Oakland Planning Commission Session 12/1
I can’t be more glad to be late. Which is saying something, considering I’m habitually late.
The commission hasn’t started to address item #5 on the agenda, which is the ballpark proposal. The main hall is packed, it’s standing room only in the overflow room, and dozens are milling around in the foyer and hallways. I’d say it’s a good turnout so far. They’re about to take a break before item #5.
7:59 PM – Eric Angstadt is explaining the CEQA process now. Emphasizes that this study session is not about whether or not this is a good project, it’s only to get input that’s germane to CEQA. If you need a primer on the process, read this. I imagine that regularly having to explain the process can be a bit tiresome.
8:07 PM – Doug Boxer is laying down the ground rules. Explains that the fire marshal is upset. Gets a show of hands as to who approves, vast majority approve. Asks for signs to be taken down, people in hallways to go to the overflow room. So far there are 26 comment cards.
8:11 – Gary Knecht (thanks V) asks for current traffic counts and perhaps a new economic impact report, in reference to redevelopment funds. Also just ran into Nina Thorsen, who got booted from the main room.
8:13 – Max Allstadt wants to bridge the no man’s land that is the Nimitz.
8:15 – Mike Johnson has been an A’s fan since he was four. Says that the project has to be looked at in terms of business outreach. Ballpark is a good idea. It would tear him apart if the A’s left.
8:24 – The speakers are coming every two minutes and I can’t keep up, but I’ll point out speakers of note. Mike Davie (linusalf) is coming up.
8:27 – Ben Fernandez owns the Portobello condos near the site and enthusiastically supports the project. Refers to China Basin as a good example.
8:29 – linusalf wants to include impact of non-car transportation, especially bike travel and routes.
8:30 – BTW if anyone is looking, I’m behind the TV in the overflow room (ducks). Bryan Grunwald is coming up.
8:34 – Grunwald is up after Boxer’s jokey intro. Is explaining 980 Park’s site costs as lower than Victory Court. Talks up social justice aspect. The crowd here is not receptive. Asks for 980 Park to be considered along dual track with Victory Court.
Note: There’s some vague talk about costs. We’ll try to estimate those as well as we can but any numbers coming from anyone outside the City or landowners are uneducated.
8:43 – Bobby Tselentis is taking his two minutes. Wants for JLS to come back, including the Spaghetti Factory (ditto). Gets huge applause in this room.
8:45 – Rep from Alameda County Labor Council speaks. Wants quality analysis of jobs. In ACLC’s study, many Oakland families relied upon the so-called low paying seasonal jobs A’s a major source of income and benefits. Ballpark is good, but there are existing businesses that will be affected, and the protection of existing businesses and industrial land is important.
8:49 – Oak Center head (missed name) is up. Asks what happened to the other sites in the study. Supports 980 Park site.
8:52 – Ben Delaney of Jack London Neighborhood Association speaks. Also asks what what happened to the other sites. Wants to know what mitigation will be put in places for affected residents. Wants to know what measures will be made to have jobs for Oakland first. Says that Lake Merritt BART is suboptimal, freeway infrastructure is inadequate. Thanks the City for not choosing JLS North/West, where his house would be in left field.
9:03 – One speaker cites two different estimates for Caltrans to act on such a project – 18 months or 2-3 years. Given the time crunch, it’ll be necessary to get all of the various agencies on the same page. Another speaker has grave concerns about limited parking, especially because of the Laney College uses (day/night classes, flea market). Brings up eminent domain.
Several speakers, including some representing Chinatown, are asking for a thorough health study.
9:14 – KTRB’s Rick Tittle is asking if Oakland is a big league town as this is a watershed moment. “Are we going to sit around and let another city steal our team away?” Tittle also pleaded for the City not to get bogged down in the details (I’m paraphrasing). But that’s what CEQA is. It’s set up to be legal protection for the little guy, for the disenfranchised. You want to rush through something, move to another state. Or China.
9:15 – Ethan Pintard is up. Like the site but has concerns about a parking nightmare. Biggest concern is for prosperous established businesses at the site. Proposes the Wood Street development (West Oakland) as a possible site, because existing plans aren’t happening soon. 39 acres of adjacent land with willing sellers. Virtually all of the land is vacant. Would like to see the old 16th Street station as part of the development.
9:20 – Jorge Leon is up. He’s endearing, but he isn’t really helping. He’s the “Joe the Plumber” of the Oakland-only movement.
9:25 – The always interesting Sanjiv Handa gives a political retrospective. Thinks the Port of Oakland would be on their knees begging for the Victory Court ballpark plan in light of the failures at JLS (which is changing hands again). Mentions the cautionary tale of the Marine World almost moving to a site near the Coliseum, then bolting for Vallejo.
9:33 – Last speaker asks what will happen if Oakland loses the A’s. Will that be covered somehow? Is cautiously optimistic, hopes Lew Wolff is watching and sees the support.
Speakers are finished, commissioners are taking their turns. People are starting to file out. There’s an older, familiar looking man in a three-piece suit here. I can’t quite place him. EIR consultant, perhaps?
BTW, there are no exhibits or even a presentation. That’s for later.
11:32 – Just got home and the comment board is already lively. Thanks to Nina, David and LeAndre, all of whom I had brief chats with. The crowd was great and I didn’t see any pitchforks or torches. Plenty of different interests were represented, which gave the session a good sense of balance.
Quick note – The site may be down for a bit Thursday for some maintenance. Hopefully not for long.
And from the sometimes you just can’t win department – the same night when Oakland can puff out its chest a bit with this first study session, what’s on the front page of CNN.com? A video report on child prostitution along International Blvd.
12:25 AM – There were some reports earlier today that got comments from Ignacio De La Fuente. IDLF wants MLB to commit to Oakland before the City pays for the EIR and related study work. MLB may well be willing to pay for the EIR, but he probably won’t get his wish. More on that in a later post.
Also, just noticed this from KTVU’s report:
That looks somewhat familiar…