Category Archives: Politics
As we bring on a new year and a new baseball season, let’s reflect on the rather tumultuous year that was 2013.
- January - FanFest was a great event again, though the cramped concourses at Oracle Arena had many fans wishing for the event to be held at the Coliseum instead.
- The Coliseum Authority raided scoreboard funds to pay for the ongoing Coliseum Study.
- February – Oakland officials were forced to apologize to A’s owner Lew Wolff for misplacing a letter requesting further lease extension talks.
- March – The City of Mesa, AZ, approved a renovation plan and 20-year lease for Hohokam Stadium that will bring the A’s over from their longtime spring home, Phoenix Municipal Stadium. 2014 will be the last year at Muni for the A’s, after which the stadium will be home to the ASU Sun Devils. The Cubs, who vacated Hohokam after 2013, are moving to their own mega-complex on the west side of Mesa.
- San Jose was dealt the first of a series of setbacks when the state rolled back the City’s transfer of the Diridon ballpark site to the Diridon Development Authority. Eventually the City and Santa Clara County worked out the details of a deal, though it remains up in the air for now. In addition, a request to disqualify the Stand for San Jose lawsuit failed.
- April/May – Kevin Johnson rallied Sacramento and Bay Area interests to put together an ownership group that eventually bought the NBA Kings from the Maloof family.
- SAP takes over for HP as naming rights sponsor of San Jose’s Arena. Most fans continue to call the building The Shark Tank.
- The Giants refinance the remaining debt at AT&T Park (originally due to be paid off in 2017) in order to provide funds for their own project in the parking lot across McCovey Cove from the ballpark.
- Oakland Fan Pledge kicks off a campaign to build a list of fans willing to buy season tickets (and in some cases PSLs) at a new A’s ballpark in Oakland. Currently there are just over 5,000 pledges.
- Levi’s Stadium and the 49ers are awarded Super Bowl L in 2016. While the game will take place in the new stadium in Santa Clara, most of the other festivities will take place in San Francisco at venues like Moscone Center.
- June – San Jose files an antitrust lawsuit against MLB, alleging that the league’s stalling is costing the City tax revenues.
- A settlement between Howard Terminal operator SSA and the Port of Oakland could help clear the way for a ballpark on the waterfront site. Site proponents call this move “site control.” The Port was also motivated to get rid of an expensive, ongoing lawsuit by SSA over more favorable lease terms given to a nearby rival operator.
- A sewer main at the Coliseum is clogged, causing sewage to overflow the clubhouse level and requiring the teams to use the Raiders’ facilities (up one level). Eventually a towel or piece of clothing is found to be the culprit.
- July – A feasibility study for Coliseum City outlines the funding gap (now $400-500 million) that needs to be bridged for a new stadium, along with an explanation of the economic weaknesses of the East Bay market.
- The Earthquakes’ stadium is further delayed (until 2015) when numerous underground bunkers are found and need to be demolished before building anew. Erection of the stadium bowl would begin in late December.
- August – Raiders owner Mark Davis starts crowing for a long lease extension at the Coliseum, with the condition that the extension comes with a replacement to the Coliseum, preferably on the same site as the current stadium.
- MLB and the San Jose make filings in anticipation of an October hearing in their antitrust lawsuit.
- September – Lew Wolff clarifies that he seeks a five-year lease after the current lease ends after the 2013 season, with flexibility to leave early if impacted by a Raiders stadium.
- October – A federal judge throws out San Jose’s antitrust complaint against MLB, but allows the City an immediate appeal (Ninth Circuit) and for the state tort claims to continue. The state claims were also thrown out at the end of the year.
- A private investor group headed by LA mega-hedge fund Colony Capital and Dubai’s HayaH Holdings signs on to be the financial muscle behind the Coliseum City development. The group, teamed up with architecture firm JRDV, is tasked with providing a series of deliverables that will determine the feasibility of the project.
- Bloomberg estimates that the A’s are worth $590 million, a huge jump over Forbes’ preseason estimate of $468 million.
- November – With talks between the A’s and the JPA at an impasse, MLB steps in and negotiates a two-year extension for the A’s, resolving an outstanding issue regarding parking taxes. The Raiders receive a one-year extension with a one-year team option, which they would presumably exercise if they saw sufficient progress on the stadium front.
- December – The Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors hold their first joint session to discuss the pros and cons of Coliseum City. The Supes claim that the City has dragged the County along, and the County has not been sufficiently involved in the process.
- A court filing in the antitrust case states that MLB denied the A’s proposal to move to San Jose in June, just before the lawsuit was filed. MLB is unwilling to disclose the contents of the rejection letter. Sources inside baseball indicate that the A’s proposal, not the City of San Jose, was denied, opening the door to another proposal that MLB could conceivably accept.
- Renderings of the Howard Terminal ballpark are released. It appears that the vision would try to avoid the BCDC’s jurisdiction by placing the footprint sufficiently inland. It is unclear if such a move will work. Normal CEQA issues remain, and proper environmental review has not started yet. Meanwhile, the Port solicits bids for use at the vacated terminal per state law.
What can we expect in 2014? A lot of follow-up to many of the issues above. Lawsuits will continue, and short-term leases only kick the can down the road. With the leases temporarily out of the way, 2014 is the year of the election. Both Oakland and San Jose have mayoral races this year. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan finds herself at the top of a list of five declared candidates. The race to replace San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed will also be hot and heavy, with several current council members facing off against a former councilman and current county supervisor. We should expect to see some serious progress on Coliseum City’s feasibility, as several project deliverables are due in the first half of the year. Oakland partisans will continue to flog Wolff, while San Jose partisans flog Mayor Quan. 2014 is also Commissioner Bud Selig’s last full year in his job. The search for his replacement could be interesting, though the favorite is currently COO and longtime MLB exec Rob Manfred. Movement on the antitrust lawsuit is not expected until the spring, and the “forgotten” Stand for San Jose lawsuit continues its machinations. All in all it looks to be a very newsworthy year. Will attendance continue to grow? Will it be an eventful 2014? That depends on whether anything gets resolved. This site has been running for nearly nine years. The stadium situation has never looked more muddled, with no end in sight. Something’s gotta give, right? Right?
If you haven’t heard, the City of San Jose finalized a five-year lease extension with the San Jose Giants this week. Talks were somewhat contentious for several months, as it was Giants ownership (San Francisco Giants) that spearheaded the Stand For San Jose-vs.-City of San Jose lawsuit two years ago. The relationship was so sour that the SJ Giants had to remove themselves from the lawsuit in order to repair the relationship with the City. The Giants, usually at the tops of the California League in attendance, had things pretty good with a favorable lease and a vast array of corporate sponsors to choose from.
In fact, it wasn’t that long ago that the Giants took the City for granted. In 2007 they even played the old stadium ransom game, threatening to leave if they didn’t get as much as $8 million to renovate Municipal Stadium. City let the San Jose Arena Authority manage the situation, so renovations on an annual basis were kept reasonable, a little over $1 million from that point until now.
So when the time came for the two sides to talk, you can imagine how uninterested the City was with the Giants’ sales pitch. The S4SJ lawsuit involved the Giants’ law firm, Pillsbury, and from what I heard, City was happy to let the Giants twist in the wind a little. Eventually cooler heads prevailed, resulting in the five year extension through 2018.
The lease remains dirt cheap at about $25,000 per year. In addition, the City is for the first time granting the sale of naming rights to Muni. Money from any naming rights deal will go into a capital improvements fund. The important takeaway is that the City is no longer responsible for general upkeep at Muni, nor will it be pushed into funding other improvements at Muni as the Giants had previously requested. In a related move, a deal to share parking with Sharks Ice next door was also reached.
With the coffers running low to fund ongoing facilities improvements, City has used naming rights successfully to take care of various small projects. Most recently, the venerable Civic Auditorium received a name change to the awkward sounding City National Civic, after City National Bank. And of course, there’s also SAP Center, which changed from HP Pavilion in a rather quick manner after the CEOs of HP and SAP talked it over. City National Civic’s deal is worth $240,000 a year, within the range of single-A ballpark naming rights deals. It remains to be seen if Muni will fetch more because of the Giants’ name and the size of the market or less because Muni’s elderly condition. In either case, there should be a number of local sponsors who should be expected to bid, Adobe and Orchard Supply Hardware to name two.
Or, if the parent SF Giants wanted to get really snarky about it, they could rename it Giants Stadium. Talk about planting a flag. The Sharks took over the naming rights to their practice facility from Logitech, and have been expanding that brand ever since with rinks in Fremont and uptown Oakland.
Howard Terminal ballpark backers are looking for solutions to get past the BCDC. In their case the solution appears to be to build the ballpark outside the area the BCDC regulates. Say, what is the BCDC’s jurisdiction, anyway? Glad you asked. From the website (emphasis mine):
The open water, marshes and mudflats of greater San Francisco Bay, including Suisun, San Pablo, Honker, Richardson, San Rafael, San Leandro and Grizzly Bays and the Carquinez Strait.
The first 100 feet inland from the shoreline around San Francisco Bay.
The portion of the Suisun Marsh-including levees, waterways, marshes and grasslands- below the ten-foot contour line.
Portions of most creeks, rivers, sloughs and other tributaries that flow into San Francisco Bay.
Salt ponds, duck hunting preserves, game refuges and other managed wetlands that have been diked off from San Francisco Bay.
At 50 acres in size, Howard Terminal is a large enough property that plans can be drawn up to move structures around so that they can avoid the BCDC. Ah, but it isn’t quite that simple. Part of Howard Terminal is a pier built over the estuary, so that area is considered tidelands and is in all likelihood within the BCDC’s jurisdiction. Waterfront Action has a map showing where various Tidelands Trust lands lie along the Oakland Estuary.
If you look at the Howard Terminal section, the Tidelands extend inland past the cranes, as much as 300 feet. Add another 100 feet to cover the BCDC boundary and you have the defined area that escapes the jurisdiction. That means that there could be as much as 400 feet from the water’s edge to the outer wall of the ballpark, the length of home plate to center field at the Coliseum (sorry, no splash hits folks). The BCDC could rule that the shoreline starts at the water’s edge, which would allow the ballpark to be built closer to the water. It will probably take the BCDC and the State Lands Commission to sort all of that out. The recently closed RFP for Howard Terminal explains this further:
Tidelands Trust Compliance
Howard Terminal is currently encumbered by the Tidelands Trust. Uses of the property are therefore generally limited to water oriented commerce, navigation, fisheries, and regional or state-wide recreational uses. 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.
Whatever the final ruling is, filling in that empty area would be open space, which partly explains the presence of the cranes. The crane supports currently at Howard Terminal are nearly 120 feet deep from front to back. A promenade and open space fills that area, which is a good idea (you basically can’t get anything big developed in coastal California without providing open space these days).
A side effect of this placement is that the ballpark would actually be closer to the West Oakland BART station than the 12th Street Downtown Oakland station by a few hundred feet (4,800 vs. 5,100). In either case it’s a pretty lengthy distance and would be best bridged by shuttles.
Despite the placement of the ballpark in hopes of avoiding the BCDC, work done on the waterfront parts of the site would fall under the commission’s sway, even the conversion to open space. That’s because there is a land use covenant in place that is also highly restrictive, preventing all manner of structures from being built there without significant cleanup plans.
Now let’s look at one more picture. It’s an old one from the 2001 HOK study – the one that had Howard Terminal finishing among the worst with $177.5 million in needed infrastructure and other costs.
Note the differences between this image and the newer ones. In the newer renderings the ballpark is on the western half. In the older vision the ballpark’s on the eastern half. There’s also a convention center, hotel, and 1,900-space parking garage here. Mayor Quan referred to Howard Terminal as being zoned for a convention center, but was that an actual result of this study or similar efforts? I’ve seen no record to indicate this happened. In addition the 2001 HOK plan shows the original shoreline as reclaimed, but with a promenade extending out as connected piers, presumably to acknowledge the site’s 100 years as an operating port facility.
With these renderings, there are a few questions to carry forward.
- It’s not at all clear how much control the BCDC has over the site. Where is the true BCDC jurisdictional boundary?
- Given the site’s use as a port, how much say will the State Lands Commission have in lieu of the BCDC?
- How much do the land use covenant’s restrictions affect the cost to build here?
- Will a full cleanup be required, or can Oakland get away with limited cleanup if only certain uses are realized?
I’m sure there will be more questions to come. Those can be answered with a feasibility study and an environmental impact report.
UPDATE 12/16 12:00 AM – Matier and Ross finally have their column on Howard Terminal. The retention of the shipping cranes is a nice touch, even though they would be largely ornamental. Judging from the rendering, the right field fence would be 150-200 feet from the waterfront.
What’s missing? Any explanation about how the City/Port could get around the BCDC and CEQA.
There are some days when you feel your work is validated. This is one of those days.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan appeared at Save Oakland Sports’ year-end event last night, talking up a plan that, according to East Bay Citizen, “allows it to skip some regulatory hurdles.” Quan repeated something we heard from the summer, that Howard Terminal was zoned for a convention center. The only citations I can find from the City’s archives mention a possibility of a convention center from the 50′s, well before CEQA and modern land use initiatives. Currently Howard Terminal is zoned for industrial and maritime uses. While a zoning change is normally a simple City Council resolution item, the fact is that the Port itself identified numerous obstacles to making that change, namely the issue of maintaining maritime use at the site.
To that end, the Port of Oakland received three proposals for ongoing Port use at Howard Terminal. Two involve local concerns: Phil Tagami’s plan to use the site temporarily for either bulk or break bulk cargo, and Schnitzer Steel’s expansion plan, which is not explicitly a maritime use. The third plan comes from Kentucky coal mining company Bowie Resources Partners, in partnership with Dutch oil shipper Trafigura. Bowie’s an interesting proposition, as they export a great deal of their coal from the Port of Stockton. According to this press release, Bowie was in talks with the Port of Richmond to create a secondary shipping facility. Howard Terminal could work in a similar manner, though the precautions associated with shipping coal are enough to give one pause. Nevertheless the Port has to consider these options, since they need to figure out a way to offset the $10 million per year the Port will lose by idling Howard Terminal. A decision on how Howard Terminal will operate in the future is expected in the spring.
Ballpark proponents seem to be willing to play the long game here, with site readiness not coming for perhaps several years. Any continued use of the site for shipping purposes would potentially delay that readiness, unless a plan was put into place that allowed a ballpark to be built on a shut-down part of the site. At 50 acres in total size, there should be ways to make this happen. Developing the entire 50 acres would be another story.
Quan said that the to-be-released plan would be able to sidestep various environmental requirements, including some from the BCDC. However, that contradicts the Port’s own language from its Howard Terminal RFP:
11. Land Use and Permitting
In addition to any environmental regulatory oversight resulting from contamination, the Site is subject to the Tidelands Trust, consistent with the grants affecting the property with oversight from the California State Lands Commission. The San Francisco Bay Area Seaport Plan of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission (“BCDC”) designates the Site for Port Priority Use. The Site is located within the City of Oakland, and is designated as General Industrial/Transportation Uses in the City of Oakland General Plan. Any proposed change of use or any proposed construction, maintenance or new development at the Site will be subject to environmental review pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”).
The BCDC’s role has become more well known, as the fate of the Warriors’ Piers 30/32 arena plan is in the BCDC’s hands. However, note that the loudest clamoring over environmental impacts is not coming from the BCDC itself. Instead the noise is coming from opponents of the arena, who are using rules set by the BCDC and CEQA to invite greater scrutiny over the arena. While Howard Terminal lacks the picturesque quality of SF’s Embarcadero, it is still subject to BCDC regulations and should invite scrutiny on its own. The southeast corner of Howard Terminal is built on piers over water, just like Piers 30/32. Exactly what measures the City could use to get around CEQA and the BCDC are a complete mystery. I, for one, am looking forward to hearing it out.
The City had another waterfront site at one time in Victory Court. It was sold as a transit-friendly, partly publicly-owned, easy-to-acquire site that should cost less than $22 million to acquire. In keeping with that estimate, Oakland and East Bay business interests were willing to pledge up to $100 million to acquire and prep the site. At the time Mayor Quan touted Victory Court more vociferously than she is Howard Terminal now. Exploding costs ($240 million final site cost estimate) and the demise of redevelopment (downplayed as a factor as it was happening) effectively mothballed Victory Court, with no real public statement made by the City about what happened.
Whether you want to read this site as objective, slanted, or both, it’s important to get tough questions raised. That’s why I feel good about what Quan said yesterday. It’s proof that we’re doing our job well, that we’re asking the right questions, questions that need legitimate answers. Without this blog asking the tough questions, who will? East Bay media appears to be fine playing cheerleader. The City has been working behind the scenes to get site control, while not getting an EIR or even a feasibility study for Howard Terminal going.
So in the spirit of disclosure, let’s see the plan, Madam Mayor. Given her track record, the real situation is not expected to be as rosy as she often paints it. Matier and Ross supposedly got an exclusive on the plan, so we may see some real information as early as tomorrow.
Mark Purdy has a new column. It’s designed to get San Jose supporters to buck up, keep a stiff upper lip, hang in there, what have you. It has a bunch of quotes from the likes of San Jose Councilman Sam Liccardo and A’s managing partner Lew Wolff that trash Oakland. It’s a counterpoint to Marcus Thompson’s column from over the weekend that was meant to breathe life into the Keep-the-A’s-In-Oakland movement. Purdy laid odds, a generally weak tool to use for complicated situations like this:
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing in a new Oakland ballpark: 25-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing in a new San Jose ballpark: 10-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing at AT&T Park: 50-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics playing in another part of the country: 80-1.
Odds of the 2020 Athletics still playing at decaying O.co Coliseum, with everybody still arguing about where they should move: 2-1.
Perhaps Steven Tavares from the East Bay Citizen spent too much time at Oakland’s City Council session tonight (the A’s lease extension was approved, BTW), but something in Purdy’s column flipped Tavares’s wig, leading to a litany of entertaining, rant-filled tweets. Among them:
Re: the A’s at AT&T, future feasibility of Howard Terminal, @mercpurdy is confusing his wishful thinking with reality.
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) December 11, 2013
On the “new thinking” comment: have the A’s finally opened a dialogue with the city, county after all these years of avoiding them? #oakmtg
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) December 11, 2013
On the ground in Oakland is a sense the city has gained a small lead with its stadium situations. Now, can they maintain and grow it?
— Steven Tavares (@eastbaycitizen) December 11, 2013
You see, here is the problem. You have one guy laying odds, and another characterizing one party as in the lead. The brutal truth is that this type of narrative is completely useless. It’s bullshit. If you scratch the surface even a little bit, any oversimplified telling like this crumbles to dust. And there’s a simple reason for this.
There is no race.
We know what a horse race looks like. The showcasing of the Expos when MLB bought the team out from Jeff Loria is proof of that. Las Vegas and Portland were used in the process, and DC was taken. We’re not seeing that here. That’s not to say that MLB and either Commissioner Selig or his replacement will end up choosing between Oakland and San Jose at some point. They well could. The problem is that MLB doesn’t like either city’s plan, so it’s not going to choose either city. You can’t have a race when the judge thinks the two competitors don’t qualify. MLB would rather intervene only when it has to, say, when the A’s lease extension talks hit a snag. Then it can breath a sigh of relief, stretch it out a couple more years, and hope that a solution materializes.
Guess what? Oakland and San Jose pols are hoping for the same thing! Oakland is hoping that Wolff gives up and MLB kills off San Jose, so that they’re the only horse left. San Jose hopes that Oakland exposes itself as incapable of getting a deal done, forcing MLB to deal with San Jose. (At least San Jose is trying to force the issue with the lawsuit, but that’s a long shot at best.) None of these rather similar hope-based strategies are predicated on getting a site and pulling together financing.
Unless San Jose and Oakland provide something MLB wants ($$$ or an equivalent), MLB doesn’t have to listen to either one. When MLB negotiated the Coliseum extension, it didn’t set a deadline for Oakland to get a deal done. Selig didn’t tell Oakland to get Howard Terminal ready ASAP – hell, he didn’t do that for Victory Court either. If any substantive talks for a new ballpark are going to take place, MLB will have to be at the table brokering everything because of the intense mutual distrust between Oakland and A’s ownership. That’s exactly what happened in Miami (hello again, Loria!), and we know how badly that turned out. Yet do you hear about something like that happening in Oakland? Nope.
Now maybe MLB’s hand will be forced if Oakland decides to go with the Raiders’ preference of demolishing the Coliseum and leaving the A’s with no obvious place to play. Then it could support Wolff and say to Oakland, you made your choice. It could explore Howard Terminal further, though I suspect it has plenty of information on which to base a decision by now. It could go to San Jose, which would mean it would have to untangle the mess made by the Giants – who I hear have spent eight figures on legal work trying to derail the A’s and San Jose so far. As far as the A’s are concerned, MLB probably views them as an unstable Third World country on another continent. It would rather not get involved.
So until MLB actually decides to give a damn, let’s dispense with this horse race narrative. It’s not helpful and it only provides false hope to fans on either side of the divide, or even those who don’t particular care for a city and just want to keep the team in the Bay Area. It’s not fair to fans, and it’s a total distraction.
The other day Wendy Thurm asked me if there was a page of links and material related to Coliseum City that she could check out. There wasn’t, so I took some time to create one. The result is a curated, reverse chronologically-ordered list of posts, with a brief overview of the project. The link is simple enough:
There’s a new link in the sidebar as well, so you can reference it after this post disappears. Eventually I’ll do the same for other sites, but it will take awhile.