Plan for Century Dome Theaters Site Triggers Legal Challenges

Plans to build an office tower and storefronts on the site of a historic diner and the Century theater domes in west San Jose have triggered opposition from preservationists, a neighboring city and a developer.

San Jose’s City Council on Tuesday will consider whether to approve the environmental review for Santana West. The Federal Realty project proposes to bring nearly a million square feet of office space and 29,000 square feet of storefronts to a 13-acre site right off the Winchester corridor.

Preservationists have been keeping a close eye on the property, which houses three shuttered Century dome theaters and the 50-year-old Flames restaurant. The project proposes razing two of the domes and turning the new one into something else entirely. Ideas pitched earlier this year involved flipping the dome into a storage facility or an entertainment venue.

Mayor Sam Liccardo wants to put more thought into how to breathe new life into the shuttered theaters. In a memo co-signed by Vice Mayor Rose Herrera and council members Chappie Jones, Pierluigi Oliverio and Magdalena Carrsco, the mayor suggests pushing the conversation back to a later date to come up with something more creative than a “mere mini-storage use.”

Tentative pitches include an open-air amphitheater (which would probably entail sawing the structure in half or stripping it down to its metal frame), public plaza or park.

Source: City of San Jose

Source: City of San Jose

Traffic was another major concern raised by neighbors and other members of the public.

In the mayor’s memo, he mentions that Federal Realty would pay $1 million in traffic fees to make up for the impact of the development and invest $4 million for new traffic signals and other roadway improvements. Another $1 million would come by way of a voluntary contribution to the Valley Transportation Authority for public transit upgrades.

But the city of Santa Clara and owners of the nearby Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park challenge the validity of the environmental review for Santana West.

Thomas Law Group, which sent a letter on behalf of Santa Clara, claims that the report fails to account for how the development would affect traffic, noise and pollution. There’s some question about whether the opposition has anything to do with San Jose’s objections to City Place, a $6.5 billion mixed-use project by Related Companies Santa Clara. San Jose filed a lawsuit over City Place this past summer claiming that it doesn’t include enough housing to account for its project job creation. For more on that, check out this Silicon Valley Business Journal report.

Meanwhile, Winchester Ranch owners Cal-Arioto and the Pulte Homes, the corporation interested in developing the mobile home community, sent a separate letter calling the environmental review “fatally flawed.”

The public review for Santana West’s environmental impact report ended in August. To read the full report and related planning documents, here’s a link to the city’s landing page for the project.

More from the San Jose City Council agenda for September 20, 2016:

  • San Jose plans to extend another $1.1 million to Santa Clara County for homeless services. Some of the grant money would pay for transit passes to help homeless folks get around. Another chunk of the grant would continue to fund an information management system that tracks how many homeless people use which services at what frequency.

WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260

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


  1. Oh Boy, more gridlock! Could someone please come up with a way to unlock the traffic before they start building more urban blight into that area. I never liked those domed theaters so I have no sentiment for them of any kind, rippem out.

    For years I have been avoiding that entire area, I used to shop the malls but the last 20 years I’ve spent fewer dollars there every year chosing to go anywhere I don’t have to deal with stopped dead traffic and angry drivers. Perhaps an upper deck street for drive throughs transiting the area.
    More housing, who in their right mind would want to live there?

  2. I have to wonder how the developer arrived at that particular figure for roadway and signal improvements, because if there’s a legitimate relationship between four mil and tolerable traffic it would be a miracle.

    Will four mil reduce the line of cars already backed up to enter N/B 280, or the number of red lights run in and out of Santana Row, or the holiday gridlock that stretches for miles in all directions? If so, that will be the most well-spent four mil in the history of traffic improvements.

    Much more likely, that four mil represents the price of sprucing things up enough to give the appearance the developers and the council really care about the poor schmucks who have no choice but to travel that area. In other words, it’s probably just another case of San Jose being San Jose, the worst run city in the south bay.

    • I would imagine that the developer arrived at the $4 million figure (not to mention the $1 million “voluntary” “contribution” to VTA) in the same way that someone figures how much they have to slip to the maître d in order to get a table at a pretentious restaurant.

  3. There are lots of opportunities in this area, but only when the community is willing to sit down to explore them. For whatever reason, the TriVillage area (the area that has Stevens Creek/Winchester at its heart) is the area that has what people want. They come visit, enjoy, and share. Valley Fair will be expanding by 40%, investing $900 million in their property. Santana Row is also growing 40% in office space and about 10% in retail. The new Santa Clara Agrihood will be changing the way we look at dense urban living with an urban farm at the heart of the project, mixed income, inter-generational living, veteran inclusion, neighborhood retail, new transportation solutions, and placemaking at the core. Add it all up, and there is probably over $2 billion in private investment happening in about a half square mile.

    People seem to always want to come to this area. Currently they come via car. If we want to expand the area’s density, how can we do it and still allow for mobility and quality of life for everyone?

    How can we utilize the incredible economic engine in this area to fuel innovative ideas for land use and placemaking?

    How are the next generation technologies being embraced and thought of (e.g., autonomous cars, sensor technology, transit solutions, micro housing, etc.)?

    How are we going to embrace the 300,000 *new* residents to Santa Clara County over the next 15 years (that’s two Sunnyvales!!!)?

    I really like the following quote (not mine): “Great cities generate traffic; traffic does not generate great cities.”

    What are we doing to create great places, which in turn creates great cities?

    The Winchester NAC’s vision statements is: “Ensure quality of life and economic development in the Winchester region through innovation.” Tomorrow, we are meeting to discuss the Winchester Ranch Mobile Home Park as it might integrate into a long term vision for the TriVillage area that would connect with a freeway cap and Santana West. If anyone wants to be a part of that discussion or others, please look at the agenda at: We are meeting at 6:30pm tomorrow (Wed, Sept 21st) at the Cypress Senior Center (403 Cypress Ave, San Jose, just south of Stevens Creek). We will be serving a lite pizza dinner and cannoli.

    I am told we are the Innovation Capital of the World. Are we innovating our land use? Does our innovation stop when we badge out of our buildings? How are we improving our quality of life? How are we planning for the future?

    • Kirk – Huge respect to you. However, you need to propose answers to the very questions you pose. You are becoming a leader and no longer have the luxury of simply questioning other’s ideas/ projects – time to bring forth you own agenda and start to advocate real, financially viable, politically tenable, practicable solutions. This will entail others questioning your programs though….

      Peace to you.

  4. Kirk Jetson,
    Thanks for the invite are you serving cocktails? Sorry but we have no interest in joining the Borg collective as long as I can still think and drive or at least think I’m driving and I don’t need a badge to get into my home.
    What are you going to do when the power goes off?

    • I appreciate the tone and respectfully ask: How will you get around when no one can drive or park anywhere? What do you think is going to happen when tech employees leave because they don’t want to live here? What happens to the culture of the Valley? What happens to the wealth and stability that people are enjoying now when the employers can’t retain employees? What about the service community that provides the quality of life we all want to enjoy, when those very people leave because only robotic franchises and chains exist?

      Will all this happen tomorrow? Of course not. But look what has happened in the past 50 years….orchards to silicon. The rate of change is becoming exponential, not even linear.

      So, I ask you “EMPTY GUN,” do you want to plan or do you want to react?

      • Captain Kirk,
        I want to leave. Get my million and some rich executive will enjoy the space I saved for him with a yard and flowers and fruit trees. A three car garage where he can park a Ferrari an SUV and a Hybrid. I’ll buy a house in a place where new companies can afford to start and taxes are 1/3 of what they are here.
        Employers here are employing cheap H1B’s for $20 an hour and they live in cars or dorms or transport in from the valley.
        As I said I avoid high congestion areas, there is nothing there that I can’t find at some other mall or have sent to the house. There is no reason any one on this planet should have to live like a Borg drone.

  5. It’s been said before by many of the regular commentators on this site: “If you can’t hack it here, then leave.” Usually it’s a comment in relation to affordable housing or rent control or the homeless, but I think it still applies to this issue.

    Stay away then. Nobody cares if you do, because clearly many more will arrive as you leave, and those that want to stay are wise to plan for the influx of others. But of course doomsayers will cast their shade even as they leave (or hopefully leave). What will you do when the power goes out, or where will you find the water, and what about global warming, rising tides, and the inevitable Big One??

    Motivated citizens will try to design and influence the design of their neighborhoods. Traffic is clearly the biggest concern here, as is retaining as broad a mix of housing as possible. I’ve lived here for over 25 years, and certainly been caught in the gridlock. But I think we could have a better area with all of these changes on the horizon.

  6. Some answers for questions asked:

    How will you get around when no one can drive or park anywhere?

    That’s just a “But what if..?” question. Anyone can speculate lijke that. But all the evidence shows that accommodations will be made. The exact same arguments could have been made fifty years ago. So please, enough with the scare tactics.

    What do you think is going to happen when tech employees leave because they don’t want to live here?

    That is the concern of tech company owners, isn’t it? If their employees want to leave, someone will take their place. And if not; problem solved.

    What happens to the culture of the Valley?

    What ‘culture’? That’s just another “But what if…?” question, and it could hardly be more vague.

    What happens to the wealth and stability that people are enjoying now when the employers can’t retain employees?

    Asked and answered. Scare questions don’t solve anything, they’re just self-serving emo-questions, asked because the writer doesn’t have any good arguments.

    What about the service community that provides the quality of life we all want to enjoy, when those very people leave because only robotic franchises and chains exist?

    Yeah, what about it? That’s just more vague and pointless complaining, intended to get someone’s personal agenda adopted. Again, that question could have been asked when the first automobiles appeared.

    We have elections so those elected can devote a lot of time to dealing with these issues. But who elected these social engineers? You know, the ones who actually believe that “urban farms” make any sense in this environment?

    We need housing, not ‘urban farms’ that only a select, very small handful of people will ever benefit from. Why should all taxpayers pay for a few urban farmers’ personal hobby?

    Next, ‘Charly in SJ’ asserts that traffic is clearly the biggest concern here. Sorry, Charly, the housing shortage is the biggest concern here.

    In between telling anyone who doesn’t agree with him: “Stay away then,” Charly asks:

    What will you do when the power goes out, or where will you find the water, and what about global warming, rising tides…&etc.

    When has the power gone out around here? When the gov’t and the do-gooder meddlers stayed out of it, just about never. But the insane fixation on “global warming” is leading us toward skyrocketing utility rates, based on the bogus “climate change” notion, and the baseless “carbon” alarmism narrative.

    For those who still buy into the “dangerous man-made global warming” nonsense, consider this fact: The rise in CO2 (“carbon”) has been by only one part in 10,000 — over more than a century! We couldn’t even measure such a minuscule change without using very sensitive instruments.

    But plants can tell: NASA recently posted that the rise in CO2 is the cause of a measurable rise in agricultural production. Remember that CO2 is only a tiny trace gas, measured in parts per million. It has been more than 15X higher in the past, without ever causing runaway global warming (or any global warming, for that matter).

    Before CO2 inched up from about 300 parts per million (ppm) to ≈400 ppm over the past century, global temperatures fluctuated a lot more than they have recently. Just prior to our current Holocene climate, global temperatures changed by TENS of whole degrees, both up and down — within only a decade or two. Now, THAT is scary! But that happened before human emissions were a factor.

    For the past century we have enjoyed a real “Goldilocks” climate: global temperatures have remained within ±0.8ºC. But they still try to alarm the public over that non-issue. Why?

    The reason is clear: they want a ‘carbon tax’ passed. That is the unspoken motive behind the entire climate scare. A carbon tax would not change global temperatures by 0.000001º, but it would re-direct an immense flow of productive money into the hands of unproductive government bureaucrats. That’s the motive behind the ridiculous “carbon” scare.

    A carbon tax wouldn’t change the planet’s temperature. But it would balloon the government. It would be every government’s wet dream since governments began: a way to tax the air we breathe. No wonder they keep pushing the climate scare.

    Folks, the climate always changes. It changed much more in the past than it has recently, which falsifies the claim that a rise of a tiny trace gas, by just one part in ten thousand, will cause a climate catastrophe.

    Nonsense, doubled and squared.

    And finally, those with real skin in the game are the owners of the property in question. They are the ones who have to deal with the electeds. And who elected these ‘commmunity organizers’? Haven’t we had enough pestering by self-appointed busybodies?

    If these self-appointed ‘community organizers’ have such great new ideas like ‘urban farms’, why don’t they run for office? At least then they’d be legitimate… if they could ever get elected on a stupid platform like that.

    • Oh Smokey (we know it’s you Dave). Don’t be so bitter. Just because you are upset I didn’t support you and your want to lash out at me, don’t trash climate change and the value of urban farms. Just stick to facts.

      Can you please share what over 90% of all scientists say about whether or not climate change is real and we (humans) are dangerously accelerating it?

      • Science doesn’t work on consensus. Galileo Galilei put that idea to rest 500 years ago but it won’t die.

      • > Can you please share what over 90% of all scientists say about whether or not climate change is real and we (humans) are dangerously accelerating it?


        Do you realize that REAL scientists think this is an UNSCIENTIFIC proposition?

        Political “truth” is discovered through polls.

        Scientific truth is discovered through observation-hypothesis-experiment-analysis-new observation-new hypothesis. Also known as “the scientific method”. Polls of scientists or anyone else are NOT a part of the scientific method. And, there is no such thing as “settled science”.

        • So, just to be clear, the last three individuals do not believe there is *any* correlation or impact that we have on our environment with regard to climate change. Please confirm.

          Also, do you feel “greenhouse gases” (and I put it in quotes as discussed cannot list them all) are a myth? What about freon and how it was (is) eating away at the ozone layer? Is that a myth?

          Do you feel that the general activities of the human race have an adverse affect on the planet? If so, do you think we need to address it?

          Thanks for any clarification you can provide.

          • Captain Kirk,
            Water vapor is the leading greenhouse gas followed things like methane, CO2 is way down the list and is a trailing factor on the hockey stick chart.
            In other words global warming is causing the rise in CO2 and methane not the other way around.
            The unscientific consensus refuses to look at variations in the sun’s output do to things like magnetic storms or changes in the earth’s orbit or the fact that if they don’t yell the sky is falling Al Gore and his friend from other planets won’t make billions of dollars from government grants to force dumbs to pact them selve into Borg Cubes.

          • > Also, do you feel “greenhouse gases” (and I put it in quotes as discussed cannot list them all) are a myth? What about freon and how it was (is) eating away at the ozone layer? Is that a myth?


            You fell into my trap.

            I love it when warming quacks try to debate science.

            “gases” are not a myth; they are real. There are actually even scientific equations that mathematically describe the behavior of gases.

            “greenhouse” is a colorful adjective attached by political activists to the word “gases” in order to convey and promote dubious government policies, generally including lots of regulations and taxes.

            Very likely, the composition and behavior of gases found inside of greenhouses is very much the same as the composition and behavior of gases outside of greenhouses.

            I didn’t know anyone was still worrying about the ozone. After years of panic and hysteria by junior college poly sci and ethnic studies majors over the “ozone hole”, the ozone hole seems to have gone away all by itself. At least, I don’t recall hearing Al Gore taking credit for making the ozone hole go away.

            My evil fantasy is to make a video of you calmly explaining your deep knowledge of atmospheric science and posting it on YouTube. The commentary would likely be snarky and disrespectful of your self esteem and might even cross the line into micro-aggression.

            You might even need a safe space.

  7. I totally agree on the gridlock concerns. As a resident of Meridian/Race/San Carlos, I have seen the city consistently say “new development won’t make traffic worse because your intersections are already rated as F, so with more traffic they will just stay F level” with a straight face.

    What horrified me was the proposal for an outside auditorium replacing the remaining dome. I assume they will place sound-deadenning domes over all the nearby houses to deal with the noise, and helipads to help the outrush of event goers clear the venue at the end of events? Jeeze, I appreciate crestive thinking, but you gotta think beyond the footprint of the property (oh, wait, EIRs supposedly do that already, right?).

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