Selig to visit San Jose

According to this report from the Merc, the Commonwealth Club’s Silicon Valley chapter scored big in getting an appearance from none other than commish Bud Selig. Selig is scheduled to speak September 7 at the McEnery Convention Center, where he will speak on numerous topics including steroids and expansion. The most locally intriguing issues are, of course, relocation and territorial rights. This is probably the best opportunity for San Jose partisans to find out if Selig is willing to budge on his hardline stance regarding the Giants’ rights to Santa Clara County. There is an issue of timing, since the Oakland ballpark plans were announced only weeks ago and Selig won’t want to say or do anything to potentially jeopardize that initiative. It’s likely that Selig could spend the day touring the Coliseum North site with Lew Wolff, perhaps even alternate sites like Fremont. If San Jose officials were able to get an hour or so to make an unofficial pitch and tour, it would be a major coup for their efforts.

I, for one, will make every effort to attend the event.

SB 4 passes Appropriations Committee

Yesterday, SB 4 passed easily in the State Assembly’s Appropriations Committee, 13-4. The three Bay Area Assembly members on the committee (Mark Leno, Johan Klehs, Joe Nation) all voted yes. Now, it should be on to a third reading and a vote in the Assembly. Afterwards, the heavily-amended bill has to go back to the Senate for approval, and then finally to the Governor’s desk. SB 4 will have to compete with dozens of other bills, many of which are higher profile. The journey through the Legislature must be completed by September 9, which marks the end of the session.

Again, should SB 4 pass, there are possibilities for raising tax-free financing for a new ballpark and surrounding infrastructure, without requiring a local vote to authorize funds. Because the bill itself has been weakened, it’s only reasonable to expect that the I-Bank Board would be very careful about how it qualifies projects, since it will have the final say. If the Wolff plan proceeds with land acquisition and then construction, it’s likely that either the JPA or Oakland would be asked to make a proposal to the I-Bank, even though the revenue streams used to pay off the stadium would be largely private.

CBS-5 Mayoral roundtable

CBS-5’s Hank Plante hosted a Charlie Rose-style roundtable including the mayors of the three big Bay Area cities: Jerry Brown, Ron Gonzales, and Gavin Newsom. The discussion covered a multitude of issues including crime, the Bay Bridge, gay marriage, and homelessness.

Inevitably, Plante brought up the issue of competition among the three cities, and that meant the A’s and San Jose’s thinly veiled efforts to get the A’s. True to form, Gonzales said little about the A’s directly, and Brown repeated his position of “let’s keep the A’s here, but at what public cost?” Anyone expecting heated debate about the A’s was sure to be disappointed. It’s becoming apparent that Gonzales is merely keeping the idea of baseball in San Jose warm for the next San Jose mayor, while Brown used the roundtable as a lengthy politicking session, as shown by his almost complete disinterest in the subject matter.

Attendance watch, August edition

The recent surge in the standings helped boost the A’s turnstile performance during the first week of the 12-game August homestand. As expected, attendance cooled somewhat with the weather and the arrival of the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals, but the average attendance for the homestand was still excellent, at 32,555 per game.

To date, that puts the A’s 4% down from last year. This season’s total attendance through 65 dates is 1,697,637. In 2004, it was 1,769,184. The good news is that the A’s should surpass last season’s pace (not total attendance) in the next series versus the Yankees. The following three opponents (Texas, Seattle, Minnesota) probably won’t make much of a dent. At least there are a Mark Kotsay bobblehead night (rare to have bobblehead giveaways on weeknights) on September 6, and a Fireworks Night on September 23 versus the Rangers. The last series of the year is a four-game mid-week set against The O.C., and while the last two games should be well-attended by default, attendance at the first two games may depend on the A’s relative playoff status. To beat last season’s total attendance mark, the A’s will have to draw around 31,500 a game for the rest of the season – not impossible, but a challenge because of the way the schedule is drawn up. If the A’s are in wild card or division championship contention during the final week of the season, they should be able to beat it. They’ll need 1,000 more than that per game to beat 2003’s total.

Wolff needs someone on the inside + Property owners have their say

Two articles by the Trib’s Paul Rosynsky today. First off is a report with quotes from numerous property owners who may be willing to relocate if the price is right, but also hate eminent domain with a passion. Next is an article detailing a request from Lew Wolff to the City of Oakland, asking for someone within City Hall to assist with the plan (land acquisition, zoning, planning). Oakland did have just the man for that job once upon a time, but Robert Bobb was never supported by Mayor Brown, and so he left to a place where his skills could be utilized: Washington, DC. Larry Reid, as much as he may be committed to this, will not get the job done alone. There needs to be someone on the inside who can navigate the political maze and broker the necessary deals to get everything in place. At my day job, we call this person a “champion.” The champion is willing to do the leg work, the follow-ups on all related parties – someone who has considerable influence within but won’t be distracted by other issues, as an elected official would. Will the city produce such an individual? We’ll find out shortly.

The media has questions

The Chronicle has a new editorial that has the same tone as Thursday’s Tribune op-ed. I imagine Wolff must be a pretty good poker player, though I imagine he’s more likely to play hold-em, stud, or baseball than no-peekie. Then again, with so many Saturday evening games, perhaps he’s a fan of night baseball.

Eric Lai of the East Bay Business Times has an excellent article on the impending land acquisition efforts. There are some mind-blowing numbers, including an estimate by the paper’s analysts that the land in question could be worth up to $315 million. Or, at the below market rate of $20 per square foot, the land would cost $126 million. Keep in mind that the purchase of the land would not be a cost borne by the City of Oakland, but whatever the final figure may be, it’s a substantial investment. The payoff potential is enormous though, as Wolff and his partners could net hundreds of millions if not billions if they built, say, 5,000 market rate condos on the site. The piece ends with a rather ominous note:

Wolff has set a one-year deadline for garnering the political and monetary support for his project. That assumes unrealistically quick cooperation from a wide range of government bureaucracies, critics say.

“Lew might have come up with something so big in order to see Oakland fail,” said Zennie Abraham, a former Oakland mayoral adviser and sports business owner.

Having made his best effort, Wolff would then be free to negotiate moving the A’s to a city such as Portland, Sacramento or Las Vegas, all of which are clamoring for a Major League Baseball franchise and willing to pony up more money than Oakland is.

Coliseum South = Plan B? + Transit struggles + As the baguette turns

The CoCo Times’ Guy Ashley mentions an important nugget not previously reported from the 8/12’s JPA meeting:

Though Wolff said the team is open to all possible alternative sites, the preferred one appears to involve a compact new A’s stadium in the Coliseum’s north parking lot, and a massive new parking facility on the south side of the Coliseum near Hegenberger Road.

One East Bay official at the center of the A’s ballpark initiative said the site repeatedly comes up as the most logical Plan B for the stadium project.

“It’s his fallback position,” said Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid, who spoke with Wolff about the Coliseum scenario days before Wolff went public with the baseball team’s grand Plan A to transform a tired swath of land along I-880 between 66th Avenue and High Street.

While it’s not the major development plan proposed at the meeting, it’s a reasonable fallback should acquisition of parcels within the preferred site prove difficult. However, it does pose issues involving financing. Limited acreage makes the investment potential at the Coliseum North/South lots far less. There’s also a question of whether such an option, which places the ballpark on the north end and extra parking along Hegenberger, makes sense. The Raiders don’t want garage parking. They want surface lots for their fans to tailgate. It makes more sense to put a ballpark on the Malibu lot and build other parking along Hegenberger, so that interference with the Raiders’ interest is minimal. They’d also have a chance to further develop the Hegenberger land, which would be a short walk from the ballpark itself. Whatever Plan B actually is, it’s good to know that at least there is a Plan B.

Another item of interest is the fallout from the federal transportation bill (Fremont Argus). While San Jose Congressman Mike Honda inserted language that will help the BART-to-San Jose project, other projects were hurt because they didn’t receive federal matching funds that are desperately needed to complete them. The BART Warm Springs extension and the BART Oakland Airport People Mover are two local projects that received nothing. The Metropolitan Transportation Commission may have the ability to shift money around to get some of 10 projects on the list going, but they’re going to need to be creative. If something doesn’t happen to bridge the funding gaps for each of these projects, they could be delayed at least two to four years, or even indefinitely.

The final item today is a report from the Chronicle on the closure of the Parisian sourdough bakery in San Francisco. An institution for 149 years, Parisian was swallowed up by Interstate Brands (Twinkies, Wonder Bread) several years ago.

Interstate Brands, which filed for bankruptcy protection last year, is shutting down two San Francisco bakeries as part of a cost-cutting move, an effort “to right the ship,” said Interstate Bakery spokesman Jason Booth. The second bakery, on Bryant Street near San Francisco’s Potrero Hill neighborhood, made Wonder Bread, Twinkies and Ho-Ho snack cakes. It also closed Friday. Interstate said neither plant was profitable.

The point of all of this? Interstate is keeping their Oakland bakery open. In a previous post, I noted that this is the landmark Colombo bakery, which just so happens to take up several acres of the land Lew Wolff is trying to acquire. There are a couple of possibilities here. Since Interstate has two factories that they would have to liquidate, it may be possible for Councilman Larry Reid to ask Interstate to relocate their Colombo operations to San Francisco, if that’s feasible. Of course, that’s probably not an appealing notion to workers at the Colombo bakery. There’s also the possibility that because Colombo is a healthy brand and may have some special strategic importance to Interstate, that they may be unwilling to sell the property. Everything has a price, but there are certainly valid arguments for making it either more or less difficult. Only when these parties are engaged will we know for certain. Add to that the fact that negotiating with every individual company or landowner is a unique set of circumstances, and you can start to appreciate the effort that will be needed to pull this deal off.