A Tale of Three Cities

In the world of salesmanship regarding cities and stadia, there are lots of documents. Some are required, such as the environmental impact report. Others, such as economic impact reports, are often little more than glorified press releases. EnvIR’s have well-detailed rules and process, whereas EconIR’s don’t have rules and tend to be written for a particular outcome and audience. They are effectively sales pamphlets, usually forgotten long after their messages served their purpose (or not).

When I started reading Oakland’s EconIR, it occurred to me that instead of dissecting the document, it might be better to compare it to other docs that came before it. San Jose has put out two different reports, though I’ll focus only on the newest report from last September. Fremont had an EconIR for the Pacific Commons, but it also came up with its “conceptual approach” earlier this year as the NUMMI closure approached.

Commonalities
All three cities built their reports on a few basic tenets:

  1. The ~$500 million in construction cost will be borne by the A’s
  2. The city will provide land and infrastructure improvements needed to support the ballpark
  3. Some kind of cheap land lease will be negotiated
  4. Sell the public on the most positive projections, minimize or leave out everything else

To do the comparison, I had to re-read all three EconIR’s, which believe me, is no way to spend a weekend. In any case, I did it and here are the results:

The numbers in the table were given to bolster some kind of development case. For Fremont, it was a “ballpark village” with higher-end retail and new residential units adjacent to the ballpark. In Oakland, it’s thought that the ballpark fills a “hole in the donut” in the downtown/waterfront area, making the ballpark a catalyst for broader redevelopment plans and goals. While these seem similar, there is a major distinction to make: in Oakland the A’s would not be the beneficiaries of projected economic growth, whereas in Fremont they would be. San Jose’s report describes potential for ancillary development, but never makes claims nor targets any specific areas for growth. It’s unclear if MLB is more or less impressed by any of these approaches.

In the community meeting yesterday, Eric Angstadt mentioned a large “matrix” of information that MLB was looking for so that they could sift through the various options. In looking at that, certain options such as a Coliseum ballpark or a ballpark built over I-980 between 14th and 18th Streets were dismissed. That left Oakland with three sites it considers essentially the same, acquisition cost and difficulty notwithstanding. As far as I know, Fremont’s only option is the northern end of NUMMI, and Pacific Commons is not in the discussion. Diridon is San Jose’s only site, since it’s the only one going through the CEQA/EIR process.

I’ll end this post by asking you to read the table again, then post some questions or responses as to how certain numbers were derived in the comments. I intentionally left that analysis out, preferring instead to let the table start the discussion on its own.

29 thoughts on “A Tale of Three Cities

  1. Compared to the San Jose report, the Oakland report does look optimistic.

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  3. The table doesn’t show up for me in Safari, but it does in firefox. Weird.

  4. Could it be a disadvantage for Oakland, having the report released by a private organisation (Lets Go Oakland) and not by the city of oakland? Thanks in advance.

  5. I’m not sure how MLB will look at it, but it might actually be advantageous to have a group of private business people spending a 100 thousand dollars on this report. Those are all potential luxury box/season ticket buyers putting up big bucks right out of the gate to show how much this means to them. Has there been an equivalent expenditure by private South Bay boosters?

  6. TPS,
    The SVLG supports an A’s move to San Jose. That probably means more to MLB than LGOak commissioning some report (are they going to finance the ballpark to?). Nice try.

  7. @tps – I’m guessing that it won’t make any difference if they found out who really bankrolled the report: the Ghielmetti family/Signature Properties. In the report, there’s a projection that O29 will be 100% built out if a ballpark is also built. If the ballpark isn’t built, O29 will be only 85% built out. That difference is probably $100-200 million. So, $100k for a report? Chump change.

    BTW, I suspect the panel already knows who bankrolled the report.

  8. Over I-980… That sounds freaking AWESOME!

  9. Doesn’t a city have to wait until property changes hands to assess a higher tax on property that is considered to have increased in value as a result of the new stadium? If so, I wouldn’t expect to ever see that money. They may see some of it, but I wouldn’t count on it.

    There is so much room for interpretation by the people who put these reports together that it makes comparing them almost meaningless to me. The massive swings in some of these numbers from city to city, in areas that aren’t really site-specific, really bring this home to me.

  10. Tony,
    Nice letter in the Merc today!

  11. @Dude – That’s a bingo! The redevelopment area includes all of Chinatown, so that would somehow have to be turned over to realize the potential. I doubt that will go over well. The report also makes a disclaimer that property owners may not be willing to sell, but that’s not in the bullet points. And yes, most of the numbers don’t seem to have any real pattern from which we can derive anything. The best we can do is use the direct city revenue figures – at least those aren’t made from multipliers.

  12. Can you guys shed some light on the ‘letter’ that bartleby is referring to?

  13. Those Oakland numbers, especially the city tax/fee revenue and the additional property tax increment, look to me to be excessively optimistic. I understand they are including some property tax increment to the city tax revenue, but still, it’s hard to believe that an Oakland ballpark would generate 11-13 times to tax revenue vs the same park in San Jose.

  14. If you remove property taxes, the city’s cut is $2.7 million, more than half of that coming from a parking tax.

  15. So any further hints from MLB on a time table? Or will it really be after the season?

  16. It’s just conjecture on our part. It makes sense…

  17. How about the construction numbers? Why so many more jobs and more of an impact in Oakland? Is the project proposed to be larger in Oakland (Howard Terminal?) or are they just overly optimistic (or SJ more conservative)?
    Also

    San Jose officials have said they need a decision by late July in order to schedule a November ballot measure on a proposal to let the team build on city-owned land.

    So if there is a decision after July, SJ moves forward with the ballot initiate regardless? I suppose that way MLB could ensure the ballpark measure passes before getting their hands dirty. Not only that, but ballpark opponents may have a harder time gaining traction against a ballpark plan that may not even more forward, vote notwithstanding.

  18. Daveinsm,
    I had a letter (opinion) printed in this mornings Mercury News re: a downtown SJ ballpark; no big deal.
    GJ10,
    In theory, SJ would only have to have a referendum if they A) wanted to “donate” the Diridon plot to A’s free of charge or B) if they wanted to provide a cheap land lease for A’s. Interestingly, if it does come down to a November ballot measure, I don’t think it will be “For” or “Against” a ballpark in general; it will be for either allowing free land or cheap lease. If the measure were to fail, SJ and A’s could always fall back on a market-rate land lease deal, and (being frank) no one could do anything about it legally. Dot the I’s and cross the T’s of the EIR and you’re all good! In other words, ballpark WILL happen in SJ regardless if hypothetical measure passes or fails.
    One final note and off topic: Interestingly, just read on the ESPN bottom line that MLB might seize ownership of the Texas Rangers in order to make the sale go through to the Nolan Ryan-led group. MLB Bay Area committee member Irwin Raij is one busy man these days!

    • @Tony D – That’s not how ballot measures are supposed to work. It’s either for or against. To do what you’re asking would require two separate measures.

  19. I had a feeling you were going to come back with that R.M. ;o) You’re probably right anyway (nice try on my part eh!). Beating the proverbial dead horse: thorough/complete EIR, buy-in from neighborhood/downtown groups, market-rate land lease deal…NO VOTE/NO BALLOT MEASURE! Then just deal with whatever legal action may come the city’s way (can’t think of what someone might file suit over by the way). Just my opinion as always.

  20. @Tony D – thanks for sharing your opinion with us.

  21. gojohn, I think it’s dangerous for San Jose to go ahead with a ballot measure without MLB support. We see what the “San Jose” (wink wink) Giants are going to do for an all-out opposition campaign unless MLB tells them to shut up.

  22. By the way, even the thought of MLB possibly seizing ownership of the Rangers is comforting in one aspect: it shows that MLB is in complete charge of the Bay Area situation and NOT Neukom and the Giants.

  23. I’m all for the A’s staying in oakland but let’s hope the city deals with it’s citizens and business’s well by offering fair parcel buyouts. It’s hard enough trusting politicians to do what’s right but oakland politicians seem to have a pretty poor track record. Honestly JLS seems like the ideal place and would be a mirror image of pac bell park. If they were smart they’d court a multiuse stadium cause a football stadium 10 min from the city would be ideal for the 49ers much better than santa clara.

  24. Due to the sun, orienting a waterfront ballpark in Oakland would be tricky assuming that they’d want the stands facing some body of water. The water is to west so the sun would be a problem during evening games. If they wanted the new Oakland ballpark facing water, it would have to face south-east. I’m not that familiar with Oakland’s waterfront, but these are locations that could allow the grandstand to face the water without interference from the evening sun:

    Estuary Park

    5th ave.

    10th ave.

    I have no idea of the availability of these lots. I’m just trying to conceptualize an Oakland waterfront ballpark in a mental image. Any thoughts?

  25. @Briggs here is a place it could be done, sort of.

  26. For anyone who is interested, the following is from a press release regarding a friendly wager between the mayor of San Jose and the mayor of Chicago, cities whose teams are going head to head in the NHL Western Conference Championship:
    .
    “Mayor Reed thanks these San Jose businesses for joining the wager with Mayor Daley, many of which have built a close relationship with Sharks fans since the opening of HP Pavilion. The Sharks generate approximately $113 million in total economic impact every season, including $38 million outside of HP Pavilion in surrounding businesses. This in turn generates approximately $2.4 million in tax revenues for the City of San Jose.”

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