VTA sues to seize Downtown San Jose site for BART station

Transit agency suit threatens to kill 200-unit, mixed-use housing project that calls for affordable resi

17-25 E. Santa Clara Street (Google Maps, iStock)
17-25 E. Santa Clara Street (Google Maps, iStock)

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority is on a property-seizing blitz through San Jose to make way for future BART train stops.

The transit agency has filed suit to acquire the site currently being eyed for a 200-unit housing development at 17-25 E. Santa Clara St. in Downtown San Jose, SiliconValley.com reported. The arson-torched property was once the site of an adult sex shop.

The VTA aims to seize the site through eminent domain for a proposed Downtown San Jose BART stop near First and Santa Clara streets.The agency plans to extend the heavy rail line, which now ends in North San Jose, into Downtown and on to Santa Clara.

“VTA seeks to acquire the property for the development, construction, operation and maintenance of the VTA’s BART Silicon Valley Phase Two Project,” the transit agency said in court papers obtained by the newspaper.

In December 2021, VTA filed another eminent domain lawsuit aimed at obtaining an adjacent property at 29-31 E. Santa Clara St.

The lawsuits threaten plans by Roygbiv Real Estate Development, a local builder led by Loida Kirkley, to build a 192-unit residential tower – with nearly a quarter of the units set aside as affordable for low-income households – spanning both parcels. The fate of the 26-story mixed-use project, known as Eterna Tower, is uncertain.

A separate lawsuit involving the 17-25 E. Santa Clara site, where an adult sex shop burned in 2019, could complicate the VTA’s attempt to gain control of the property, according to court papers.

The lawsuit involves members of Downtown SJ Towers, which owns the property.

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In May 2021, Gregory Malley, a member of the limited liability corporation, filed a lawsuit to rearrange ownership structure for the property. A judge ordered the dispute handed off to an arbitrator.

The transit agency acknowledged the existence of the Malley lawsuit against Downtown SJ Towers LLC and Loida Kirkley in its filing to seize the property through eminent domain.

“VTA learned that there was a pending dispute between the members of the limited liability company,” the VTA stated in the eminent domain lawsuit. “Therefore negotiations regarding the purchase and sale agreement to acquire title to the property were unable to proceed.”

The transit agency is also seeking to seize other San Jose properties, according to court papers.

The VTA aims to acquire eight parcels on a site bounded by East Street, James Street, North 30th Street, 5 Wounds Lane and North 28th Street for BART’s future 28th Street/Little Portugal Station. The property is now home to Monarch Truck Center, a truck sales operation; Della Maggiore Stone, a granite supplier; and Della Maggiore Tile, according to SiliconValley.com.

It also wants to acquire 41-55 W. Santa Clara St., whose tenants include Chase Bank and the VTA, for BART’s future Downtown San Jose Station.

Last month, the VTA awarded a $235-million contract to build the $9.1 billion San Jose BART extension, while also launching a new analysis of its controversial “single bore” tunnel plan.

[SiliconValley.com] – Dana Bartholomew

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