Category Archives: Oakland
After unsuccessfully trying to get similar positions in both Phoenix and Dallas, Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana resigned on Monday. Santana served three years at the job. Previously she served several years as Deputy City Manager in San Jose. It’s not clear where Santana will go next, though it is known who will replace her: Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell.
You may remember that Santana goofed a year ago when she said that Lew Wolff asked for a lease extension only through the media, not via a letter to the City. The letter was found in a pile of furlough mail, which forced some rather embarrassing backpedaling on her part. Nevertheless, Santana never seemed interested in the various stadium plans that hatched during her tenure, preferring instead to focus on budgetary impacts. From the outside, Santana was definitely the biggest budget hawk Oakland has seen in a while. She ran into friction with protestors over her handling of Occupy Oakland and her decision to close off the balcony at City Council meetings, while also encountering tension with some Council members over their inability to follow rules.
Blackwell, on the other hand, is more of a redevelopment guy than a budget guy. He was tasked with overseeing the development of some of the big ticket City projects, such as the Oakland Army Base, Brooklyn Basin (O29), and Coliseum City. Blackwell has been instrumental in getting the various interests (developers, financial backers, the Raiders, the JPA) on the same page regarding Coliseum City, though that has been with a struggle. Blackwell has been more directly associated with Coliseum City than Howard Terminal, but he considers both sites viable, a position supported by Mayor Jean Quan.
What Blackwell apparently lacks is serious fiscal experience. Prior to his ACM stint in Oakland, he was the redevelopment head of the small agency in San Francisco (compared to Oakland CEDA and San Jose’s RDA it’s tiny), and director of SF’s Community Development office. Blackwell’s fiscal expertise, such as it is, isn’t an imperative at the moment because Santana paved the way by crafting budgets during her tenure. It’ll be more interesting to see if Blackwell keeps his job after the election.
That may depend on his ability to complete Coliseum City. With most cities’ redevelopment powers curbed, Blackwell was left to focus on these high profile projects, which have their own current and potential funding sources. Spring’s big deliverable is a market research report, and the Raiders (and perhaps the A’s and Warriors) are supposed to be signed onto the plan by the summer. If the report looks bad or Mark Davis is hesitant, it’s largely on Blackwell, not that he can control much of it. Most of the circumstances that will dictate Coliseum City’s feasibility are largely beyond his reach. He can continue to sell the concept to investors and teams, but in the end, they’re the ones who’ll be doing the heavy lifting financially, not Blackwell. Then again, Blackwell’s new job will give him to latitude to craft a deal, similar to the plan Robert Bobb had to bring the A’s uptown in 2001. Blackwell could succeed where Bobb failed in getting the Mayor to sign on, a good possibility since Quan already endorses Coliseum City. Will the numbers add up? That’s the real challenge for Blackwell, one that, unlike his predecessor, is not his strong suit.
On Thursday, two weeks after the Board of Commissioners at the Port of Oakland was expected to reject three maritime use bids at Howard Terminal, the Board finished the job. The issue was tabled during the previous meeting when the Board decided to hold off making a decision while coal shipping company Bowie Resources Partners provided additional information. Despite the delay, the decision was expected to be a formality, since Bowie’s bid raised serious environmental concerns and the other two bids were considered incomplete.
With that procedural move out of the way, the possibility of a change to a non-maritime use, such as a ballpark, grows. East Bay Citizen’s Steven Tavares noted that the ballpark concept was not discussed during the meeting, but is the obvious elephant in the room. The Port has created an ad hoc committee to discuss long-term uses for Howard Terminal, though it meets in closed session next week. I figure that the committee will need to have more open meetings in the future to avoid potential Brown Act violations. There’s a good chance that the committee will talk ballpark, as well as the ENA (exclusive negotiating agreement) that ballpark booster group OWB has offered to sign in a show of progress for MLB.
However, the maritime use question is not done just because the Board rejected bids. The Port has to keep pushing to get some use out of Howard Terminal while the process to convert to a different use takes place, since they’re losing $10 million per year for the next several years due to HT’s vacancy. Plus the Port and City of Oakland are not in full control of the final land use decision, because they’re considered trustees of waterfront lands controlled in the end by the State of California. The State Lands Commission, which makes the final decisions on these matters, gave some very clear insight into their process in a letter of support for the Giants’ lawsuit over a height restriction ballot measure under consideration in San Francisco.
However, the State’s grant of these lands to the City did not end California’s supervision and control of these lands. California still remains the ultimate trustee of these granted lands. The actual use made of the lands granted by California to its municipal trustee is a matter of statewide importance and one that directly impacts the Commission’s jurisdiction. The courts have described California’s continuing role by stating that, “Upon grant to a municipality subject to a public trust, and accompanied by a delegation of the right to improve the harbor and exercise control over harbor facilities, the lands are not placed entirely beyond the supervision of the state, but it may, and indeed has a duty to, continue to protect the public interests.”
As such, the City serves as a trustee, both as to the lands themselves and as to the revenue derived from trust lands. The trust lands are not held by the City in a municipal or proprietary capacity, but rather for the benefit of all the people of the State of California. The legislative grant created a trust in which the City is the fiduciary/trustee, the State is the truster, and all the people of the State are the beneficiaries. The legal consequence of this trust relationship is that the proper use of the tidelands and tideland revenues is a statewide affair. While the day-to-day management of these public trust lands was granted to the City, the State, through the Commission, retains trustee and oversight authority over the City’s administration of these lands, and the Legislature remains the ultimate trustor.
The exact same language can be used for Howard Terminal: the City/Port is the trustee, the State has authority, the Legislature is the trustor. It’s not hard to see legislation being required to make any Howard Terminal conversion final. There’s already a precedent in the Brooklyn Basin project (a.k.a Oak to Ninth), when Don Perata got a bill passed in 2004 that allowed for a land exchange that made the project possible. If overall Bay Area Port capacity is to be diminished some significant amount, a plan must be enacted to make up for the lost capacity. Such plans would have to be shaped by the SLC and the BCDC, which has its own regional seaport management plan.
In other words, don’t expect this process to be quick. It’s doable, as was the case in San Francisco, but Howard Terminal’s conversion will have to take place within the context of it benefiting the entire Bay Area and the State of California, not just Oakland or some developers. That’s only fair.
Giants President/CEO Larry Baer slipped a rather shocking note into the festivities surrounding the spring training opener, when he said that he’d be willing to allow the A’s to play temporarily at AT&T Park.
Of course, there are conditions. From Merc scribe Alex Pavlovic’s article:
“They’ve got to come up with a long-term plan. Once that’s arrived at, then maybe you’ll take a step back and say, ‘Is there something we can do to be helpful?’ As a neighborly thing.
“Obviously, they’ve got to come up with what their plan is and we’ll go from there.”
The A’s have a long-term plan, but that’s in San Jose, the city that Baer is loathe to give up. That means that Baer is perfectly willing to be neighborly, as long as the A’s stay in Oakland.
If you want to read between the lines, you can consider this a memo to Oakland ballpark backers to get off their asses and get something done. He’s willing to be neighborly, up to a point. He’s willing to appear magnanimous in his willingness to share the jewel at China Basin, up to a point. As long as there’s some motion towards a ballpark in Oakland, it helps Baer’s cause.
Strategically, it’s easy to see why Baer is going this route. Now that the Giants have practically paid off their ballpark, they need another rationale for preserving the split territorial rights regime currently in place. They can talk about protecting their fan base in the South Bay, but frankly, the issue is Oakland. Simply put, can a ballpark be built in Oakland? If it can – and it pencils out for the A’s financially – then the current T-rights scheme can remain in place, whether Lew Wolff and John Fisher are the owners or someone else takes their place. If Oakland can’t be done, which Wolff has been arguing, the East Bay itself is done, and MLB will be forced to consider an alternative method of drawing up territories. Immediately that means the South Bay is the only other place in the Bay Area, with Wolff preferring that as opposed to leaving altogether, which Baer has hinted in the past he’d be okay with.
Baer’s little nudge should provide motivation for Oakland boosters, though Baer can’t make it easier to build in Oakland. Nor is it likely that the Giants will help Oakland out monetarily. News coming out of Raiders camp can’t be encouraging, as Raiders owner Mark Davis indicates that nothing is happening with Coliseum City, at least as he sees it. Davis characterized Coliseum City as perhaps Oakland’s last chance to keep the Raiders. By NFL rules, Davis has to make a good faith effort to keep the team in its current market, and Davis has certainly done that so far. If Coliseum City breaks down, the Raiders could leave for LA as early as a year from now, and Roger Goodell can’t say much about it. Sure, the NFL holds the purse strings, but by that point they’ll know full well the challenges of building a stadium in Oakland as much as LA. Like the A’s situation, if it doesn’t pencil out in Oakland, there may not be an East Bay alternative. Already he’s backing away from the Concord Naval Weapons Station and Dublin’s Camp Parks, which makes me wonder if he’s only feigning interest in those sites in order to appear thorough.
Davis also referred to the impact of the Oakland mayoral race, indicating that developers wouldn’t get off the fence until after the election. That runs counter to the idea that the various mayoral candidates could make Coliseum City progress by stumping for it along the way. The project has its own schedule and milestones, with the next big one, the Market Data Analysis, due in March. By spring we’re supposed to find out how feasible Coliseum City is, and by summer teams are supposed to be signed on to be partners – at least according to Mayor Jean Quan. Movement will come from making the numbers work, not magic. Davis is not the only person to wonder what exactly is happening with Coliseum City. We’re going through these phases with CC, where some small amount of progress happens, followed by a huge informational vacuum, then a sobering dose of reality, and then another small step forward. Eventually that cycle will be replaced by real discussions, actual reports, and true political and financial support (or a lack of it).
Going back to the Giants and Baer, I suppose that since he’s offering his place as a 1-2 year airbnb stint for the A’s, we can start talking about what that would look like. That’s for another day. For now, it makes the most sense to focus on Oakland. In the near term, that’s where the only future for the Raiders and A’s lies.
Following a staff recommendation made last week, the Port of Oakland’s Board tabled a motion to reject three proposals for maritime use at Howard Terminal. The motion will be considered at the next Board session in two weeks. Located just west of Jack London Square, Howard Terminal has been touted as the latest great ballpark site by many Oakland boosters and city officials because of its waterfront locale and proximity to downtown Oakland.
One bid from Bowie Resources involved the shipping of coal or other to the Port, which I noted in December. That bid was rejected due to the use not being green enough as the offloading and storage of coal would release pollutants in the air, hurting Oakland’s air quality. The bid also would have built storage domes up to 150 feet high. Coal storage domes are probably not the kind of visual icon Oakland wants along its waterfront. The CCIG bid faced a staff rejection because it was considered incomplete, whereas the bid from Schnitzer Steel was similarly not considered because it only used a small piece of HT land. Representatives from Bowie were on hand to press their case that staff had not thoroughly vetted their bid. This may be a case of delaying the inevitable, since the prospect of bringing coal to Oakland’s waterfront is likely to bring out the full force of the Sierra Club, not to mention enormous amounts of CEQA red tape.
The Port had no choice but to pursue maritime uses in the wake of SSA Terminals vacating Howard Terminal and consolidating operations at Berths 60-63 in Middle Harbor. That’s because the BCDC’s Seaport Plan considers HT as part of its “Port Priority Plan,” meaning that any designated maritime (shipping, cargo) use lands should be kept that way unless additional capacity can be found elsewhere to make up for it. With Howard Terminal, the idea is that SSA’s (and Matson’s) consolidation should be able to make up for any lost capacity from converting HT. From the report:
Using Howard Terminal for non-maritime uses conflicts with this designation, and de-designation of lands from Port Priority Use requires a Seaport Plan amendment, which is a fairly lengthy and involved process. To pursue an amendment, the Port would be required to provide evidence that sufficient capacity exists within the remaining Port seaport properties, or elsewhere within the Bay Area Port priority lands, to support the long term maritime growth demands for the region. BCDC would then independently analyze that information before proceeding with an amendment.
Such a move has a major precedent in San Francisco, where huge swaths of waterfront along The Embarcadero were converted to commercial use after Loma Prieta, along with the teardown of the Embarcadero Freeway. That conversion allowed Oakland and Richmond to take up much of SF’s cargo shipping capacity. Note that there’s no mention in the report or agenda item of HT being used for anything other than maritime uses in the report, even a ballpark. But that’s how ballpark boosters see the plan progressing, with the hope of the BCDC’s blessing. OWB, the group offering to negotiate a lease for a ballpark and additional development at HT, can’t negotiate anything with the Port until the maritime use question is resolved. Even then, other agencies could easily gum up the works, as the Warriors are seeing with their SF arena project.
Additionally, the State Lands Commission could get involved because much of the waterfront part of HT (including a wharf in the southeast corner) is Tidelands Trust land, which also requires discussion and perhaps even legislation.
Approval from the State Lands Commission would be required for any uses of the property that are not Tidelands Trust compliant. Many non-maritime activities are not considered Trust compliant uses and thus may require lengthy negotiations with the State Lands Commission, and potential legislation, before the Port could proceed with such non-Trust uses for the property.
Sketches of a ballpark at HT show the stadium recessed from the water’s edge, perhaps enough to avoid SLC jurisdiction. Even then, it’s a gray area due to maritime use. It’s not as if Oakland needs another marina or ferry terminal, since such facilities are already adjacent to HT at Jack London Square.
The rejection was considered to be a fairly quick rubber stamp of ballpark boosters’ plans, which are supported by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Port Commissioner Bryan Parker voted to table the motion, a move that looks funny since he’s running for mayor against Quan yet supports a waterfront ballpark. That puts him in the odd position of needing to show due diligence, while trying not looking overtly political in the process. This may end up being a mere footnote in the history of a Howard Terminal ballpark (whether it happens or not), but it goes to show that when it comes to getting something built in the Bay Area, nothing is ever as easy as it seems.
Lew Wolff visited the JPA on Wednesday. Staying consistent in his stance from last month, Wolff was seeking a lease extension, up to 10 years in length. Matt Artz’s Tribune article references the lease but not Coliseum City.
If Wolff is willing to hear out CC plans, chances are that he won’t make any kind of commitment unless a lease is in place first. Last month, the A’s put out a press release in response to a Matier & Ross column claiming Wolff’s interest in CC.
We are only prepared to meet with our landlord, the JPA, or elected and designated officials of Alameda County and the City of Oakland, to discuss any aspect of our venue or lease.
Remember that before lease extension talks broke down between Wolff and the JPA last summer, Wolff was seeking a 5-7 year extension with an out clause should the Raiders’ new stadium plans interfere with the A’s being able to play at the Coliseum. Two years at the Coliseum is only somewhat helpful, since there’s no way a ballpark will be ready at the end of the lease. Wolff will continue to ask for a lease extension as long as this uncertainty post-2015 remains.
Shortly after the press release I wrote a lengthy post about Wolff’s motivations, should they extend beyond merely getting an extension. Area A of Coliseum City (east of 880) is divided into three phases, starting with the new Raiders stadium, then the ancillary development designed to support the stadium, and finally the remaining surrounding development and a ballpark in the A Lot.
As part of Phase III, the A’s ballpark couldn’t come earlier than the end of the decade unless there was a major reshuffling of priorities. That’s where a 10-year extension could come into play. If Wolff wants to partner up on Coliseum City and the schedule can’t be significantly altered, the A’s would have to play at the Coliseum for the full length of that extension until the new ballpark was in place. MLB may have wielded the AT&T Park threat against Oakland successfully when it inserted itself into last fall’s lease talks, but sharing AT&T Park for any length more than a season or two will create enormous logistical problems for MLB, the Giants, and San Francisco.
Impacts from construction have to be minimized, which is a big reason for the phased approach. Not only does Coliseum City include new venues, it has tons of new infrastructure, including a new BART pedestrian overpass, new bridges over 880, and the “spine” that links all of it together. To understand those impacts, let’s compare the Coliseum complex now and what’s envisioned.
The above image has the new stadium slightly overlapping the current Coliseum footprint. Previous images had the stadium turned slightly and oriented further away from the spine, which could allow the current Coliseum to remain in place – or at partly demolished as was the case with Cincinnati’s Riverfront Stadium. To accommodate the football stadium where Mark Davis wants it (and where it’s shown in the image), the Coliseum would have to be demolished. That’s unavoidable, even though the new stadium’s footprint isn’t exactly on top of the old Coliseum. That’s also not a huge problem for the Raiders, since they could room with the 49ers for a couple years in the interim. It’s a huge problem for the A’s, who would be displaced. That’s why Wolff wants to get the lease in place. The A’s face eviction in this plan, even though there’s little chance for a new ballpark at CC or at Howard Terminal after the A’s are evicted. The lease would at least force BayIG and the Raiders to work around the A’s and the Warriors, who would be tenants for some time to come.
Another piece of infrastructure could be a huge factor: the power transmission lines running through the south parking lots. A big reason for building where the current Coliseum exists is that the power lines can be avoided. The cost of moving overhead transmission lines could be several million dollars, and easily double that cost if the lines were rerouted underground. In the end it may be best to move the lines underground, as it would free up land for other uses. Whether the lines remain overhead and are relocated down the road or moved underground, it’s a big infrastructure cost that has to be accounted for. Earlier renderings had the stadium displacing the power lines, so if there’s a consensus to avoid the lines, you’ll know it was a big factor. Besides the cost, PG&E and the Public Utilities Commission would have to be involved in the process, which could create delays.
Going back to the A’s and Wolff, as long as Wolff keeps some sort of dialogue going, he can have skin in the game. That disappears this summer, when BayIG is expected to have its anchor tenants signed on to the project, the Raiders being the first (I expect the deadline to slip). If Wolff can get an extension first, he’ll continue to have a say in how Coliseum City is developed. If not, and BayIG and the JPA can’t figure out a way to keep both the Raiders and A’s happy, Wolff can turn to MLB and force them to come up with a solution. That solution can’t be Howard Terminal in the short-term, since we don’t know what can be built at the Port site right now or in the future. Then there’s the possibility I wrote about in December:
If the Raiders stadium proves too costly, the A’s could easily slot right in with a much less expensive stadium option that has a much smaller funding gap, say $200-300 million. Plus with only one stadium there instead of two, there would be additional land to develop or reassign as needed. Wolff’s in a good position to wait and see how the market analyses work out for them and the Raiders.
Wolff can play this multiple ways, but the #1 issue is ensuring the A’s a home for the next several years. The rest is all process that should work itself out over the next 6-9 months. Lew may claim constantly that there’s no Plan B. I’ve never believed that. He’s not going to explain his contingency plans until he absolutely has to. That’s business.
Last year’s FanFest expanded to include the Plaza of Champions in between the Coliseum and the Arena. This allowed for extra space to accommodate autograph lines and other potentially concourse-clogging queues. The arena itself was still a little cramped, but at least the crowd was broken up a bit.
This time, the A’s announced that the Coliseum will also be in use for this year’s edition on February 8. The team introductions piece, which has players on a stage on the arena floor, will kick off the proceedings at 10 AM (Doors will open at 9). The Coliseum will open at 10:15. Like last year, fans will be able to access the A’s clubhouse for tours. Tickets will be $10, $5 for season ticket holders, free for children 6 and under.
BlogFest will also be held, which will allow us digital media types to interview Bob Melvin, David Forst, and an assortment of players (TBD). I intend to be there to ask a question or two and take some pictures.
Earlier this month I found out that longtime concessionaire Aramark had been replaced by Ovations. I’m curious to see if we’ll get to see or sample some of Ovations’ offerings at FanFest.
Having the general player interview piece in the arena continues to make the most sense, since there isn’t a nice, large video screen at the Coliseum for fans to watch. (It’d be nice if they did.)
I’m looking forward to FanFest/BlogFest this year, as it will provide a brief tease before spring training. I’m really looking forward to Arizona – more on that later.