Transit agency drops suit to seize San Jose property for BART station

VTA ends eminent domain proceeding after station design change

Transit Agency Drops Suit to Seize San Jose Property
Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority's Carolyn Gonot and the Downtown San Jose BART Station at 29 and 31 East Santa Clara Street in San Jose (VTA, Foster + Partners)

A South Bay transit agency has backed away from plans to seize an apartment building with shops in Downtown San Jose to make way for a future BART station.

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority ditched its plan to employ eminent domain to take the property at 29 and 31 East Santa Clara Street, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

The agency had sued the landlord in 2021 to obtain a court-ordered purchase of four apartments above an AK’s Square grocery store, saying it needed the land for a Downtown station.

But with a change in design, the VTA has abandoned its plans to seize the site. The property is owned by Z Hanna LLC.

“Plaintiff Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority hereby abandons the above-entitled proceeding for the acquisition of the property … located at 29-31 East Santa Clara Street,” the VTA stated in court papers filed in November.

The decision marks the second time the agency has dropped an eminent domain proceeding on East Santa Clara Street between North First and North Second streets.

The VTA backed out of its lawsuit filed in 2022 to obtain a site eyed for a 192-unit, 26-story housing tower at 17 East Santa Clara Street. The arson-torched property was once the site of an adult sex shop. The property is owned by Downtown SJ Towers LLC.

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The VTA said it didn’t end up needing the property to build the Downtown San Jose BART Station, whose proposed main entrance would be built near the two properties, according to court papers.

“The design innovations for the project indicate that construction of a secondary headhouse of the project’s Downtown San Jose Station would not be required, thus removing the need to acquire the property,” the VTA said.

In May 2022, 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.

The agency plans to extend BART into Downtown San Jose, with four stops that include the operating Berryessa station, plus stations at 28th Street, the Downtown station near Santa Clara  and First, and the Diridon station near the SAP Center on the westside.

The line, also served by Caltrain, is deemed vital for regional rail transit, according to the VTA’s website. “Completion of the project will finally ‘ring the bay’ with frequent rail service,” the agency said.

— Dana Bartholomew

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