S.J. Theatre Talks Stall

Things were looking up for Santa Clara County and House of Blues Concerts officials April 26th in their quest to build a 7,000-seat concert hall at the county fairgrounds site located within the city limits of San Jose, Calif. But that didn’t last long.

Mediation between city and county officials, long at odds over competing visions for such a venue, was set. HoB, which was believed to have been for sale over the last four months, had a major distraction removed when it was taken off the market.

But by the time the two sides left the meeting with a state appellate court mediator, the only result was the threatened filing of yet another lawsuit – this time, a cross-complaint alleging breach of contract was expected to be filed April 28th by Santa Clara County against San Jose.

The county accuses San Jose of failing in its promise to annex unincorporated pockets within the city’s boundaries – such as the land it wants to build the theatre on – and then interfering in the county’s efforts to operate those areas.

City officials have long preferred a venue to be built downtown, possibly in a deal with the San Jose Sharks. However, neither party has brought forward a viable financing plan.

Santa Clara County supervisors have already approved a bond issue and financing plan, as well as architectural designs, for a rival theatre on its fairgrounds site, a county-owned island within San Jose city borders.

The city alleges the county failed to obtain its approval to build on the fairground property, while the county accuses city officials of using the courts to stall until San Jose, business leaders and the Sharks can come up with financing and a plan of their own.

HoB Concerts Executive VP Adam Friedman declined to comment on the talks, instead referring Pollstar to Santa Clara County Counsel Ann Ravel.

The outcome of the mediation session was “probably not that hopeful,” Ravel said. “While we talked generally about the idea of working together and figuring out ways to have better communications between the city and the county, there were no specifics given by the city to us with regard to settlement. We are going to file a cross complaint against the city for the damages due to the breach of agreement.”

That complaint was to be filed the next day.

The countersuit would argue the city violated a previous land-use agreement by suing over the concert hall project rather than resolving differences out of court. It alleges San Jose “acted to purposefully undermine the fairgrounds theatre project and to support a downtown concert theatre” project that has so far gone nowhere.

“They just don’t have the money,” Ravel said. “The redevelopment agency doesn’t have the money. The Sharks don’t have the money. It’s not going to happen for them and everybody knows it. It’s quite dead.”

Prior to the mediation session, San Jose leaders floated the idea of linking talks on future city redevelopment plans to any settlement of the concert theatre dispute, according to the San Jose Mercury News.

Believing the funding of an extension of a San Jose redevelopment district takes public funds away from much-needed infrastructure projects, county officials have opposed the city’s redevelopment plan and were less than pleased with the attempt to link it to the concert hall.

“We believe that’s what the city wants to do and truthfully, we’re not interested in that,” Ravel said. “We’re interested in having them say we go forward on the concert hall and they will [pay] for the damages they’ve caused us. So we’re not – at least not at this point – interested in horse trading for a redevelopment bill.”

–Deborah Speer