Good ole’ Gus strikes again

Opposition has to come from somewhere, and its most consistent form appears to be former Fremont mayor Gus Morrison, who wrote a letter to the Fremont City Council criticizing the A’s Community Specific Plan. In this round he assesses the A’s parking plan as inadequate, citing the A’s as having “only 5,800 permanent parking spaces identified for the proposed 32,000-seat ballpark.”

Those who have been reading these pages for a while know that 5,800 permanent spaces only tells part of the story. As mentioned in a previous post, here’s the true parking breakdown:

  • Interim/opening day buildout: 21,450 spaces (11,304 ballpark/10,146 non-ballpark)
  • Final buildout: 20,646 spaces (10,500 ballpark/10,146 non-ballpark)

The interim plan includes the use of the 41-acre West Cushing parcel, which will be gradually built out into mixed development over several years. Just as the City of San Jose has an agreement with the Sharks to maintain a certain number parking spaces, the A’s will have a similar agreement with Fremont. Early indications are that the right number is 10,500, which is more than the current Coliseum lot capacity. There are options available to bridge the 4,700-space gap:

  • Use of the 40-acre city-owned parcel next to the planned rail station. The lot will be somewhat remote and the city may want to open it up to more uses than just parking (for instance, a public park) which would limit the space available. As the A’s negotiate with the city and the school district on space allotted for public use and parking, it’s likely the city-owned parcel will be divvied up in a manner that suits all parties. Should that not work out the A’s can also…
  • Build garages. Keith Wolff has indicated that this option exists if demand calls for it. Keep in mind that they’re already building 10,000 parking spaces in garages for residential and commercial use. They’ll have agreements in place to preserve required parking for both of those uses, so the ballpark requirement won’t be able to infringe. Additional garage space may become a necessity as the West Cushing parcel is developed. That responsibility won’t fall on Fremont, it’s up to the A’s. In the end, having adequate amounts of parking is sound business. At least in this case, the A’s have the better part of 10 years to plan and adjust accordingly. Then there’s also yet another option…
  • Buy additional surrounding lots. I pointed out in my breakdown of the CSP that the A’s haven’t bought all of the Brandin Court properties yet. Having only 2/3 of that area alone accounts for the aforementioned 5,800 spaces. Add in the remaining properties and you add another 1,000 or so. Having one large contiguous space near the ballpark allows for flexibility if/when a garage comes into play.

For some reason, Morrison seized upon this bit from the Parking Facilities description:

It should also be noted that there are approximately 8.4 million square feet of R&D/Office, Industrial and Warehouse space within 1 mile of the proposed Cisco Field with an estimated 12,000 parking stalls. It is very common for a portion of surrounding commercial owners/tenants to sell parking for ballpark related events in evenings and on weekends when their parking stalls are not in use.

He then took the time to count 4,199 non-retail spaces within one mile of the ballpark site, based on calculations using Google Earth. While I applaud Morrison for using such a good application, his worry appears to be misplaced. He’s probably right about his estimate, especially now that a large swath of previously industrial-zoned land in the area is being converted into commercial (the old Creative Labs warehouse comes to mind). Still, nowhere in the CSP do the A’s factor these third-party, privately-owned spaces into their parking estimates. Nor do they say this type of use will become part of the eventual parking plan. There may be possibilities there thanks to the fact that much of the land in the area is owned by ProLogis and Lam Research, who can act as go-betweens (ProLogis is helping on the parking plan for the existing Pacific Commons center). Even if there isn’t a single space that comes from these third-party lots, there will be over 20,000 spaces available for the entire ballpark village. Then there’s also this nugget from the same paragraph:

It is also anticipated that a portion of Cisco Field attendees would shop/dine at the Mixed Use District prior to the game and would qualify for a discounted validation to park within the Mixed Use District as they are also patrons of that district.

How many fans would take advantage? There’s no estimate and that’s a good thing. Fans who choose to take this option end up with a win-win, as they lighten the load on the ballpark parking facility, they get (likely) discounted parking, and they stick around a little longer before and/or after the game to lessen the strain on road infrastructure.

Morrison’s next salvo will involve traffic. I hope (and expect) it to be more enlightening than his crying wolf about parking.

Survey says: Yes to A’s in Fremont

A survey of 400 registered voters in Fremont conducted by the A’s shows that a majority of residents want the A’s in town. Results:

  • 60% of residents favor construction of the ballpark village
  • 69% of residents have a favorable opinion of the A’s
  • 18% have an unfavorable opinion of the A’s

Margin of error was ±5%. Perhaps some were swayed by the various charitable efforts the A’s have done in the area (Eckersley Field renovation, attendance at numerous area events). Or maybe people are simply excited. Whatever the case, it’s good to know that the populace is at the very least open-minded about the concept. That’s all we can ask for.

Tidbits from the Community Specific Plan

Before I begin, it’s necessary to point out that the CSP is the first of what will be many lengthy documents supporting the ballpark village. And be forewarned: the CSP is the prettiest. Everything else will likely be very dry, fact-based, and for some, boring. So the CSP is not the end-all, be-all in the process. All other supporting documentation (EIR, traffic study, additional reports) will spring from the CSP. Case in point: the very brief transportation/parking section is only 10 pages long excluding appendices.

I’ll start off with some general points. The question about who pays for infrastructure frequently comes up, so I’ll let this paragraph explain the situation (from 2.10 – Plan Area History):

ProLogis (and formerly Catellus) have made major infrastructure improvements over the past ten years for roads and utilities surrounding and serving the vicinity, and, in large part, the Plan Area. The existing entitlements and improvement plans that have been constructed provide an “envelope” in which the new proposed land uses can be accommodated.

That, coupled with the already completed and ongoing freeway improvements, have created an excellent base for further development regardless of type. Obviously, it’s up to the developer to fill in the space, but that is a cost that will be borne by the developer per standard practice, not by taxpayers. The items that will have to be negotiated are the transit hub, whatever/wherever that is, and the school.

Not mentioned in the CSP, but in the yesterday’s Mychael Urban article, is this tidbit:

Simultaneous to the environmental review process, ProLogis, owner of the Pacific Commons Shopping Center, will conduct a targeted outreach program with its tenants at Pacific Commons and the adjacent Auto Mall regarding the transportation and parking impacts of the proposed ballpark village. ProLogis will work collaboratively with both the A’s and the City of Fremont as this project progresses.

ProLogis is definitely going to be looking out for its tenants in the process, but it’s highly encouraging to know they’ll be helping to shape the policy instead of simply taking a hardline position. Maybe they’re getting a slightly inflated price for the land they’re selling to the A’s, maybe not. Even with the sale, ProLogis will remain the largest landowner in the area.

The number of required spaces for the ballpark alone has been debated and discussed at length (10,000+). The CSP takes it a step further by giving the parking estimate for the full village, including residential and commercial uses. Here are the total parking projections:

  • Interim/opening day buildout: 21,450 spaces (11,304 ballpark/10,146 non-ballpark)
  • Final builout: 20,646 spaces (10,500 ballpark/10,146 non-ballpark)

The non-ballpark figure includes a static 4,600 spaces for residential use. Unless I’m misinterpreting this figure, it appears to be a worst-case scenario that isn’t reflective of what will occur during the interim period because housing will be built gradually over a 10-year span. Still, the max demand can be as high as 20,000+ cars, and that will be the challenge to address. Compare that to the original entitlement of the land, which was for 4.7 million square feet of office space. Using the commonly held ratio of 300 square feet per employee, that translates to 15,666 employees. Bay Area transit usage is around 10%, probably less in Fremont. Remove 10% off the top for transit users, another 15% for carpoolers. That means 11,750 cars from the offices, generally during peak-use periods. At the ballpark village, rush hour usage should be far more when the A’s are in town, far less when they’re out of town. Break those numbers down into night/day and weekend games and the picture becomes muddled. The A’s argument is going to be that total parking/traffic demand will be the same or less than what is currently entitled for the land. We’ll have to wait for the traffic/transportation study and a further analysis of it to ascertain the true local and regional impact.

The circulation plan will restrict the lot you can use based on which route you took to get to the ballpark. That is, unless you’re a patron at one of the nearby stores or restaurants:

It is also anticipated that a portion of Cisco Field attendees would shop/dine at the Mixed Use District prior to the game and would qualify for a discounted validation to park within the Mixed Use District as they are also patrons of that district.

That’s one way to entice people to come early and stay late, while getting a better parking location in the process.

Municipal Parcel
The 40-acre municipal parcel at the far west end of Auto Mall Parkway will be a serious negotiating point. The A’s want it for 4,000+ parking spaces. The city would prefer to repurpose it as parkland. Either way, it will probably contain a train station. There is a strip of designated greenbelt area that connects the parcel to the ballpark village. It is this strip that has been designated for the parking tram route.

Other notes
Throughout the Fremont Industrial area, street parking is banned just about everywhere. This ban has been in place for years, and the streets sufficiently narrow enough to make street parking impossible (unless you want to get towed). The exception to this is one block between Pacific Commons and the planned mixed-use portion of the village. If you’re looking for a free place to park on the street, you won’t find it. They’re planning for an extensive network of bike lanes instead.

The “Specific Plan Contributors” list contains 17 different firms, from the A’s themselves to geotechnical engineer Engeo to residential planning architect Papageorge/Haymes.

Read the Implementation section (11) to get a feel for the process.

Updated: Development app submitted

The A’s have a new press release trumpeting the submission of the development application to the city of Fremont. In the release are several interesting nuggets:

  • On May 10, Wolff announced the completion of a land transaction agreement with Cisco Systems and ProLogis, giving the A’s ownership group control of 226 acres of land in the City of Fremont and enabling the project to move forward.
  • A total of approximately 540,000 square feet of high-quality retail/residential mixed use is also planned for the project, with a significant portion of the retail area serving as a regional lifestyle center and neighborhood retail in a “Main Street USA” environment adjacent to the ballpark.
  • The estimated cost of the village project is approximately $1.8 billion. The project will be primarily financed by a combination of private equity and real estate development proceeds generated by the ballpark and the surrounding village.

I’ll be cozying up with the Community Specific Plan (warning! large – 30 MB – download) this evening.

To answer a question from a commenter: No, this is not a done deal. This is only the first official step. 12-18 months will be required to vet the proposal. Groundbreaking would occur sometime after approval and certification of the plan.

Some quick observations:

  • The Scott Specialty Gas parcel is not included in the site plan. Is this merely a preliminary vision that will change when the site is acquired, or is it that the two parties can’t come to an agreement?
  • The interim plan shows over 11,000 parking spaces. The final, depending on buildout, is slightly less than 11,000 spaces.
  • As expected, shuttle buses are prevalent. Not expected – the possible use of open-air trams (6.32).
  • The appendices have diagrams showing traffic flow for games based on initial and final buildout as well as shuttle routes.

More to come.

Planning transit around a ballpark, Part III

Lew Wolff revealed on Forum with Michael Krasny that the development filing, due in 10 days, will be accompanied by 150 pages of documentation. Keep in mind that this “tome” won’t be environmental impact report. It will likely include the much-anticipated traffic and transportation study. It might also contain an amended economic impact report to reflect changes in the development. The actual EIR will come after several months of study and review, first in draft form, then in final form for certification.

The traffic and transportation study will probably contain details about the shuttles that will take fans from either the current Fremont BART station or a future Warm Springs (South Fremont) BART station to Cisco Field. In an effort to provide a preview of this, this post speculates a bit on what the shuttles could look like.

The red, green, and blue lines represent potential routes from the existing Fremont BART station. The dotted yellow line shows routes from Warm Springs BART. The pink dotted line represents routes from the future Capitol Corridor/ACE station as well as the possible remote parking lot. At first glance it doesn’t appear that the nearby lots (blue and yellow “P”), which are less than 1/2 mile from the ballpark, would have shuttle service.

This is where it gets tricky. Let’s go with Keith Wolff’s estimate that 5,000 people would either take transit or walk from the nearby village. How many would come from the village itself? 1,000? 2,000? I seriously doubt that more than 1,000 residents would go to the ballpark. The number of workers from the nearby area that could walk to the ballpark might number in the hundreds at best. So let’s assume that 4,000 would come from transit.

Since there would be no direct BART or rail service to the ballpark, all transit riders would be coming via some kind of bus, big or small. So the question is, how many buses will it take? Going from what’s in AC Transit’s fleet, here’s what they’ll need:

  • 40 articulated (60′ long) buses: 63 seated, 40 standees -or-
  • 60 regular (40′) buses: 40 seated, 30 standees -or-
  • 200 mini or shuttle buses: 20 seated, 0 standees

There a couple more considerations to take into account. Would these shuttles provide “express” service between the station and the ballpark, or would there be stops in between? I can’t see Fremont officials signing off on something that appreciably clogs their streets without providing at least some service to its own residents. And if the service included stops in between, what about service to parts of Fremont not on the routes? Or service to Newark or Union City? An express bus might take 20 minutes in favorable traffic. In bad traffic or with a bunch of stops, it could take 10-15 minutes more.

This is where our oft-neglected friend the train comes in. While Capitol Corridor won’t bring fans the last mile (literally), CC trains can bridge much of the 5 mile gap. They can also overcome some major challenges. A train shuttle running from the Union City Intermodal Station would reduce the need for those 40-100 bus shuttles from Fremont BART. It would also service Union City and Fremont by default, plus a new station along the Newark section of the route could service Newark residents. Most importantly, the remaining shuttle traffic would be largely confined to the Pacific Commons area (the pink dotted line), with few shuttles crossing 880. Shorter shuttle routes translate greater efficiency and lower operating costs. The trip from Union City to Pacific Commons could run around 15 minutes – not as good as BART but better than a bus. Capitol Corridor officials had indicated in the past that they aren’t set up to run a shuttle like this, but some creative scheduling can allow this service to be folded into their expanding schedule. Additional trains between Fremont and San Jose will soon be feasible with the completion of several already underway track improvement projects.

Now, on to the dotted yellow line. A study was undertaken in 2001 to determine ways to better move traffic between 880 and 680 during the commute hours. Two identified methods would immediately impact fans traveling between the proposed Warm Springs BART station and Pacific Commons.

Alternative A1 involves the widening of Auto Mall Parkway to 6 lanes east of 880. That alone should make things easier, but two other measures should be taken to mitigate traffic. First, it appears that the parking area located closest to Cisco Field will be largely VIP parking. That alone will reduce the number of cars making left turns from Auto Mall to Christy St. Rules can be established that limit left turns there to VIP parking passes and shuttle buses. Second, since Joe Fan won’t get to park that close to the park, he may be forced to use the lot across Auto Mall from Pacific Commons (the uppermost “P” above). It would behoove the A’s to build a pedestrian overpass over Auto Mall Parkway. A full lot there would equate to over 5,000 fans walking from the lot. Not putting in an overpass would be borderline irresponsible, as Auto Mall Parkway is 9 lanes wide in this area and only one side has a usable crosswalk. The best thing to do would be to build the overpass and stick some flexible electronic signage on it. The signage can direct traffic on event days. It can also show advertising on other days/hours.

Alternative B1 adds HOV lanes on Fremont Blvd and Grimmer Blvd between 880 and 680. If implemented, it would allow a natural route (the longer southerly dotted line) with built-in bus/carpool lanes.

I’m certain that with the direct discussions the A’s have had with all of the area transit agencies, they can come up with more creative methods of serving the A’s fanbase. The solutions described above are but a handful that can help bring fans to Cisco Field without huge capital expenditures while leveraging without taxing existing infrastructure.

FUSD trustees continue push for school

There’s been an ongoing dialogue between the A’s and FUSD, with both at different ends of the negotiations. In today’s report from the Fremont Bulletin by Wes Bowers, the district revealed more about their projections for a new school that would service ~3,000 new homes:

The range of elementary students generated from the development is projected between 621 to 931, based on an analysis from a district housing study.

From kindergarten to the sixth grade, the district-wide average from all homes is .214 students per home.

Multiplying that average by the 2,900 homes proposed by the A’s, approximately 621 students could be generated by the project.

The board said the A’s should build a school that can house at least 1,000 students, citing that because it will be a new school, it will attract more people.

“These units will generate a higher number of students,” Boardmember Larry Sweeney said. “This will be the newest school in a high-performing district, and it will attract quite a few people from this development. It needs to accommodate 1,000 kids from day one.”

This is where it gets tricky. The district doesn’t want to run into a situation where the school is underbuilt, especially with an urban design that doesn’t have the space to accommodate temporary or portable classrooms. They also have their preferences for proper amounts of play area and fields. All of these issues and more have to be taken into consideration for the school’s final design.

Giants move to NBC11

This one’s a shocker. Today the San Francisco Giants announced that they will be leaving their long-time TV flagship, KTVU-2, for KNTV-11, the Bay Area’s NBC affiliate. KTVU continues to have a small stake in the Giants, which seems, well, awkward.

The deal will run for three years, with the broadcast teams staying intact.

For the Giants, the move shouldn’t change things much. KNTV moved their transmitter to San Bruno Mountain a while back, so from an over-the-air standpoint they should cover much the same ground. On cable they’re on channel 3 instead of 2. And it looks like KNTV will help produce some additional magazine-style promotional content.

The move’s much more interesting for KTVU. KTVU has been riding high on FOX’s numerous hits such as 24, House, M.D., and American Idol. All three of those shows air on Monday and Tuesday nights, which are primetime conflict areas for KTVU vis-a-vis the Giants. Even though KTVU has KICU as a fall back when that type of conflict occurs, I’m certain they were contractually obligated not to preempt Giants games for anything else. Those hit shows may also have been better lead-ins for KTVU’s 10 p.m. newscast than Giants broadcasts. That’s saying a lot since Giants broadcasts trump every other non-NFL Bay Area sports franchise. So if you’re wondering if the A’s could somehow slide into Oakland-based KTVU’s schedule – fuhgetaboutit.

This move is even more telling for KNTV, whose parent network, NBC, has struggled since stalwarts such as Seinfeld, Friends, and Frazier retired. Obviously, NBC-owned KNTV needs a better lead-in to its newscasts than much of its lackluster programming. A look at last week’s Nielsens shows not a single NBC primetime telecast in the Top 20 list – which was somewhat skewed by the inclusion of all four World Series broadcasts. Bringing the Giants into the fold has to be a steadying influence, even if an even greater majority of Giants broadcasts will end up on FSN Bay Area. Note to NBC: Please don’t mess with the Thursday lineup. I’m tired of you guys killing Scrubs.

From a regional standpoint, I suppose this kind of move should give the Giants better ties to the South Bay, but ever since the ownership change KNTV has been working hard to remake their image as a Bay Area-first station, not a Silicon Valley station. However, both parties might get more Valley advertisers in the process, the same way various Valley companies advertise on Sharks radio broadcasts. The NBC-Telemundo partnership may become an integral part of the broadcasts, though I can’t yet say for certain how.

In the long run, the length of the contract allows the Giants to test out a new flagship while exploring other ventures. If the Giants wanted to launch a new regional cable network, they could easily do it starting in 2011. Many teams are moving a greater number of broadcasts to cable, and by the middle of the next decade viewers could face a situation in which no A’s or Giants games were delivered over-the-air. It’s a day late for Halloween, but it doesn’t make the future any less spooky.