Finally, Oakland responds

Quotes abound in Paul T. Rosynsky’s Trib article. While Ignacio De La Fuente continues his bravado filled whistling-in-the-dark routine, fellow councilperson Jane Brunner has more pointed comments about Wolff:

“We all got this feeling, everybody who met with him, we all walked away thinking he was just not interested,” said Councilmember Jane Brunner (North Oakland). “When you negotiate with someone, you need a nibble. … There was just no nibble.”

Brunner said the city had put together plans for three potential sites for a new ballpark, including one that would have incorporated it into the Oak to Ninth housing development along the waterfront.

Each time a proposal went to Wolff it was rejected, she said.

Start off with Brunner’s quote about Wolff’s willingness to work in Oakland. Now this makes sense. Cynics point to Wolff’s single concept (Coliseum North) and its small chance of success as a “token” proposal. There’s a lot of circumstantial evidence that makes it appear that Wolff hasn’t tried very hard to make it work in Oakland. At the same time, Wolff has in the past said that the city hadn’t suggested any other sites. Brunner’s comment contradicts this, and while I’ve heard rumblings about three site proposals being floated, this is the first time I’ve really seen this sentiment in public.

Let’s go back to the summer, when the final development plan for Oak-to-Ninth/O29/Estuary was up for city council review (it passed). A coalition of citizens groups worked in August to get the plan on the November ballot, and while they appeared to get enough signatures, the petition was blocked by Oakland’s city attorney. Why was this coalition against the project? The reasons:

  • Housing goes against the scope of the Estuary Policy Plan. This would not have changed if a ballpark village with housing were under consideration.
  • A lack of open space. With 60 acres available to develop and 18-20 used up by a ballpark village, that leaves 40 acres to split between parkland/open space and housing. And that’s if it were done from the ground up. If, as I’ve heard, the proposal was to shoehorn the ballpark into the open space set aside for Signature’s project, that would’ve been a complete nonstarter.
  • Height concerns. When I spoke to a community group about the possibility of a ballpark, they asked me how tall the ballpark would be. When I said that it would be at least 100 feet tall not including light towers, there was a unanimous disapproval of the idea. Part of that comes from people in the hills not wanting anything blocking their view, not even a ballpark. And going back to the previous point, the housing would have to be in tall towers, which would make for even more obstructions.
  • Preservation. The Ninth Avenue Terminal has historic value and should be preserved regardless of what goes up at O29 (It would make a nice location for a farmers market, a la SF’s Ferry Terminal). However, it takes up too much space for it to be saved in any development plan.

Now, honestly, do you think that a ballpark village would not have experienced the same kind of resistance, if not moreso? And that’s even without the consideration of additional subsidies, or the legislation/quid pro quo situation that made the O29 land deal possible.

Finger pointing has commenced.

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