The City Council established the St. James Park Management District fund to give the beleaguered park its “best chance at transforming into a lively urban oasis,” according to Mayor Sam Liccardo and Councilmember Raul Peralez.
“Creating this district puts money from the neighborhood to work in the neighborhood,” Peralez said.
The funds will be collected from residential development within the Management District boundaries and will pay for St. James Park operations, maintenance and activation. The park will add a full-time groundskeeper and part-time recreation leader and security/docent services.
City staff estimates the St. James Park District revenues can amount to $10.4 million over the next five years.
In establishing the fund, the mayor reminded staff that the park requires a new management model, and city staff should “move towards a more formal foundation or conservancy.”
Earlier in March in a separate vote, the City Council eliminated design competition finalist New York-based !melk free and approved
$1 million for CMG Landscape Architecture of San Francisco to create a full redesign of St. James Park.
“Now the hard work begins making the dreams of St. James Park come true,” said Scott Knies, SJDA Executive Director.
The City Council agreed with a proposal from Liccardo and Peralez to:
- Invest $1 million at the outset rather than a staff-proposed $2.5 million;
- Prioritize building a Levitt Pavilion outdoor music venue on the site, which is partially funded by the Levitt Foundation;
- Consider with the St. James Park Advisory Committee closing Second Street through the park to vehicle traffic; and
- Devise a funding and phasing approach that also considers a pending environmental review of the final plan.
“We’d like to continue moving forward with our process and with the expectation that we will have a Levitt Pavilion in St. James Park in the near future,” said Rick Holden, co-chair of Friends of Levitt Pavilion San Jose.
The council heeded concerns by San Jose resident Jean Dresden and Knies about the phasing approach. CMG’s winning “re-imagining” of St. James Park is estimated at $41 million.
“I am concerned about the limited dollar figure (for design), which might lead to something that’s not properly right-sized to match the resources we could attract for a full-scale park,” said Dresden, who is on the park’s steering committee. “Let’s not get stuck with half a park, half a design and half way.
“That’s what happened when we had a senior center only. We never finished the second half and that’s how we developed a problem in St. James Park. Let’s not do that again.”
Peralez said he wants to get started and build momentum with an initial park design that includes Levitt Pavilion. “I agree that we need to focus on the park as a whole and not one side of it or the other,” he added.
Fourteen firms responded to a request from the city to engage in a competition to create a new vision to bring the historic park to being “the jewel of downtown,” as resident Jack Sardegna described it. A jury selected four firms, agreed on CMG and then denied on March 8 an appeal for reconsideration by !melk fr-ee.
CMG’s plans re-create the Victorian gardens that first appeared at the park, protect the monuments and canopy of trees of today’s park and blend in new features such as playground, dog park, picnic area, fountain and music venue.