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.

Anaheim ballpark housing drawing interest

An article in Thursday’s Orange County Register describes the high demand for new condos being built near Angel Stadium in Anaheim. The first of these developments, Stadium Lofts, has 4,000 inquiries for its 390 units. It’s aroused so much interest that Stadium Lofts switched from being an apartment (lease) complex to a condo (buy) complex.

For Anaheim, a city that has typified Southern California suburbia, the interest in this infill housing has to be encouraging. Many interested parties like the area’s walking distance proximity to Angel Stadium. Developers caution that as more housing is built in the area, demand should drop, though that should be to market levels. Nearly 8000 units are planned for the Platinum Triangle area, some of which should open later this later.

One thing to note about these plans: One part of the A-Town project will have 2,681 units on just over 40 acres, many in high-rise towers. That’s a good benchmark for the Fremont project, since housing and parking could end up duking it out for available space.

SJ’s PG&E bill: $30.8 million

And so the price tag goes up on the Diridon South site acquisition. Not that it wasn’t expected to expensive. But to put it in perspective, in Barry Witt’s Merc article the city is spending $17.6 million on three acres. The PG&E substation site takes up only 1.25 acres. Unfortunately, it is a crucial 1.25 acres, since it provides extra width to fully accommodate a ballpark, even a smaller 35,000-seat design.

If the land were not acquired, the ballpark could be reconfigured with a short right field porch a la AT&T Park. The substation provides power to Willow Glen and portions of downtown, so it can’t be eliminated. It would have to either be moved to the south end of the fire training center on the other side of Park Ave, or it would have to be reconfigured to run north-south along the railroad tracks that front the western border of the site. Due to restrictions in the types of equipment that have to be used and arranged, and the need for vehicular access, the reconfiguration can only go so far. Depending on what the available land would be, this may be the best option because at $21.6 million it’s cheaper than the full relocation, and the land to the south would remain available for a park.

Regardless of how the PG&E substation is addressed, it would have to be the last acquisition to complete the site due to its substantial cost. Should the A’s stay in Oakland or move to Fremont or elsewhere in the East Bay, the site would be made available for housing, based on the original Diridon/Arena plan. Soccer supporters had rallied to get the site considered for a new Earthquakes’ stadium, but that would require a different EIR to be drafted.

Now I think I get it

Tonight’s post comes from Section 241 (Plaza Reserved), in the upper tier. More noise measurements, though I’m certain the results are getting skewed by the suites that hang over these seats, creating some solid reverb. In any case, here are some results:

  • Typical ambient noise without drums: 72 dB
  • Typical ambient noise with drums: 75 dB
  • Typical batter intro: 83 dB
  • Melhuse grand slam: 102 dB
  • Swisher 2-run bomb: 96 dB

I had recently bought a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi that happened to have those specially marked cans offering Plaza Reserved seats for $5. I figured I needed to get a set of noise measurements from dead center, so here I am. To my surprise, a group was occupying the choice seats, and the ticket guy nearly laughed when I asked for “anywhere in the front-row, sections 240-242.”

When I found that my seat had already been taken, I decided to move up a few rows and stretch out. Beneath me in the better seats were a few hundred folks, all in a large group. They all came early and got their oh-so-ironic Big Hurt jerseys, and they were quite an enthusiastic bunch. Many of them went back and forth from the East Side Club, where beer and food were available.

Then it dawned on me: group sales has to be a big reason for the third deck closure. In the past groups were relegated to the BBQ Plazas or Terraces (AN Day), the Skyview Terrace suites, luxury suites, or simply a bunch of seats that were in a contiguous set (Fremont Day). The advantage of these seats over the third deck is the rather lavish staging area immediately behind them, the East Side Club. ESC has been underutilized because of its location and the fact that the A’s usually didn’t sell those seats except when demand was high. For group sales, it makes a ton of sense because it provides amenities that aren’t available anywhere else in the stadium, coupled with inexpensive seats. If you’ve gone to one of these company gigs, you know that the location doesn’t really matter a whole lot – you’re not trying to impress clients with a suite or club seats, you’re trying to boost morale among your employees.

By closing the third deck, the A’s could provide a fairly compelling option that fills a need that new stadia address automatically: the party deck. The group seemed to be having a good time (it doesn’t hurt that the A’s are up 12-2 going into the 8th inning). It will certainly help their marketing operations, since they’ll have a decent gauge of how well they sell to small, medium, and large groups. Busch Stadium and Petco Park have capitalized on this by building in such accommodations. At Busch, the Cards elected to build fewer luxury suites and more party suties to cater to groups. At Petco, an entire floor of the Western Metal Supply building can be rented, or it can be split into two or three suites.

You may remember this rendering from a few months ago:

In both the LF and RF corners, below the luxury suites, are what have to be party suites. Why put those there? If you were here tonight, you’d see why: the upper tier of Field Level sections 101-103 and 131-133 are completely empty. Just as apartment buildings get converted to condos, it makes sense to convert these seats into a more sellable space. Such is the nature of a party suite or deck.