Meeting notices for Oakland, San Jose

Choose or Lose” is having an organizing meeting Wednesday at 5:30. It will be held at the Uptown Bar & Nightclub in Oakland. The purpose is to nail down the date for the group’s first tailgate rally and other upcoming events. Unfortunately, I won’t be there because…
… I’ll be attending San Jose’s Ballpark Economic Study, which runs from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday night. The session will be held at SJ City Hall, Council Wing, Room 120. Will it be truly academic or will it be an eye-rolling extravaganza? I’ll report on it tomorrow.

A familiar plan

Barry Witt’s writeup of the A’s-Quakes announcement has much more detail than the press release sent out by MLS on Wednesday. I’ve been looking for something more descriptive to indicate what Wolff and Co. were really aiming for, and the piece provides it.

A quote from the conference call, which was only open to the media:

“We think we have a concept of financing that’s a little bit hybrid between public financing and private financing,” Wolff said in a conference call.

“If a community or a jurisdiction or a joint-powers group could provide us with a path to a site, with whatever infrastructure and approvals are necessary, that’s probably the most contribution we think we need in order to get the soccer venue done.”

If that sounds familiar, that’s because Wolff has used similar verbiage to explain what the A’s want for a ballpark site. That means a site with space for a stadium and ancillary development opportunities, preferably at a discounted rate. In Fremont, that means getting light industrial land and turning it around for a profit by virtue of building housing there. That’s not a given in San Jose, so “land” might have a more traditional definition than what’s happening in Fremont. A deal could have a cheap ground lease for city-owned stadium land, along with the A’s having rights to develop surrounding land for residential and commercial uses. And you know what that means:

Soccer Village

A soccer stadium could cost only one-fourth as much as a ballpark, so conceivably, fewer housing units would need to sold and less land would have to be acquired. Keep in mind that privately-funded stadia aren’t set up to pay for themselves, so some other revenue stream would have to be secured to take care of the mortgage. The good news is that this kind of plan could be accomplished at just about any of the previously discussed San Jose sites, though other factors may come into play. These factors include parking requirements, mass transit availability, and NIMBY issues.

Wolff seemed to dismiss the idea of Fremont having both a ballpark and a SSS. While co-location has its advantages in terms of cost consolidation, there may not be enough land at Pacific Commons to accommodate all of the pieces needed to put the ballpark village plan in motion. For instance, Fremont has a residential zone type R-3-70, which allows for up to 70 residential units per acre. Typically, high-rise residential towers are required to achieve that density. Fremont residents may not protest much to 3-4 story buildings like the ones going up in the middle of town, but in a place mostly bereft of high-rises, such a development plan could face significant opposition due to it straying from the scope of existing development. The most glaring example of this is Oracle’s HQ complex in Redwood Shores. If zoning restricts the density of housing development, the plan would be expected to have the residential component take up a much larger share than high-rises would.

I look forward to the concepts 360 architecture is drawing up for the soccer stadium. Will they be somewhat generic and not site-specific like the August concept, or will they already have a site in mind and base the concept on that site’s constraints?

Choose or Lose event wrap-up

A late work-related appointment forced me to arrive late to the “Choose or Lose” event earlier tonight. Organizer Robert Limon assured me that I didn’t miss anything. Two mayoral candidates were present: Nancy Nadel and Arnie Fields. Also on hand was OUSD board candidate Chris Dobbins, a teacher who started the Green Stampede Homework Club tutoring program. I counted 40-50 attendees, not bad for a nearly impromptu event.

Nadel had the most time at the dais, repeatedly fielding questions about City Hall’s perceived inaction in keeping the A’s. One-by-one, A’s supporters pointed to the team’s legacy and how the A’s are woven into the fabric of the community. Nadel painted herself as “realistic,” replying that the council was looking for either a site that could accomodate both a ballpark and ballpark village housing, or separate sites for each. She also warned finding a site was not easy because of the city’s “built up” nature and the reluctance to use eminent domain. Near the end of her time on stage, she gave a rather ominous statement (paraphrased) to the keep-the-A’s-in-Oakland crowd, “If you polled Oakland residents, you’d find that you’d be in the minority.” This caused a bit a grumbling in the gallery, which gets me wondering – what if Oakland residents were polled? What would the results be?

Arnie Fields was next, proudly wearing an A’s cap. He supported keeping the A’s at the current Coliseum, with development around it spurred by a shuttle that operated between the BART station and the plaza between the stadium and arena. The shuttle would have its own guideway that would run parallel to the existing BART pedestrian bridge. Golf carts or similar vehicles would operate on this guideway, and it would be run by a community group, ideally including local youths. Fields would also support a waterfront (JLS) ballpark plan.

Two videotaped statements were made by Ron Dellums and Ignacio De La Fuente. Dellums repeated the “Don’t break your pick” quote attributed to Lew Wolff in a previous conversation. He felt that the door an opportunity to keep the A’s was “open, but not wide open.” IDLF slyly said he’s optimistic that the A’s and Oakland can get a deal done “if the A’s are sincere.” Now that’s a qualifier if I’ve ever heard one.

The best ideas seemed to come after the event officially ended, when Limon, several of the bleacher drummers, and other attendees had a little pow-wow to discuss future actions. Another rally-type event is tentatively scheduled for sometime in late June. Ways to raise the movement’s media profile were discussed. The group piled on Nadel. I mentioned the ill-fated Broadway Auto Row proposal. The group’s sense of frustration with local government was palpable. The good thing about all of this is that there is a movement afoot, and that it doesn’t merely consist of putting up banners. It looks like pressure will be applied to pols and local media, though it will take some resourcefulness to come up with concrete plans and proposals. The bittersweet irony of the rally’s location came to me as I left for the BART station. Across Telegraph Avenue sits the old Uptown site, once considered the great hope for an urban ballpark in Oakland.

A’s-Quakes announcement on Wednesday

Updated: The Merc’s Dylan Hernandez wrote an article on the MLS-A’s deal. The A’s bought a three year option on the Quakes, contingent upon a new SSS (soccer-specific stadium). MLS prefers that the team start playing when a new stadium is ready, which probably wouldn’t be until 2008-09 at the earliest. Long-suffering Quakes fans would obviously prefer a 2007 launch.

A small blurb in Mychael Urban’s beat article for MLB.com and a report from Matchnight.com both point to an announcement on Wednesday in which the A’s involvement in Earthquakes v 3.0 will be made official. Details are scarce, which leads to some potentially wild speculation about the respective futures of both the Quakes and the A’s. Some possibilities (none of which are confirmed):

  • Quakes play at Spartan Stadium starting in 2007 (under new management for the next couple of years), until Spartan is either replaced or revamped (with the A’s help).
  • Quakes play at a new Fremont stadium near the A’s future Fremont ballpark.
  • Quakes and A’s share a stadium (unlikely due to demands by both MLS and MLB).
  • Quakes play at a new stadium at the Diridon South site.
  • Quakes play at a new stadium in Santa Clara, either at Mission College or near Great America.
  • Quakes play at a new stadium in the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds.
  • Quakes play in Oakland?

In all of these cases, the Quakes’ interim home would probably be Spartan Stadium while another facility is spec’ed out and built (there is no current development process underway for a soccer stadium).

A conference call held by MLS commissioner Don Garber is scheduled for Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. PDT.

Feeling Minnesota

A good amount of incoming e-mail about the Twins’ new ballpark plan prompted me to write something about it. Until yesterday, I hadn’t found anything interesting about the “circa-1996″ type of financing plan:

  • The Twins’ share is $130 million, one-quarter of the current estimated cost.
  • A Hennepin County sales tax hike of 0.15% will fund the remainder.
  • The ballpark will be located in the “Warehouse District,” across I-394 from Target Center and next to HERC, the local garbage burning plant.
  • Other development is expected occur around the ballpark in a village concept called “Twinsville.”
  • The $522 million total does not include a retractable roof. Such a roof could cost upwards of $100 million extra.

The lack of a roof brings to mind repeatedly cold Marches every season, though the novelty of outdoor baseball (not seen since the Met closed almost 25 years ago) should bring out plentiful crowds for at least the first few years. An interesting solution for the cold may come from HERC, which generates large amounts of heat when operating. There may be a way to pipe hot water from HERC into the stadium for heating the concrete seating risers. As heat is transferred, the water is cooled and returned to HERC to be reused. Building such a complicated system into the stadium design could prove quite costly, but it’s an idea worth tossing around at the very least.

I figured the roof would be one of those “oh well, can’t do anything about it now” signs of resignation, but it looks like the ballpark site’s proximity to HERC may end up being a sort of double-edged sword. The site happens to be downwind from HERC. That prompted a smell study to understand if exhaust emanating during the summer months would cause problems. While the results of the study appeared to indicate that smell shouldn’t be a problem, proof will come when games are actually played there. This bears a similarity to Fremont’s Pacific Commons, where the ballpark is situated a couple of miles east (downwind) of the local garbage dump. I’ve eaten lunch around Pacific Commons many times and haven’t smelled the dump myself, but I admittedly don’t have a very sensitive nose.

“Choose or Lose” forum on Tuesday

Robert Limon, a local community organizer and documentarian, has put together a unique event incorporating a mayoral forum and an opportunity for advocates for keeping the team in Oakland to voice their opinions. More details are in the press release:

Oakland Mayoral Candidates “Choose or Lose” the A’s at unique forum
Public invited to meet the next Mayor of Oakland, and express their opinion for documentary film.
OAKLAND, CA – Choose or Lose the Oakland A’s is a new community project based on giving EVERY Oakland/East Bay community member a chance to voice their opinion whether they “choose or lose” the A’s. Bottom line: The Oakland community needs an outlet to express their perspective to keep the A’s in Oakland (or not). This project kicks off with a Mayoral Community Forum on Tuesday, May 23, from 5:30-7:30 PM at the Uptown Bar and Nightclub, 1928 Telegraph (at 19th), in downtown Oakland.
“My friends and I have been frustrated that it is the 11th hour and we are very close to losing the Oakland A’s, and our voices are not being heard by our leaders. My opinion, I think having a world-class championship sports team in our community is a fantastic community resource and asset that benefits our business and property values. I want to see a common sense solution invented by the brilliant minds of Oakland citizens and leaders to facilitate and implement the construction of a new stadium in Oakland. Now it’s YOUR turn to express your opinion on the future of the A’s in Oakland”, says Robert Limon, a lifelong Oakland community member and A’s fan.
“Twenty years ago the SF Giants were threatening to leave San Francisco. Imagine how life would be for the SF Bay Area if they had left. Imagine the embarcadero and all of the positive economic developments that would not be there today had the Giants left,” said Bob Fratti, owner of the Uptown and host of this Mayoral event.
Show up and hear for yourselves as the next Mayor of Oakland states, for the record, if they “choose or lose” the A’s, and what they WILL or WON’T DO. Community members will also have the opportunity to ask questions of the candidates and express their own perspective to keep the A’s in Oakland (or not). The community can participate in a documentary film where they will have 30 seconds to say their “Choose or Lose” the A’s message. No matter how it turns out, we all will know that our voices were heard.
Please advertise and cover this Mayoral Forum and Community event. Any and all assistance will be greatly appreciated. The event will begin promptly at 5:30 and will run until 7:30 PM at the Uptown, 1928 Telegraph Ave downtown Oakland. For more information, contact Robert Limon at 510-501-5811 or chooseorloseoakland@yahoo.com.

I will definitely be there.

Brace yourself

From Chris Metinko’s Contra Costa Times article:

“I think there is something we are not being real about,” Councilman Larry Reid said this morning at a meeting of the agency that runs the coliseum. “I think we need to plan and plan now for the A’s leaving.”

Before the usual back-and-forth starts, let’s focus on the Coliseum Authority. It’s a joint powers board made up of individuals representing Oakland and Alameda County. Their scope is limited, as is their domain. While the individual board members can come to the table representing their specific City or County districts, they’re really working for the Coliseum in this capacity. Reid is unique in that his district includes the Coliseum.

The Coliseum complex’s size is about 100 acres. On its borders are branches of a slough, commercial property that is soon to be developed, train tracks, and light industrial buildings. The Authority is already strained due to the staggering amount of debt raised to finance renovations to both the stadium and arena. It’s extremely unlikely that the finance types from the City or County will approve additional debt.

At this point, the biggest chip they have is not in the form of a venue, it’s the land surrounding those venues. Think of the complex as a candy bar with three pieces that can be broken off. As the Home Base (Coliseum South) property is developed and infill residential starts to encroach on the Coliseum, there will be pressure on the decision-makers to figure out a creative way to relieve the tax burden on County residents. The south parking lots could be the first to go as they’re converted to some sort of mixed use village. The north lots would be next. In twenty years, the Coliseum could look vastly different from its current form.

For a recent example, check out Atlanta’s Turner Field, where parking has almost disappeared due to development. Today’s post on Anaheim highlighted how the city is trying to create a vibrant, “urban” entertainment center anchored by Angels Stadium and a new NFL stadium.

The issue here is what will the powers-that-be do with the land when the time comes? The leases for both the A’s and Raiders end at about the same time, and both are looking for extensions just in case they can’t get new digs ready in a few years. Say one-third of the land is redeveloped to help pay off the debt. Who gets the other slice? What would be built on it? The use of multilevel garages would no doubt negatively impact Raider Nation’s habits. So would building a ballpark on the north lot. If the lots were kept as is to satisfy the Raiders’ requirements, the A’s would be shut out of the chance to build on the existing land, forcing a land deal elsewhere. And what of the Warriors? They can’t be completely ignored in this, though their requirements are fewer than those of the A’s and Raiders. The pols will have to choose, and it’s not going to be pretty. I touched on this dilemma in February.

Why would the A’s be the team to leave? It could be because the Authority doesn’t have much invested in keeping the A’s right now, whereas they have Mt. Davis and the Arena redo on the books. It could also be a matter of Wolff not really trying his hardest to keep the A’s in Oakland. It could be that the Raiders and the Authority have some unannounced plans for the future of the Coliseum. Whatever the case, the A’s have the easiest exit strategy of the three tenants in the complex, and it’s clear that Wolff is taking advantage.