Liccardo, San Jose Rock Shop Support Concert Venue in St. James Park

There’s a petition that wants to transform St. James Park from a refuge for homeless people to a destination for free live music.

San Jose Rock Shop, a music store near the downtown park, addressed the petition to Councilman Sam Liccardo on It wants national nonprofit Levitt Pavilion to build an outdoor stage, similar to what;s been done in other major cities. So far, the petition has gathered more than 150 signatures from residents of Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties. The councilman seems all for the idea—Liccardo posted a link to the petition on his Facebook page Wednesday encouraging others to sign their support.

“I don’t know if it makes sense to sign a petition to myself, but I just did,” he wrote. “Thanks to the good folks at San Jose Rock Shop and Sperry Station for getting this petition going–we’re seeing community support really build for this potentially transformative initiative to revitalize St. James Park—San Jose’s only park in a federal historic district—from a showcase of urban blight and crime to an outdoor venue for live music and artistic performance for the whole community.”

The Levitt Pavilion has built outdoor concert areas in blighted corners of six major metro areas across the country, including a run-down park in Los Angeles and a defunct steel mill in Bethlehem, Penn. The foundation has already expressed an interested in revitalizing St. James, too, by building the stage, establishing a local fundraising foundation with $500,000 in initial contributions and offering 50 free live concerts every year. According to Liccardo, the project will cost a total of $2.5 million to build, and $500,000 annually to maintain the stage and pay for acts. He is looking at financing options that might use developer fees.

A promotional video credits the live music with filling storefronts, clearing out crime, attracting new residents and turning blighted pockets of major cities into family-friendly hangouts. Philanthropist Mortimer Levitt started the foundation on his 90th birthday, replacing 82 branches of his custom T-shirt chain with Levitt Pavilions. He died at 98 in 2005, passing on the foundation to his wife and daughter.

No one posted any complaints on the petition page or Liccardo’s Facebook, but there’s a handful of residents who have objected at community meetings about potential noise issue. The debate will likely focus on noise versus the current nuisances, which include public drunkenness, drug use and other crime.

Someone did ask Liccardo if the plan comes with a solution to combat homelessness.

“Solutions, no,” the councilman replied on Facebook. “I’ve separately introduced an approach this spring that I hope will more comprehensively address a significant part of our homeless challenges, calling for $4 million in funding for a ‘rapid re-housing’ strategy, combined with a ‘tough love’ approach to some of the less serious quality-of-life offenses we typically see (trespass[ing], drug use, urinating in public, etc.) among homeless with the deployment of homeless court and other measures.”

A lot of that’s already started, he says, but there’s no end-all solution to homelessness.

“We’re all just trying to find means to reduce the very negative impact of homelessness on the homeless and the rest of us,” Liccardo said.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.


  1. Sam’s cost of $2.5 million seems low.  Can he be more specific? The Westport’s Levitt Pavillion is costing over $6 million.  Denver’s $4 million. Bethlehem’s $8 million.

    Levitt Executive Director Sharon Yazowski said pavilions usually costs $2 million to $2.5 million to renovate.  That is renovate.

  2. I thought San Jose wanted to be San Francisco.  After looking at the picture, I detect a change.  Do we now want to be Bakersfield?

  3. Sam Liccardo is out of touch. The city has already poured billions into downtown, telling citizens to be patient and that if enough money is spent on downtown, there will be a self sustaining critical mass of spending. I remember first hearing this in the early 1980’s, when the neighborhood services were neglected and money was poured downtown, building the disaster of the “entertainment district”. Almost 30 years later, nothing has changed. Neighborhood services are still slashed to divert money for downtown developers, the same folks Liccardo cozies up to, and are bankrolling his campaign. I went downtown the other day to go to a sandwich shop on Santa Clara St. I am sorry to say it was a mistake. There was no parking aside from expensive metered parking, to buy a $5 sandwich. On the short walk to the sandwich shop, there were homeless folks everywhere and the sidewalks were filthy. Now I read that Sam wants to build a concert venue in Saint James Park. Just more of the same that has been happening for 30 years, at least. More millions Liccardo wants to piss away, selling the illusion that a utopia is right around the corner, and lining the pockets of his developer cronies. Sam is a politician first, with his catchy, yet meaningless buzzwords of “rapid rehousing” and “tough love” to deal with the homeless, while pouring millions more into another failed homeless program, stealing the city neighborhood services of other hard working citizens in the rest of the city.

    • Agreed , But honestly what do you expect from one of Reeds Favorite Hand Puppets . Of course he a liar and a cheater , just waiting for it to come out that he is also a thief , just like his Hero ……..Reed.

  4. I thought San Jose cancelled Music in the Park because free music was attracting the “wrong kind” of person to downtown.  Now Liccardo wants to have concerts there all the time?

  5. The cost is of no interest to Sam or anyone else in the tower. They will have their “friends” in the construction business fast tracked on their bids for another losing downtown venture. WAKE UP people! Do you not see the pattern yet.