You want hills? You got ’em.

I played around with Google Earth and put together a stadium overlay. The scale is pretty close though not exact. Here are three smaller images, and you can click on them to get the larger images.

First up is the overhead view. This is just to get a sense of scale. The line indicates the view from home plate through center field. Use the freeway interchange (Auto Mall/880) on the lower left as a reference point.

Next we have a “helicopter” view that’s similar to the shots that I posted earlier. The ballpark’s footprint looks deceptively small due to the perspective.

Finally, here’s the piece de resistance, a near-ground level view looking east. Yes, Virginia, those are hills. The line terminates at the top of Mission Peak, which is 2,517 feet above sea level and makes for one of the more popular hikes in the area. The “crow flies” distance from Mission Peak to the site is 4.7 miles. Contrast this with McAfee Coliseum, which is 3 miles from the Chabot Park hills in East Oakland. That ridge rises to just over 1,100 feet at most. Leona Quarry is around 800 feet above sea level.

In a place that lacks skyscrapers, at least it’s something to look at.

Assorted newsbites

Mayoral debates were held in Oakland and San Jose earlier tonight. I couldn’t make it to the SJ debate but the Merc’s Phil Yost ran a running commentary. Candidate/BBSJ member Dave Cortese (remember the Wave article from earlier in the week?) got the baseball question. His response sounded much like his stance during the 3/1 study session, but he also got a plug in there for soccer. That can’t be a bad thing for the Quakes fans who felt like they got the shaft on Tuesday night.

It would be nice if the Oakland Tribune had a similar blog for the Oakland mayoral debate.

Got a few more bits of information on Pacific Commons. Real estate firm Colliers Parrish still has their Pacific Commons website up though it has some outdated information. It should give you a sense of the property’s size and location. Here’s a map I clipped from the site:

The building layout is reflective of the campus plan for Cisco. It’s different from the typical Valley industrial park plan in that the buildings front the street. Most of the time these buildings are well-recessed from the street and act as islands surrounded by parking. On the map above, the areas on the left side are already developed. The bottom left has a planned park (green), a water treatment facility (blue), and an Amtrak/ACE station (orange). Surprisingly, that station is the same “crow flies” distance from the main street Pacific Commons as the planned BART station on the other side of 880. Tomorrow I’m lobbing a call into a local firm that designs and builds people-movers. Seriously.

As for the ballpark village, I found out that:

  • 1600-2200 housing units is the target depending on the amount of land acquired
  • A hotel and meeting facilities are planned
  • A baseball museum would be integrated into the footprint

Lastly, the Merc’s poll has “Yes to Fremont” beating “No” 66% to 34%. More tomorrow.

Fremont in the news

Last night Lew Wolff spoke at a Washington Township Men’s Club function, which was held at the Fremont Elks Lodge. He was there rubbing elbows and selling the plan to Fremont business and civic leaders. Merc reporter Barry Witt has a must-read recap, including greater detail of what Wolff’s vision is than what we’ve heard publicly. (For the record, I haven’t heard that much privately.)

Wolff discussed a many-faceted plan:

  • Work with Cisco to get control of the parcel Cisco controls within Pacific Commons.
  • Get entitlements from Fremont to build the ballpark and the mixed-use ballpark village plan. This includes some 2,000 housing units, from which some portion of profits would provide $200 million towards a ballpark.
  • Scope out Fremont’s requirements to provide services to this new area.
  • Figure out how to get 15,000 parking spaces on the property along with the ballpark and other development.
  • Work with city and transit officials to complete a usable mass transit infrastructure (shuttles from BART and buses at this point).

Here’s an updated picture that shows the lay of the land (10:28 PM – changed to reflect land that can be developed and land that is protected):

Now let’s address these issues one-by-one.

Cisco: Cisco currently has no way of pushing the conversion of its industrial-zoned land to residential or mixed-use. It also has an option to purchase the land and a long leasehold. They are interested in having land available for future expansion should it be required, so they may not be willing to simply sell without getting something back.

Limited land size: 143 acres sounds like a lot, but not when parking is factored in. A typical surface parking lot has around 125 parking spaces per acre (The Coliseum complex is roughly 100 acres) . To get 15,000 spaces, 120 acres would have to be devoted to parking – the typical endless sea suburban model. Since that’s not likely, some garages will have to be built. The ballpark will take up 15 acres. Streets and parks may take up another 15-25 acres. Wolff may want to place a hotel on the site. There would be an undetermined amount of commercial activity as well, though the existing Pacific Commons shopping center would cover some of that. Given all of these space requirements, it’s easy to see how difficult it could be put it all together. A previous news item points to land in Dublin that could be used for the housing requirement, though that’s another issue altogether.

Transportation: Other than a planned Amtrak/ACE station to the west of Pacific Commons, there are no existing plans to bring rail-based mass transit to the area. BART isn’t going to expand to the west. Event-based shuttles are probably the most feasible option at this point. If BART’s Warm Springs Extension (WSX) gets funding, service could start by 2010 or shortly thereafter. MTC and BART are still trying to figure it out. WSX is also dependent on the San Jose BART extension being approved, so there’s still a lot of stuff to figure out there.

Fremont’s growth and land use: Having 2,000 new units built means introducing 5,000 new residents to an area that has little infrastructure. There will have to be a mixture of medium-density and high-density development, perhaps even towers. Fremont will have to assess the costs of provide the full range of city services, including fire and police. Housing is expected to be sold or rented at market rates, so there probably aren’t any huge risks of increased crime. Environmental issues are bound to crop up. Original landowner Catellus (now part of warehousing giant ProLogis) ended up with a smaller development plan than what they initially wanted, including the protection of over 1,200 acres of wetlands – much of it offsite. The introduction of residential could cause that agreement to be reopened and may shape the final development plan. Traffic will also be a driving force since Pacific Commons is only a couple miles north of one of the largest bottlenecks in the Bay Area, the 880/Mission Blvd/680 interchanges. The revamped 880/Mission interchange is scheduled for completion in 2008, but there will be some negative impacts from ballpark-related traffic.

The good thing about this is that there are plenty of options to get this kind of development done. Conditions may dictate a compact, reduced-sprawl model. There are also smaller issues such as where to place the ballpark on the site to allow for paid parking when a large retail center with free parking is nearby. Just because the parties are moving quickly doesn’t mean they won’t be thorough. There’s one more extremely important factor: the way it’s shaping up, a public vote won’t be required.

No fireworks, but…

Tonight’s session ran for two hours. The format was explained at the beginning:

  • Presentation of different Draft EIR findings
  • Break – during which the public could fill out comment forms
  • Q&A session based on responses to the comment forms

While the format allowed for most comments to be addressed, there was little room for any kind of debate or exchange. This didn’t sit too well with the large contingent of Quakes supporters on hand, all of whom were looking for some indication that the City is still interested in bringing MLS back to San Jose in the next millenium. I’ll go into more detail on that tomorrow in a commentary piece.

Any questions that were addressed were narrowly focused on the EIR. This meant that anything that might have been missed or glossed over in the Draft – well, there were no clear explanations other than the fact that comments would have to be noted, addressed, and inserted into the Final version. This included:

  • Little explanation of the TPMP (Traffic & Parking Management Program). Residents of the St. Leo’s/Cahill Park and Delmas Park neighborhoods have not been impressed by the TPMP imposed when the Arena was built, so many eyes rolled. The City really needs to get this piece in place or else it risks severe backlash. I happen to live in the Horace Mann neighborhood just to the northeast of City Hall. Horace Mann has a daytime parking enforcement plan because of its proximity to San Jose State, and for the most part it works well. I imagine it’s harder to make this work at night. Some combination of street closures and increased police/metermaid presence will be required.
  • The parking study may be significantly flawed and not reflective of downtown’s typical parking usage patterns. Mark Morris submitted a seven-page document outlining his concerns over the parking data (I’ll post that sometime tomorrow). Merc reporter Barry Witt also explained that the consulting group doing the traffic study was the same one that did Santana Row’s traffic study. That study was also flawed as its sampling was not as “worst case” as it should’ve been. Anyone that drives in the Santana Row/Valley Fair area knows how much of a nightmare it presents on a normal day, let alone the holiday shopping period.
  • Dual stadia (baseball/soccer) is not looking good. It wasn’t just merely shot down, it appears that that none of the concept that was floated regarding a soccer stadium in December had ever been considered. More on this later.
  • No study was done on the impact of weekday games (business person specials). The lots in the area tend to be used for transit-related parking, so scheduling games during a weekday at noon or 1 p.m. would severely impact available parking. This will be investigated and put into the study.
  • The concert sound contour was not considered realistic because of the way sound would propagate in the “amphitheater” configuration. Such a setup would use a single-point source at the stage instead of the ballpark’s distributed sound/PA system, which is designed for efficiency. I have a feeling that should this get built, any concerts will be limited to the daytime hours, such as weekend music festivals. Night concerts could be off the table early.

Some good came out of the meeting, especially since my other ballpark-specific comments were addressed.

  • It was acknowledged that the environmental impacts presuppose a worst-case scenario featuring a 45,000-seat stadium. However, I had also asked Planning to include an alternative that featured a 35,000-seat stadium, since its advertised impacts should be less and may include built-in mitigation measures. I didn’t get any assurance on that.
  • Planning will check into the field orientation change. I suggested 15-30 degrees (preferably to the north). I can’t say how much impact it would have, but if such a change were combined with special site considerations in the ballpark design to absorb more noise and light pollution, mitigation could be significant.
  • There will be an alternative that includes “perimeter lighting,” which places lighting on the rim of the ballpark’s roof instead of on poles/standards. On a related note, there was an inquiry about the impact of a ballpark’s light on Lick Observatory. UC-Berkeley looked into it and stated that it would have no negative impact.

The format doesn’t lend itself to open discourse, so if you come to one, you probably don’t need to come to the rest. When it came to the inevitable question about the “East Bay team that shall not be named,” there was more awkward dancing than a typical junior high Sadie Hawkins. For the April 27th meeting, I might just show up dressed like Stomper. At least then everyone would have to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

One last thing – I saw around 20 Quakes/Soccer Silicon Valley supporters decked out in Quakes jerseys. I didn’t see any A’s apparel anywhere, which highlights a problem: since the Baseball San Jose site is no longer active, it’s hard to get the word out locally to Valley baseball supporters. Then again EIR’s tend to be pretty dry so I can hardly blame folks for not being interested if they don’t live in the affected neighborhoods

SJ Public Outreach Meeting tonight + Aramark

I’m not expecting fireworks, but tonight’s first of four public outreach meetings for the Diridon South ballpark site should have some interesting and varied viewpoints. There should be representatives of the local neighborhood groups, some baseball supporters, the anti-tax watchdog group, and a contingent of Quakes supporters as well. The Soccer Silicon Valley folks are going to ask for the EIR to include a soccer stadium alternative.

Since the meeting is going to be focused on stadium environmental impact, I’m going to bring up a few topics/suggestions that could push things in a positive direction:

  • The A’s have cited 35,000 as a likely capacity for their new ballpark. The EIR cites a 45,000-seat stadium, with an appreciable noise increase over the study sample – Qualcomm Stadium with 40,000 in attendance. Noise should be somewhat (though perhaps not proportionally) lower with a smaller stadium design.
  • A capacity of 35,000 should require a smaller footprint and less height. I’m going to recommend using PNC Park as a proper example since it’s closer to the right size than any of the other HOK ballparks built over the last 20 years.
  • A roof with lights built in should help reduce light spill more than with typical light standards.
  • Is the dual-stadia concept possible or not? (I didn’t think this was well-addressed at the study session)

If you’re going to be there, I look forward to seeing you. I’ll be the short Filipino guy with a shaved head, in a red sweater. We’ll have a talk, no big whoop.

Aramark has put together a new website promoting the various types of concessions they will make available for this upcoming season. You might like the front page since it has a familiar look to it…

Among the new items available at McAfee Coliseum this season:

  • Bagel dog
  • Chili cheese dog
  • Crispy chicken sandwich

Now if they could only have a chili cheese “big dog” – and a gurney + EMT’s to go with it.

Staying on point

At this point Lew Wolff must be getting tired of giving the same unrevealing answers about the state of the A’s. Here’s another set of vague quotes, courtesy of SF Business Times scribe Eric Young. Young also wrote an article on how stadium enhancements are allowing both the A’s and Giants to pull greater revenues during spring training. One interesting factoid: the A’s pay the City of Phoenix $400,000/year on rent at Phoenix Muni. That’s almost as much as what they pay at the Coliseum for far fewer dates.

The A’s are playing a sold-out exhibition game on Thursday against the River Cats in Sacramento. If a reporter or columnist with the Sacramento Bee gets ahold of Wolff, we’ll see how the inevitable “What about Sacramento?” is handled. We can almost be certain of another Marcus Breton love letter to the A’s.

If for some reason you still had some hope for the A’s new home to be at the Oakland Uptown site, the final nail has been pounded into your optimism’s coffin. Forest City and Macfarlane Partners signed a 66-year ground lease on the Uptown land. Yes, construction has already started there.

Uh-oh, break out the conspiracy theories

The Wave Magazine’s “The Buzz” column captured the anger of neighborhood groups around the Diridon South ballpark site, since it appeared that San Jose officials were trying the ram EIR through. It doesn’t note that there are four community outreach meetings scheduled over the next month for neighborhood groups to talk about the EIR:

  • Tuesday, March 28 @ 7 p.m. @ City Hall Council Chambers
  • Saturday, April 1 @ 10 a.m. @ City Hall Council Chambers
  • Wednesday, April 19 @ 7 p.m. @ City Hall Council Chambers
  • Thursday, April 27 @ 6 p.m. @ City Hall Council Chambers

At least this time it won’t be a matter of sending out last minute flyers to notify residents.

The juicy bits in the column come in the form of quotes by city council member/mayoral candidate/Baseball San Jose member Dave Cortese. Here’s an excerpt:

… a rumor has surfaced that the Oakland A’s could be moving to San Jose. In fact, mayoral candidate and councilman Dave Cortese told The Wave he’s personally confident it’ll all work out.

Assuming the team’s negotiations with Oakland collapse, and the A’s decide to move to Fremont, Cortese conjectures that the Giants could then be persuaded to let the A’s move to San Jose in return for some territorial rights compensation.

“They’re going to lose the market either way, so would they prefer it with or without money?” Cortese asks. “We know the stage is probably being set along those lines. As we speak, wheels may be in motion to set up that quid pro quo – and if that happens, ultimately that’s the kind of scenario that would quite possibly result in the territorial rights issue being resolved in one way or other, and we think MLB would rather, if they’re going to be the San Jose A’s, [be in] a stadium [on] Montgomery Street than anywhere else.”

What does that sound like to you? Something who is expressing hope out of desperation? Or someone who knows something that we don’t? Hmmm…

I’m keeping firm on my stance: I’ll believe it when I see it.

Thanks to Tony D. for alerting me to the article.