Election Day 2014

Update 11/5 6:00 AM – 100% of precincts are in and the ranked choice tabulations have been made. The next Oakland mayor is Libby Schaaf, who effectively trounced her rivals at the polls, nearly doubling Incumbent Mayor Jean Quan’s vote total. After RCV was calculated, Schaaf finished the night with 62.79% of the vote. Runner-up was Rebecca Kaplan. Quan was eliminated in the penultimate round.

Measure BB also won with 69.56% of the vote in Alameda County.

Sam Liccardo held on to win the San Jose mayoral job over Dave Cortese, finishing 51-49.

More commentary to come.

Update 11:30 PM – Results are coming back with some needed urgency. Schaaf has extended her lead over Jean Quan from 28.45-17.10 to 28.74-16.39, with Rebecca Kaplan now in third place at 14.36%. 44% of precincts have reported so far. Measure BB is now up 69-31. San Jose’s mayoral race has tightened up with Liccardo leading Cortese 50.9-49.1, a difference of 1,500 votes with 45% of precincts reporting.

Update 10:30 PM – The polls have been closed for over two hours, but results have been coming late, the last major update coming at around 9 PM. In Santa Clara County there have been technical (website) issues. Alameda County appears to have similar problems. I’ll hang tight for another hour before calling it a night. So far Libby Schaaf is ahead in the Oakland mayoral race, though be advised that these are extremely early returns and the ranked choice tabulations are not factored in yet.

oakmayor

 

Meanwhile, Alameda County Measure BB is ahead 68-32 and Sam Liccardo leads Dave Cortese 51-49 in the San Jose mayoral race.

Update 3:30 PM – San Jose City Council voted 9-1 to approve the A’s land option extension. Stand for San Jose’s law firm, Pillsbury, disagreed with the lease option on CEQA and referendum grounds. City attorney John Boyle clarified that a referendum wasn’t needed and that the EIR was certified. CM Pierluigi Oliverio was the lone no vote, saying that if the A’s wanted the land they should just buy it.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dina-Roberts Wakulczyk

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Dina-Roberts Wakulczyk

Despite the general disinterest in today’s general election, there are some important races that will impact stadium efforts for the A’s and Raiders in the Bay Area. Let’s take a look.

Oakland’s mayoral race is the big one, with 15 candidates including incumbent Jean Quan. A KPIX 5 poll from two weeks ago had council member Rebecca Kaplan first at 19%, fellow CM Libby Schaaf at 17%, and Quan and SF State professor Joe Tuman tied for third at 15%. The Chronicle is reporting that final ballot counts may not happen for a few days, even though they now have the ability to do election night tabulations tonight. In 2010, tabulating the results of the ranked choice vote took the rest of the week to complete. Members of Save Oakland Sports and supporters of Coliseum City have thrown their weight behind Quan, while going against Kaplan, who helped broker the A’s lease extension. Kaplan hasn’t officially stood behind any one concept, though it’s a logical progression to think that she might support a Lew Wolff-offered, A’s-oriented redevelopment plan for the Coliseum. Kaplan had received campaign contributions from Wolff, but chose to return them after questions about impropriety arose. Schaaf and Tuman have been highly critical of the City and the JPA throughout the campaign season, but haven’t offered much in the way of solutions for keeping the pro teams in town. Port commissioner Bryan Parker has remained the most vocal supporter of Howard Terminal for the A’s.

If Quan loses, it’s unclear what happens to Coliseum City. The CEQA/EIR process will continue at least through the 90-day deadline set last month. Kaplan, who had previously considered the Coliseum site the best future place for Oakland sports, remains on the JPA board and could pivot as a “savior” of the plan if she wins. If she doesn’t win she’ll remain in her at-large council seat and on the JPA board. Schaaf is vacating her District 4 seat, so like Quan, if she loses she’ll be out of elected office in Oakland.

As results come in they’ll be posted here. Look for a followup post discussing impacts later tonight or tomorrow.

San Jose also has a mayoral race, though it is more traditional than Oakland’s RCV. The primary was held in June, and as expected the top two candidates were current council member Sam Liccardo and Santa Clara County Supervisor Dave Cortese. Liccardo is being held up as the successor to Chuck Reed and is expected to carry on Reed’s pro-business policies if elected. Cortese, who was also a council member a decade ago, enjoys a great deal of support from labor and is considered the anti-Reed candidate. Both hold differing views on the baseball-to-San Jose effort. Liccardo prefers to continue Reed’s legal challenge of MLB, whereas Cortese has put forth a more conciliatory approach towards baseball. Both are proponents of bringing the A’s to San Jose.

Alameda County is set to vote on Measure BB, the 0.5%, 30-year sales tax hike for transportation projects. The tax would fund $7.785 billion in new projects, from more than $2 billion in largely deferred street maintenance to a Livermore BART extension ($400 million) to Bus Rapid Transit in Oakland ($35 million) to $284 million in improvements to I-880. Also in the package is $40 million for Coliseum City, money that would expand and better integrate the transit hub at the Coliseum BART station. This money is considered key to the success of Coliseum City, since additional privately financed development would be catalyzed by the creation of such a transit center. Two years ago a similar measure, Measure B1, barely missed the two-thirds majority needed for passage. Supporters of BB are vowing not to let such a defeat happen again by throwing greater campaign resources and garnering broader support for the measure. In 2012, Coliseum City basically had to punt while it waited for the next election, effectively delaying planning for nearly two years. With so much uncertainty surrounding Coliseum City’s prospects, another defeat could mean a very big nail in its coffin.

Finally, the City of San Jose’s City Council will vote today on the land option extension on the Diridon ballpark site for the A’s. The option, which is only for part of the fully assembled site, would run at least four years and up to seven at the A’s discretion. The cost of the option is $100,000 for the first four years, with additional years at $25,000. If the A’s exercise the option, they would pay $7 million for those 5 acres, and would have to buy the rest privately. No transaction can happen unless MLB approves a move to San Jose, which it has not done to date.

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Watch the top of this post for updates as they occur.

A’s release 2015 Spring Training Schedule

The A’s have released their spring training schedule, so you can start planning your trip to the desert for their first season back at Hohokam Stadium. That’s right, if you hadn’t heard, the A’s are moving on from Phoenix Municipal Stadium, which while cozy and scenic lacked up-to-date training facilities for the players and some of the creature comforts found at other Cactus League ballparks. I recently had a chance to check out some of the renovation work at Hohokam. Thankfully the old beige paint is pretty much gone, replaced by forest green, light gray, and gold accents. The new Daktronics scoreboard is up, seats have been replaced, work on the party deck in left field should begin soon. All renovation work is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

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In keeping with the later start of the regular season, spring training starts on Tuesday, March 3, with a “home-and-home” set against the Giants. The Cactus League slate ends April 1 before moving to the Bay Area for the ritual Bay Bridge Series.

springtraining-2015

If you want to catch as many games as possible at the new Hohokam, come during the first weekend and into the second week, when 5 of 6 games will be played there. The first 3 games are also a good bet, since 2 of them will be in Mesa (1 at Hohokam, 1 at Cubs Park). If you have the chance, make sure to check out some of the newer parks such as Salt River Fields and Camelback Ranch. Salt River Fields is the new gem in the Cactus League and is worth the extra drive.

If you have any questions about how to plan your Cactus League trip, feel free to reply in the comments. I’ll be happy to help.

Hohokam seating chart

Hohokam seating chart

Kephart provides some brutal honesty about Coliseum City

New Coliseum City frontman Floyd Kephart provided a wide-ranging interview to the SF Business Times (main article/additional quotes). After 2+ years of the project lacking real details and general cageyness from its spokespeople and supporters, Kephart’s honesty is a breath of fresh air. He minces no words about the difficulties Coliseum City faces, and sets the table for what needs to follow.

birdseye-view_north

Coliseum City with two new venues plus the existing arena

The article, written by Ron Leuty, lays out Kephart’s previous experience, much of it in the horse-racing business, some of which is in financial crisis management. The latter’s probably the best why to describe his current ordeal, with 90 80 days left in the ENA. Kephart admits that CC is by far the biggest project he’s ever worked on. Among the things he says needs to be done:

  • Public benefit analysis
  • Disposition and development agreement
  • At least one signed team
  • Master developer

I put together a more extensive list last week when the ENA extension was signed. The public benefit analysis, while not a requirement, is an excellent idea since it could help garner public support if conducted honestly. That could be crucial if CC ends up going to the ballot box in the future. The DDA is a potential showstopper, since it can take up to a year after a team and developer sign on to hammer it out, as it did for the 49ers and Santa Clara. The DDA isn’t anything like a apartment rental agreement or even a mortgage, it’s hundreds of pages of details about financing, ownership, rights, timelines, and legal responsibilities. Maybe if the Raiders or A’s sign on prior to the end of the 90 days another extension could be granted for the DDA, but it goes to show how far behind the 8-ball this project is.

The big takeaway is that Kephart is meeting with Wolff in early November (perhaps next week?), which will give Kephart a chance to sell Wolff on having a more competent team in place or tailoring the vision for the A’s. Kephart’s aim appears to be lower than what the City was selling for the last two years, as the goal of having one team in place, maybe two is not nearly the same as bold (or pointless) as saying Everyone can stay here, there’s plenty of land.

Wolff could easily dismiss the plans just as he had done over the summer, but with the finish line drawing near, Wolff may be more likely to listen. The reason? Process. Having an active CEQA/EIR process underway is worth millions of dollars and at least a year’s worth of effort, so if Wolff were to sign on or bring in a master developer that will work in concert with the A’s, they’d already be ahead of the game. It’s a risk for Oakland, though, since the Mark Davis could view this as a sign that the Raiders are about to be marginalized. Since Davis hasn’t signed on himself, there isn’t much room for him to complain. As Kephart notes:

“Nothing says what the Raiders want. Is it a life-sized statue of Al Davis at the entrance of the stadium and then they’ll stay? … Maybe the teams have asked the city that — I don’t know.”

Another big piece of news is the timeline.

Yet even if Kephart’s group assembles all the agreements and documentation needed to win over a master developer for Coliseum City, the soonest the A’s would play in a new ballpark would be 2018 and the Oakland Raiders would land a new stadium in 2019 ‘at the earliest,’ Kephart said.

‘We want to cooperate,’ Wolff said. ‘We want to see what happens in whatever timeframe, 90 days or longer. Then we’ll know better what we have to do.’

2019 for the Raiders is a long ways away. It’s unclear whether that would be acceptable for Davis. If someone’s promising a new stadium in LA earlier, he may be willing to take it if the terms are right, even if he’s the second team in LA. 2018 for the A’s pretty much falls in line with reset expectations coming out of the lengthy Coliseum lease negotiations. We all want it sooner, I know.

For now Kephart is saying the right things – the truth – that can help get everyone on the same page. There’s no doubt that the effort at this point is a Hail Mary. Then again, Kephart probably knows a thing or two about long shots. If his work can help get the A’s in a ballpark in Oakland, he’ll have done his job magnificently.

Oakland Sports Forum, Wednesday October 29, 6-8 PM

Oakland has had a slew of mayoral candidate forums and debates, all leading up to the election on November 4. Surprisingly, there has been little coverage of the sports franchises and their impacts, save for the occasional easy-to-dodge question here and there. Thankfully, Zennie Abraham has seen fit to host his own forum. Named the Oakland Sports Forum, the event will be held this Wednesday, October 29, from 6 to 8 PM at Lakeshore Baptist Church in Oakland.

Abraham, who does a lot of video in addition to blogging, will be livestreaming the forum on YouTube as well. If there’s a Game 7, you may have to multitask.

A set of four questions will be posed to mayoral candidates who show up. So far 12 of the 15 have confirmed. Here are the questions:

  1. Wild card question from audience submitted beforehand, asked by that person. (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  2. The Golden State Warriors are working to build an arena in San Francisco. Some say the deal is done and its too late to stop it. But others say that the Warriors belong here in Oakland, still owe Oakland and Alameda County rent that would pay off the bond that was issued to pay for arena renovation in 1998, and should not be allowed to skip town. What is your take? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  3. The Oakland Raiders and the Oakland A’s need new stadiums. As I speak, Coliseum City is in the early planning stages, but could progress better – financing has not been completely secured. Is Coliseum City the right approach, and if it’s not, then what would you push for as Mayor? The ballpark waterfront proposal? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)
  4. The Oakland / Alameda County Joint Powers Authority was formed to provide a government issuing body for the Raider Bonds. Lately, the JPA has been the focus of strained City and County relationships, and I’m presenting that in an open-ended fashion. What, if anything, should be done with the JPA, and as Mayor what will you do to make that happen? (1 min per candidate, then 10 minute conversation period with moderators.)

It’s a good set of questions which should keep the candidates from being too vague in their responses. The responses will be scored – how very sports – and a winner will be announced at the end of the proceedings.

It’s been eight years sense the “Choose or Lose” forum prior to the 2006 election. This shapes up to be a more substantive event than the last one. Maybe there will even be an adult conversation.

A’s renew land lease option with San Jose for 7 years

With Oakland’s Coliseum City dominating the news over the last few weeks, it’s a shock to see San Jose come out of nowhere with news of its own. According to the Merc’s Mike Rosenberg, the A’s and San Jose have agreed to a seven-year option on the Diridon ballpark site next to the main train station. The new deal is essentially an extension of the previous land option, which was due to expire next month. The A’s will pay $25,000 per year to retain the option, the same terms as in the previous agreement.

The other big reveal in the article was that last month, San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed met with baseball’s Commissioner-elect (and current COO) Rob Manfred in New York. While Reed didn’t make any headway in getting Manfred to loosen the Giants’ grip on territorial rights, it’s a positive sign for San Jose that the two had a meeting, which could lead to more discussions. Reed’s mayoral successor – either County Supervisor Dave Cortese or SJ Councilman Sam Liccardo – would be the new point person, both willing to take Reed’s baton. Retiring commission Bud Selig created a 3-man panel to act as a buffer so that he wouldn’t have to be directly involved. The panel (BRC) was apparently disbanded earlier this year, leaving Manfred to handle any new talks. It’s no guarantee of future talks for sure, but it does have some weight.

More meaningful is the impact of the land option deal. Though the A’s couldn’t build there tomorrow or even next year, the very presence of the land option keeps San Jose in the game and gives MLB a card to play against Oakland in case they turn future ballpark talks with the A’s into yet another circus. After all, it was Manfred who purportedly threatened Oakland with the immediate approval of a move to San Jose if Oakland killed the A’s lease extension. At the time many called it a mere negotiating ploy, which it was. Oakland folded quickly then, so there’s little reason to think it wouldn’t work on some level again.

Complicating things for MLB is that other tenant in the Coliseum, the Raiders. Since Coliseum City is ostensibly a Raiders project, everyone has to wait for the Raiders’ eventual approval or rejection of the project before knowing what to do next. The list of outcomes is short and clear.

  • Oakland and Raiders sign Coliseum City deal, triggering clause for A’s to escape lease and look to San Jose
  • Coliseum City talks break down, allowing A’s to start up talks with the JPA and Oakland while the Raiders look elsewhere
  • Mark Davis becomes indecisive and signs a short-term lease at the Coliseum, status quo

Lew Wolff has been clear about his disinterest in Coliseum City, so his becoming a signatory over the next three months is just wishful thinking. The terms of the lease extension have kept Howard Terminal out of the discussion, with the focus on the Coliseum only. The Oakland crowd will consider this cagey and deceitful, whereas San Jose (or pan-Bay Area) partisans will call Wolff’s moves prudent and in the best interest of getting a ballpark built ASAP. There’s some truth to both views, and they’re inextricably linked. For some time Wolff’s priorities have been simply to build a ballpark and figure out a way to pay for it. If the Raiders’ fate can be determined, the A’s will be the next domino.

Timing is also interesting. For a while I’ve been of the opinion that San Jose could never be completely ruled out as a ballpark option as long as so many things in Oakland remained uncertain. MLB’s tacit approval – twice – of the A’s-San Jose land option affirms that. If MLB truly wanted to affirm T-rights as iron-clad and non-negotiable, they wouldn’t allow the land option. They know the value there. To be certain, MLB does not want to break that glass if an emergency occurs, but it’s there and it allows MLB and Wolff to maintain focus on the Bay Area, instead of playing the usual stalking horse game with another market outside NorCal. All this comes out just after the 90-day countdown on Coliseum City begins and the Raiders accelerate towards the NFL’s February relocation window. MLB and NFL have been careful to enter in the A’s and Raiders discussions only when they had to, and to let the process in Oakland work itself out. The JPA is readying itself by hiring Robert Bobb to work with either New City Development or Lew Wolff.

Is this the winter when resolution occurs? Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The winter will arrive soon enough.

P.S. – As usual, much of the initial Oakland reaction is, Why doesn’t Wolff (and Fisher) sell the team? Because they have no interest, and no one can force them to sell. Next question.

P.P.S. – How long will it take for Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s office to call up Rob Manfred, asking for a meeting?

P.P.P.S. – My initial draft didn’t include that third “Indecisive Mark Davis” option. It’s a distinct possibility, though it comes with its own permutations. Davis wants maximum flexibility in whatever he does over the next couple years. He has looked at various non-Coliseum stadia to temporarily host his team. You might think the leading candidate would be Santa Clara, but the terms don’t work for him because he’d have to sign a longer-term lease to cover the additional construction required at Levi’s Stadium. The leading candidate is, would you believe… AT&T Park? The Oakland Raiders at AT&T Park. You can always count on Larry Baer to always have Oakland sports’ best interests in mind.

P.P.P.P.S. – Wasn’t San Jose’s lawsuit vs. MLB supposed to make the city persona non grata in baseball’s eyes? Yet they have a meeting. Funny, that.

Mesa, A’s show off Hohokam Stadium progress

With two months to go before completion, A’s ownership and the City of Mesa did a tour of Fitch Park and Hohokam Stadium today, emphasizing all the  improvements A’s players and fans will get to enjoy in a few months. I visited back in the summer. I should have a chance to check it out again in the coming weeks. Until then, take a look at tweets by local media showing the project’s progress. The new clubhouse isn’t quite finished yet, but the seats and scoreboard appear to be complete.

Think about that for a moment. Over the span of six months, the A’s are installing new scoreboards at Hohokam, the Earthquakes Stadium, and the Coliseum. That’s a lot of blinking lights!

As much as I loved the old school, laid back intimacy of Phoenix Muni, I’m looking forward to attending games at Hohokam, which is a fairly short bike ride from my brother’s house in Mesa. The spring pilgrimage looks to become an annual rite for me.

Lew Wolff and Mark Davis meet with Coliseum JPA

The second item in the most recent Matier and Ross column is short albeit promising one.

It was a rare sight indeed — A’s co-ownerLew Wolff, Raiders owner Mark Davis and their advisers in the same room with members of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, talking about building separate stadiums on the Coliseum site.

Not much was said beyond that, especially from anyone on the JPA. Still, it’s an encouraging sign that the JPA and the two teams are on the road to a viable Coliseum City alternative. Even with this rather small step, it’s better partnership than Coliseum City, which has at been given a lukewarm response from Davis and a decided nay from Wolff.

I don’t expect any plans soon, but the winter would be a good time for an unveiling. Oakland would be past the election craziness and its holiday recess. Barring a lengthy last-minute ENA extension, it’s also likely that we’ll know the fate of Coliseum City.

If you want to dream about an Oakland ballpark in earnest, now’s a good time to start.