JLS West: The New Guy in the Scrum
Now that we are moving on to the sites where the question of viability remains, we should do a quick refresh on the last real study of potential sites in the East Bay. Well, outside of the current MLB Expos Relocation Team Reunion Tour, that is.
In December 2001 HOK presented a study on 7 potential stadium sites in the East Bay. Those sites (in order of preference based on the study) included Uptown (now condos), The Coliseum (please, no), Fremont (been there, done that), Howard Terminal (not viable), Pleasanton (now a planned mega development), Oak to Ninth (now slated for something else after much wrangling), and Laney College (ain’t gonna happen).
That study used an established matrix that HOK had developed for evaluating each of the available sites in a particular region in relation to one another. The categories used to evaluate each site included Urban Design, Transportation, Site Factors, Cost and Timing. Each factor held equal weight with the best site in a particular category getting a score of 7 and the worst getting a score of 1. If two sites were judged to be equally “the best” they both got a 7 and the next best could get a score no higher than 5. All in all, it is an effective way to objectively rank sites. So what does this have to do with JLS West (pictured below)?
Well, we can use these same factors to evaluate the plausibility of the site that Marine Layer was so prescient about. We can also use the scores for some of the similar sites evaluated in 2001 as yard sticks for this site (and the OFD/Victory Court Site in a subsequent post) and see where it would have lined up. I warn you all I am taking some liberties with the scoring method, meaning I will play loose with the rules a bit because I can’t actually make a 100% accurate translation. So while the top score will still be 7 (when it should be 3-5 at this point), I won’t follow the rule that says if there are three “7′s” on the board the highest alternate score has to be “4.”
It is safe to say at this point, based on what we know, that “viability” is not something we can really give a ruling on. As Tony pointed out, viability is in the eye of the beholder. It is very early in the game and there is a long road to prove the site ultimately viable. All we can do at this point is call a site “potentially viable,” or worth more exploring.
For argument’s sake, we can say a “potentially viable” site is one that was in the top 3 of the original study. Why? Because the top sites not covered by condos were looked into by Mr. Wolff and Howard Terminal, the first “rejected” site, was number 4. So, let’s get to it and do it!
Urban Design- I honestly think we can skip this category. Or, further we can just give this site the highest possible mark. I envision a potential stadium in this site resembling what I consider to be the most aesthetically pleasing of all stadiums in the big leagues: PNC Park.
Sure, there wouldn’t be a bridge or a river. But imagine the Oakland skyline looming beyond Left Field in a similar way and… Ahhhh, I can smell the hot dogs and taste the beer. This site is clearly a 7 on the HOK scale.
Transportation- This site is not all it is cracked up to be from a transportation perspective. It is pretty comparable to Howard Terminal, which didn’t score so well in the original HOK study. The ferry is close, BART isn’t. Parking is a bit of a struggle, but not impossible, and the freeway infrastructure (on ramps/off ramps) in the area is just okay. I’d give it a 4 on the HOK scale, which is the same score Howard Terminal got in 2001.
Site Factors- There are 57 separate parcels (per oaklandexplorer.com) in the area that is defined by the rectangle in the City of Oakland’s presentation. Those 57 parcels have at least 33 individual owners and include a few residences. Excluding the streets, this area is 14.2 acres. I wouldn’t anticipate a huge environmental clean up cost, but soil stabilization will be an issue. One potential issue is BART running through Left Field, but that becomes more of a footprint constraint than a deal breaker. In 2001, this site would have been better than Howard Terminal, probably comparable to Laney College. Those sites scored 2 and 3 on the HOK scale. In this case I will give it a generous mark of 4.
Cost- Land Acquisition in this area, though complicated by the high number of parcels and individual owners, shouldn’t be outrageously expensive. The value of the buildings and land comes to somewhere around $25 Million dollars if we budget $25 per square foot for land and use the oaklandexplorer.com values for the structures. Business relocation will add to the cost, for sure. There would need to be some on site parking, probably a garage with 1,000 to 1,200 spaces. This site would be better than Laney College, Oak to Ninth, and Howard Terminal were when it comes to costs, though more expensive than Uptown, the Coliseum or Fremont. Which really isn’t bad or good, but right in the middle. I feel comfortable giving this site a 4 on the HOK scale for costs.
Timing- While those 33 parcel owners might not drive up the cost of the site, they could become a factor in the speed with which the site could be developed. I imagine they could derail it altogether, but I don’t think that would be the case. In the original HOK study all sites but Laney College were tied for best. None were this complex, but this site isn’t as tough as the Laney College site was either. So let’s give it a 6 on the HOK scale.
So that makes this site a 25 (with some rule bending for sure). How does that compare?
That’s right, a tie with Fremont. Based on the definition of “potentially viable” above… this site deserves some exploration. I imagine that the MLB committee is doing this exploration in the report we won’t ever get to read. But for now, I leave you with a vision:
Worth exploring, no?