Wednesday, November 07, 2007

VTA November update

Dean Chu voted off

Incumbent Sunnyvale City Councilman Dean Chu, who is also the current chairperson at VTA, was defeated yesterday for another City Council term. He is the only incumbent from that city to be defeated in this election. His opponent, David Whittum, is against new taxes, including sales taxes by VTA. Chu, who has served on the VTA board for several years, has become one of the most reliable votes outside of San Jose to support San Jose and VTA administration.

Due to rotational representation, Sunnyvale will no longer have a regular membership on the VTA board next year, instead it will have an alternate membership. Chu will no longer be able to serve as a regular nor alternate member on VTA next year. However, he may be able to keep his membership on the MTC. Chu's predecessor on the MTC, John McLemore, has continued to serve on the MTC years for a few years even though he was no longer a member of the Santa Clara City Council.

$40 million staging site

With the support from San Jose downtown delusionals, VTA has done a big favor for the City of San Jose in the name of construction staging.

In a bidding war for a site in downtown San Jose, VTA recently agreed to purchase the property, which is zoned for high density development, for nearly $40 million. VTA said it needs the property so that "the lot will be used to store cranes, compressors, generators and soil cement mixing tanks, and later precast deckbeams, steel I-beams and steel struts..." only if voters in this county passes a new sales tax for VTA.

VTA does not have plans for permanent usage for much of the property and VTA admits the site can support private developments in the future. Regardless, VTA is spending $40 million, along with associated financing cost, to keep the site as an open air parking lot for years to come.

For the City of San Jose, VTA's purchase of the property is a blessing because the city would have much more control (with the city's representation on VTA) over future developments of the site without having to spend its own money. In 2002, the city unsuccessfully tried to include this property into a redevelopment zone, which would allow the city to obtain this property through eminent domain.

Although in the long run, property values will go up. Will the future resell value be high enough to justify the initial purchase price and the financing cost? Can VTA make enough money off of future developments on this property to provide any significant funding for BART construction?

Pending platform retrofit work

On November's VTA Take One is a story about the pending platform retrofit work for the remaining light rail stations south of the Convention Center. If the VTA Baord approves the construction contract next month, work will begin in late February all the way until late November. Most stations will close for about 8 weeks for construction. Tamien will remain open on weekdays during construction, and Santa Teresa will remain open throughout construction with temporary platforms. Substitute bus service will be provided during closure. No construction nor closure will occur over the 4th of July holiday.

Santa Clara-Alum Rock scoping meeting

VTA has scheduled a scoping meeting for the Santa Clara-Alum Rock corridor on Wednesday, November 14, 6:00pm at the San Jose City Hall. VTA is starting the state EIR process for the corridor and the agency will be studying both BRT and single car LRT.

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