And this is where it gets messy and ugly. As mentioned in the comments thread for the Setting Oakland’s Table post, a land deal was struck between the City of San Jose and AT&T. However, it’s not quite the land deal you think. AT&T has been wanting to rezone some land near Santana Row for some time, with the company offering to consider selling its Diridon property if it got the rezoning green light. The Merc’s Scott Herhold has the grisly details.
One aspect of the AT&T transaction Tuesday night, however, made it different. AT&T also owns a key chunk of land in the path of the city’s planned A’s ballpark near the main train station. And there was plenty of council discussion about whether the fate of the two properties was entwined.
The charge of the folks who believed in this linkage, led by Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, who represents the area, is that AT&T dangled the ballpark area land before the city as the quid pro quo for allowing housing on the Santana Row lot.
This actually goes back further than just Santana Row. Long ago, the Diridon ballpark site was planned to have housing on it as part of a TOD plan, and AT&T stood to gain from a housing-related land sale there too. Cue the economic collapse, and new housing isn’t really worth much in that part of town right now. But the area right near Santana Row is still hot, so AT&T wants to cash in.
Councilman Oliverio is in a tough spot, because his district has both locales within it. And yes, he’s heard AT&T come-a-calling before:
One of the proposed exceptions that the Council denied in May 2008 on a 6-5 vote is back again with a different lobbyist. The same property owner also owns land where the proposed baseball stadium would be located. I met with the property owner representatives who said if the City would rezone this piece of land then they would consider selling the other piece of land to the City for baseball. I believe each rezoning should be judged on its own merits and not tied to a quid pro quo.
Lobbyists. Horsetrading. Desperation. That’s what the lure of major pro sports brings. AT&T knew it had the City over a barrel as long as San Jose didn’t exercise eminent domain, so this is the price. Oliverio wanted an office building along with housing as part of his general anti-rezoning stance, but he ended up casting one of the dissenting votes (8-3 passed). Apparently he wasn’t even invited to community-developer meetings to discuss the rezoning even though it’s in his district – which sounds insane. Who knows, maybe it’s all plausible deniability. Whatever it is, it’s disgusting.
Going back, all that talk of AT&T being in so tight with the Giants was baseless, though not for the reason I cited (parking, location). Strictly speaking, it was all about money. Some will rejoice in that it’s one more domino down. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.
If there’s a lesson to be learned for landowners, it’s this: Hold out as long as you can. You’ll get a better deal.