Setting Oakland’s table

Update 12/8 17:23 – Susan Slusser has an update on the Ballpark Digest “report” and Lew Wolff’s reaction. Jane Lee filed something similar. From SuSlu’s update:

Ballpark Digest is reporting that the Major League Baseball committee investigating the A’s ballpark situation is favoring the new proposed site in Oakland; I am trying to determine the veracity of that, but there are no sources cited. The A’s have not heard that and – stop me oh oh oh stop me if you’ve heard this one before – team owner Lew Wolff told me in an e-mail, “Not to my knowledge. We have, as I have said when asked, exhausted all options in Oakland.”

If the A’s are not granted the territorial rights they want in San Jose, they are under no obligation to move to a site recommended by the committee. They can spend no money at all and stay at the Coliseum, or the owners can sell the team. I’m not sure there are many prospective buyers who believe the better market is in Oakland right now, either, but maybe Joe Lacob can take another look at the club and try to inject some of the enthusiasm he’s put into his new Warriors ownership. Lacob was part of a group that tried to buy the A’s when the Wolff group got them. I can state with certainty that the current group does not believe that the optimal market is in Oakland. It’s pretty obvious.

Note: When Lacob was interested in the A’s, he was going to partner with Billy Beane. When Peter Guber was interested, he was going to partner with Bob Piccinini. BTW, it’s wet and dreary today. I’ll go with SuSlu’s hint.

Update 12/8 11:15 – I asked Maury Brown, who is also at the winter meetings this week. His response?

RT Nothing. Owners meetings was last time @newballpark: Are you hearing anything regarding the A’s stadium situation this week?

Update 12/8 10:54 – Ballpark Digest (via The Drumbeat) has some juicy grist for the mill:

Indeed, the talk at the Winter Meetings is that an Oakland recommendation is now pretty much a done deal — with the additional spin (albeit accurate) that this proved the committee was right all along in waiting things out before making a recommendation.

Which is great, as long as MLB is setting Oakland up to succeed. Then again, they could be setting Oakland up to fail. At least The Town is getting a shot. This would also invert the situation in terms of how I perceived it: San Jose is the hedge, Oakland is the main option.

Robert Gammon does his best to equate Oakland’s stadium proposal to San Jose’s, but he misses a major, major point.

Before I get into that, there’s a bunch of good factual stuff.

  • Parking availability shouldn’t be a big issue because of the large inventory in downtown. Still, the City wants to build 2,500 spaces on site, which could prove problematic in that it triggers larger EIR impact for traffic and requires a large land acquisition, which could prove difficult.
  • Peerless Coffee doesn’t want to sell. Neither do its neighbors.
  • Among infrastructure upgrades, an extra lane from an 880 off-ramp (880 N to Oak St is my guess) would be needed.
  • A pedestrian bridge from JLS to Victory Court would also be needed. (Note – pedestrian bridges recently completed in Walnut Creek and Berkeley cost over $6 million)
  • 980 Park is being dismissed because of timeline/deadline issues, not site feasibility (this line by the City has been pretty constant).
  • “The league’s experts selected the Victory Court site as the most viable spot for a new ballpark.” That makes sense. Still doesn’t make sense why it took a year to get from four sites to one, when the number could’ve been two and whittled to one quickly.
  • Gammon projects which City Council members will be for and against the project, at least as far as the EIR funding is concerned.
  • As mentioned in the last post, the traffic study is moving forward. After that, it’s probably up to MLB.
  • Total price tag to make improvements and acquire land: $80-100 million. At A Better Oakland I speculated that $100 million would be a likely amount. The total could vary based the amount of land acquired, or the scale of certain land and infrastructure improvements.

The part I have to pick apart is this:

Under Oakland’s plan, the Central District of the city’s redevelopment agency would sell twenty- to thirty-year bonds to finance the land purchases and infrastructure upgrades. The bonds would then be paid back with property tax revenue generated by the ballpark and the surrounding planned development, which is to include housing, retail, and office space.

This is, of course, a classic TIF scenario. That’s not really a big deal procedurally since the site and surrounding area falls under one of two redevelopment districts. Gammon’s quick to equate what Oakland’s doing to what San Jose’s doing, but there’s a major difference, in that it’s $100 million of additional indebtedness to be incurred by the Oakland Redevelopment Agency. San Jose hasn’t had to raise any bonds and won’t have to raise any bonds for its project, so no additional debt there. If Wolff ponies up for the rest of the San Jose land, he may end up causing San Jose to forego a vote, the last remaining procedural hurdle. $20+ million for peace of mind and a green light from MLB? Not a bad investment.

While $100 million in RDA funds is not going to be up for voters to decide, it’s still not going to be a slam dunk politically. The big issue will be the cost of the land acquisitions and the possibility of eminent domain, which appears likely even in this early stage. If Oakland underestimates the amount needed to buy the properties, it will severely impact its ability to complete other parts of the project, whether it’s a parking garage or that pedestrian bridge. And given Peerless Coffee’s $30 million relocation estimate, acquisitions alone could break the bank. Legally, eminent domain proceedings can happen fairly quickly. Politically, they could prove difficult. And if Oakland lowballs as they did with Uptown? It could drag on for a while. Already another project in West Oakland is scaring landowners due to the potential use of eminent domain.

Not shown: Elevated Nimitz Freeway running through the area

Thankfully for Oakland, there’s a way to make it work within whatever the budget is. The easiest thing to do would be to scale things back a bit. This doesn’t mean that eminent domain can be ruled out, but it may be that Oakland won’t have to make lowball offers in an effort to stay under budget. It may even be able to pull off regular negotiations with affected landowners.

One thing that hasn’t been mentioned anywhere is that Oakland doesn’t need to acquire the Peerless Coffee parcel, or really anything else between Oak and Fallon Streets. It may want to pick up pieces of land at the northwest and southwest corners (Oak & 5th, Oak @ UPRR) to create nice public plazas for a ballpark, but it doesn’t need to grab all 20 acres. If you look at the way I’ve placed and oriented the ballpark in the above image, the footprint is well removed from Fallon St. Reduce the amount of land needed and it suddenly becomes much more feasible. Sure, there will still be the need to relocate a triplex, some warehouses, a storage facility, the fire training site (already acquired), and East Bay Restaurant Supply, but that’s a lot better than having to slog through negotiations with a dozen or more different landowners.  You may recall that San Jose’s land acquisitions started with 20-22 acres and were reduced to 14 in the end. The smaller ballpark requirement, less parking needed, and budget constraints all contributed to that eventuality. This is what awaits Oakland, though Oakland will create for itself hard limits on what it can spend. In San Jose, they can sell a piece of land here or there to shore up the fund, or  even depend on an old man’s kindness. In Oakland they’ll need to get it exactly right, or else it’ll fall apart. Quick note: Based on the numbers in the latest ORA budget report, this project would raise total TIF debt from $440 million to $540 million, an increase of 23%.

What I don’t understand is exactly why MLB is having Oakland put together 20 acres in the first place. I wonder what would happen if Oakland went to MLB and said, “Okay, we love the idea, but we’d like to scale it down to make it more feasible.” Would MLB be flexible, or would it have a hard line? If, as I’ve discussed previously, Oakland is a hedge, MLB should be pretty flexible in its requirements. If they aren’t, I might be a little suspicious…

Gammon ends with this:

In other words, for the A’s to move to San Jose, the league must conclude that Oakland’s ballpark plan is unviable. At this point, that doesn’t appear to be the case.

“At this point.” Well, yeah. No one’s had to work out the hard stuff yet. Clock’s ticking…

165 Responses to Setting Oakland’s table

  1. GoA's says:

    @David- while Sid’s portroyal is a bit dramatic I have no doubt that LW will feel any need to stroke those who he feels a bit screwed by–whether that be neukom, selig, oakland …..and btw—he has alot of control over this situation and he asked for a very simple thing that most find business logic in but MLB couldn’t figure out….at the end of the day pittsburg, which has a great new ballpark, is one of the lowest valued franchises in MLB–

  2. ST says:

    Sid – you made my week! ;)

  3. ST says:

    pjk – have faith. there’s quite a number of south bayers that are season ticket holders (i was a couple of years ago until my recent position made me travel 50% of the time, but still attend at least 5-10 games a year when i can). if i was at the parade, even as a die hard a’s fan, i would give the giants props for winning the WS (wouldn’t you want giants fans to do the same for the a’s). The key here is again that the Bay Area should be a 2 team market, period and not divided among TRs. JMHO…

  4. A's Fan says:

    There’s already a poll. It’s conducted every season over the course of 81 games.

  5. Nam Turk says:

    “Most fans, in all candor (notwithstanding the pro San Jose folks here) are much more excited about having a new stadium close to the water than to the concrete and highrises of San Jose.”

    Another aquaphilic Oakland poster? Honestly, what is the obsession with playing somehwat near the estuary? Water has nothing to do with baseball, and I’m pretty sure concrete is not exclusive to San Jose’s buildings.

  6. Ethan says:

    A question about redevelopment funds. Oakland ‘s Central discrict has the most redevelopment funds. Does this mean this district has the best ability to pay for the costs of land required for a stadium? Is this why Victory Court was chosen?

  7. Marine Layer says:

    @Ethan – I’m sure that had something to do with it. ORA’s budget numbers clearly favor Central over any other district.

  8. Sid says:

    @David- I am putting a nice “satirical” spin to it but in reality I am dead on what Lew Wolff’s thought process is.

    I have agree with JK-usa at this point on that BS does not have 75% vote from the owners to move the team….Yes JK…..this may only happen once in a lifetime us agreeing on something.

    Steve Schott had the 75% vote in 2004 but there have been several ownership changes since then and that includes both the Giants and A’s. I think BS thought the vote would be as easy as what Schott did back then but in reality that is not the case and the new owners around the league do not think the same on some level.

    Hence the long delay and Oakland finally took the cue and started to do something when in reality they should have saw this about a year ago.

    Even with Oakland moving forward their proposal is going to cost far more money and take far more time in a less affluent area when it comes to the private sector and fan base than San Jose.

    MLB really screwed up locking themselves out of Silicon Valley now Oakland has to try to pull something out its ass at the 11th hour when we all know it is futile for the simple reason no logical businessman would spend 500M to build in Oakland without a huge public subsidy or a large private sector to support it.

    A’s are screwed at the Coliseum for years to come….Lew Wolff and John Fisher will make $$ and take the other owners money to spite them rather then sell. In turn the Raiders will move to Santa Clara with the 49ers costing the City of Oakland more than they ever thought.

    As we all know the Coliseum cannot be remodeled for baseball anymore and once the Raiders leave then MLB will be forced to contract the A’s in order to save $$.

    Very sad league you run Bud Selig….What a coward.

  9. Tony D. says:

    Sid,
    Respectfully, you forget that MLB can do whatever the hell it wants. Again, the anti-trust exemption, the FACT that the Giants don’t own the T-Rights to SCCo. and the FACT that when MLB/”BRC” makes its decision the Giants won’t be able to do anything legal about it. I also disagree that Selig doesn’t have the votes to overturn the T-Rights. Just last month in the AN interview Wolff himself stated he talks to almost all the owners of MLB due to his work on various committees. I’m sure they all know by now what’s at stake in the Bay Area. By now they are also pretty likely to be aware that an A’s franchise in San Jose won’t hurt the Giants one bit; no loss of corporate sponsors (since very little existed to begin with, thanks to the SVLG survey of last year) and fans, since most Giants fans (even those supporting the A’s in San Jose) won’t jump ship on their team.
    Like I’ve stated before, I believe the real reason we haven’t heard anything from MLB/”BRC” is because, well, San Jose hasn’t provided anything to vote for or consider…yet. The AT&T parcel will fall soon, leaving the welding supply parcel left to acquire. Once San Jose TRULY has All it’s ducks in a row (not just most), then I believe we will get a decision from the “BRC.”

  10. jk-usa says:

    @ST–I have my built-in hide/ignore button I will use on your posts for now on. I’m tired of your same old same old and am done with you. You are the crudest, meanest of the pro-SJ bunch. Sid, pjk and Briggs are pretty cool. TonyD needs some help, but is not as bad you. Please, do me a favor and don’t reply or mention me EVER again and I’ll do the same. Thank you.

    @Sid–Oakland’s gonna pull out a nice shiny ballpark out of their ass. It will be quite a feat, I know, but believe it can be pulled off.
    I don’t think the Raiders will go to SC. I know people in that area do not want the Raider Nation and all it will bring to the area. And that wasn’t part of the vote, having both teams there, which would also take even more parking on Sundays away from Great America. Not the ideal spot for a stadium. A new Coli for both teams would be pretty cool. I hope the York’s jump on board, but it doesn’t look like it at this point.

  11. Sid says:

    @Tony- I respectfully disagree. San Jose is so much further along than Oakland is why not move forward now?

    I agree with your assessments overall but because of the AE the owners have provide a 75% vote to overturn the Giants T-rights to San Jose. Therefore if the vote was there they would have moved forward already.

    If baseball was going to make $$ and it was the right thing to do then why has it not gone to a vote and moved forward? They just had owners meetings in November and Winter meetings that concluded yesterday and it has been almost 2 years since the BRC was appointed.

    BS knows he can’t move forward until he has this vote in hand. If it is even a question then he will sit and do nothing hence what he is doing now.

    San Jose wanted to move forward with a vote and BS said straight to Chuck Reed and said he would pay for a spring election but where is the decision?

    This on top of the fact Oakland sat and did nothing made things even worse. It caused a stalemate across the board.

    I want to see the A’s in SJ for the simple reason they will survive for years in the Bay Area in that sub-market. The South Bay is far more lucrative than the East Bay from a corporate and affluent fan base standpoint.

    At the end of the day I believe the vote is the lingering issue as there has not been one in 2 years and that is the KEY to the whole thing.

  12. tony d. says:

    One other note Sid. If Selig didn’t have the votes for this, or if they were truly going to give Oakland another shot, then
    1) this committee would have never come into existence or 2) he would have called off/terminated the committees work months ago by declaring “our committee has come to the conclusion that the A’s should remain in their current, designated territory and SCCo should remain under the control of the SF Giants.”

  13. tony d. says:

    Respectfully Sid,
    I guess we can agree to disagree, no problem with that. But ask yourself this: why wouldn’t the other owners vote to allow the A’s to simply move 35 miles south to San Jose?
    Facts are 1) the Giants have SCCo for one reason and one reason only, 2) territories have changed/been altered many times in MLB ‘s past, 3) other two team markets are shared territories and 3) I’m confident the other owners (with Wolff’s help of course) can read a map of the Bay Area.
    Last comment from me on this thread: MLB is in control here, not the Giants and Bill Neukom.

  14. Sid says:

    @jk-usa- Oakland will never get it done. Not without a huge public subsidy to build it. Not just redevelopment but general funds to makeup for a lack of private sector in the general area. This is how similar cities such as Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Arizona, and a few others got it done.

    San Jose may not get the team but Oakland will never get anything done as they picked their poison by dealing with the Raiders years ago.

    Sorry dude, but you need to realize the economy screwed over Oakland. I truly believe 8 years ago the taxpayers would have paid for it in the East Bay but the politicians (Jerry Brown) did not let it happen.

  15. Sid says:

    @Tony D- I agree with your statements except you do not take into account that BS thought this would be “easy”.

    He hit road blocks he did not foresee and that is the real problem.

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