: a major softball complex.
City park officials say that after an extensive study of a half-dozen potential locations around San Jose, the best site is property just south of Eastridge Mall owned by the Arcadia/Evergreen Circle Development company.
While none of the locations considered is perfect, city officials say, "the Arcadia site rose to the top as the site that would come closest to meeting the project objectives and result in the most fields in one location."
Councilwoman Rose Herrera, who represents the district that includes the Arcadia site, as well as Mayor Chuck Reed and Councilman Sam Liccardo, agree.
But others aren't so sure, including four council members and two former members now serving on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors.
Councilmen Don Rocha, Xavier Campos, Pete Constant and Johnny Khamis, as well as Supervisors Cindy Chavez and Dave Cortese, say the city should take a harder look at one of the alternatives -- the county fairgrounds, which they say could support more fields in one spot.
"I just don't believe the fairgrounds have been given a fair shake yet," said Chavez, a former San Jose vice mayor who now represents the district that includes the fairgrounds.
The debate queued up for the Tuesday night council agenda poses a classic dilemma for city leaders who are being asked to choose between the bird in the hand -- the Arcadia site, which city officials say could be built more quickly -- and the two birds in the bush, with a fairgrounds site that would require more study and potentially land-use costs for San Jose.
Officials on both sides of the debate say they're trying to deliver on the remaining unkept promise of the Measure P park bond, approved in 2000. Among its promises were new soccer and softball complexes. The city plans to break ground soon on a soccer complex approved for construction near the San Jose Earthquakes' new stadium along Coleman Avenue near Mineta San Jose International Airport. But the city has yet to even settle on a site for the softball complex.
"The fairgrounds is a fine site," Herrera said. "But when's that going to happen? The fairgrounds has been the subject of many, many plans over the last 25 years and none have panned out. You can't compare that to a shovel-ready project. It's been 13 years since Measure P."
Chavez, elected three months ago, acknowledged that "this is kind of late in the process" and that officials shouldn't "just toss waiting time onto waiting time" to complete the project. But even so, she and others said the chance to pursue a true softball complex with a large number of fields in one place capable of supporting tournament play shouldn't be shortchanged.
The idea behind the complex is to draw primarily adult tournaments, freeing up neighborhood ballfields for the children. Constant and Khamis said a complex should have six to eight fields, more than the three or four the Arcadia site can support. Chavez and others suggest the city spend a few more months seeing if it can work at the fairgrounds before committing to Arcadia.
"Are we making sure every stone is turned to determine whether we can keep this complex idea together?" Chavez asked.
The Arcadia owners had proposed to give 12.5 acres of land to San Jose for the softball complex to satisfy city parkland dedication requirements on developers, effectively making it free land. That acreage could support three fields, but Herrera said the developers were prepared to offer additional land to make four fields available at the site.
City officials said they were finalizing a joint-use agreement with Alum Rock School District to use fields at Ocala Middle School, a mile and a half away, that could accommodate two additional adult fields or three additional youth fields for tournament play.
But Constant and Khamis argue that the city shouldn't settle for less than six fields in one spot, and only two county-owned sites could accommodate that. One is the fairgrounds; the other is the 50-acre Shady Oaks Park near the Blossom Hill Road exit from Highway 101, which city officials rejected because of intense neighborhood opposition.
Other sites passed over include the city's former Singleton landfill site, which city officials and a potential ballfield developer concluded would cost too much in environmental cleanup to be feasible; Columbus Park, which could fit only two new softball fields; and an Alviso site that can fit only one new softball field.
Councilman Kansen Chu, who represents North San Jose and Alviso, argued that the city should scrap the complex idea and instead use the park-bond money to build and renovate softball fields in each district.
"This is a fair and responsible way to share Measure P's funds," Chu said in a memorandum, "to the most residents of San Jose."
Contact John Woolfolk at 408-975-9346. Follow him at Twitter.com/johnwoolfolk1.
The San Jose City Council will debate locations for a softball complex to be built with city Measure P park-bond funds at its Tuesday night meeting. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St. Meetings can be viewed online at www.sanjoseca.gov.