Now for the “fun” part.
Last night I described the fate of redevelopment in a California where the concept no longer works within the budget framework. Today it’s time to discuss all of the great/terrible fates that await our favorite local sports franchises should RDA funding sources dry up.
49ers Bond Rush
It all starts not with the Oakland Athletics, but rather the San Francisco 49ers. The linchpin to the Santa Clara stadium plan is $114 million in public funds, $42 million of it from the RDA (the 49ers would provide a partial advance). This money would have to be raised before any RDA dissolution or cutbacks take place, so the deadline would presumably be sometime in the next 4-5 months. This means that Santa Clara would have to go to the bond market three times for the stadium project:
- $42 million from the RDA
- $35 million from the newly assembled Mello-Roos district (hotel taxes)
- $330 million from the Stadium Authority
If the RDA doesn’t get the bonds by the deadline, there’s no chance that the hotels will even tax themselves for their piece, let alone fund a RDA shortfall. The agreement between Santa Clara and the Niners would have to be reopened so that an alternate funding source could be inserted, and that source couldn’t be tied to the general fund in any way. The Stadium Authority couldn’t get started because there’d be no certainty of the project getting off the ground until the funding package worked itself out.
$40 million doesn’t seem like a big deal as it’s less then 5% of the project cost. It’s still a lot of money to raise and a big enough gap to throw a wrench into the works. There’s a chance that both parties could figure out a way to bridge the gap but it’s not going to happen immediately, and unless it’s the team pledging to cover it completely, any contractual details will require renewed scrutiny.
Should the team find the sledding too rough, there’s always a Plan B. They can run to Oakland, where the Coliseum Authority and the Raiders will be waiting with open arms.
The Coliseum Authority has bonding authority and capacity through its joint powers, the City of Oakland and Alameda County. There’s that nagging problem of ongoing debt burdening both parties through 2026, which can be looked at one of two ways: Should the JPA endeavor to get a new two-team NFL stadium built in the hopes that helps cover the debt or cut its losses and keep paying the debt even though the Raiders could be long gone before it’s retired? (Not that amassing more debt is favorable as the current bonds were downgraded to BBB last month.)
The problem Oakland and the JPA has going forward is the fact that the new Raiders stadium plan had integrated redevelopment along Hegenberger, including a new conference center, hotel and retail. With the well run dry, none of that stuff could get built unless some new taxation/indebtedness occurred, or unless the stadium project’s funding coved it. So what you’d be left with is in all likelihood an updated version of the stadium and arena complex, surrounded by parking. Sounds familiar, eh?
On the other hand, if Santa Clara is able to get the funding ball rolling, it’ll prompt the Raiders to move more quickly in order to leave Oakland. Al Davis isn’t going to live forever, and Roger Goodell is a take-no-prisoners negotiator who has been clamoring for the two teams to share a stadium. Whatever the location, expect an agreement between the host city and the two teams sooner rather than later. Otherwise it might be too late for both.
Which Way Warriors
We’ve discussed the Warriors and the Lacob-Guber group’s interest in San Francisco. The Port of SF owns land to the south of AT&T Park that could be well suited for an arena. This is important as the money’s already spent, no new funds required. In order for a new arena to be built, it would have to be privately financed and it would make the most fiscal sense if two teams shared the arena, not just one. This model has worked well in Chicago and Dallas, where both cities’ representative hoops and hockey teams created partnerships to build their venues. The Giants being the developer has only limited impact since they couldn’t materially impact which touring acts or other events came to town. Two teams means two major winter sports teams, not just the W’s and a minor league franchise.
Can it be done? The Giants/Warriors would have to attract the Sharks or a second NHL team, neither of which seems likely. SVSE would probably entertain the offer as a way to extract lease concessions from San Jose, but it wouldn’t move beyond that. It’s much like trying to get the W’s to move south permanently – it’s technically doable but highly unlikely. Lacob-Guber could also use the SF arena as a stalking horse for improvements to the Arena.
Again, any new arena in SF is only possible if it is privately financed. The good news? There will be so little big project construction in the future (save for public facilities) that the labor could be relatively cheap.
It was nice knowing you Cowtown
Unlike some of the whispering about MLB contracting two teams, there actually has been talk about contracting the Kings. And it will only get louder as the current season draws to a close later this summer. The woes of the Kings and the Maloofs have been chronicled here and elsewhere for some time now, and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel for them. Mayor Kevin Johnson is playing this like he has to walk the ball up the floor and dump it into the post every possession instead of being able to do anything dynamic like this. Being a mayor is a tough job. I want to see the Kings stay in Sac, but it’s hard to see long term with every proposal linked to some kind of redevelopment. The NBA probably won’t buy them as it did the Hornets, which leaves the Kings in some sort of limbo for years to come.
The landbanking strategy San Jose has used for years has never been more wise than right now, as it works to cobble together the remaining land at Diridon. As I understand it, the money is basically untouchable at this point and SJRA can do whatever it wants as long it takes care of its housing set-asides (25%). If SJ and the A’s are given the green light, the vote this summer or fall won’t be about ballparks vs. schools since the money will already be spent. The debate will be about baseball vs. other housing or commercial developers in a time of a glut of both housing and office space. And yes, the decision could drag on for another several months or even a year.
Oakland mayor Jean Quan has been publicly silent on what the death of RDAs could mean for the Victory Court project, and that’s not a good sign. When the mayors went up to the Capitol last week, the most quotable guy there was Chuck Reed, not Quan. There should be a greater sense of urgency there if Oakland’s various supporters want the donut hole strategy to come to fruition, but it’s not happening publicly, perhaps by design. Should the EIR be delivered at the beginning of April, there will be ample opportunity to go over every detail of the document, and it’s that thoroughness baked into the CEQA process that could eventually kill MLB in Oakland. The way I see it, Bud Selig is looking for a politically expedient opportunity to declare support for San Jose, and that could come in the form of a 400-page EIR that brings up more questions than answers. Why? Because Lew Wolff has to have been in his ear constantly about this redevelopment business, and opportunities are running out fast. Maybe the day of reckoning wont occur immediately, it might occur well along in the process as it did in Fremont. Either way the clock is ticking as it is for AT&T in that commercial for the Verizon iPhone.
Of course, if Let’s Go Oakland had declared Victory Court as its site in December 2009 instead of 2010, Oakland might not be in such a bad position. Oakland’s only saving grace now is something out of its control: the continued difficulty with T-rights negotiations. That’s like basing your retirement plan on an upcoming shared inheritance – will you get a good enough piece, or will it mostly go to the more favored child/mistress/charity? It’s not a real investment strategy.