The genie is out of the bottle

Last night I spelled out the four types of comments we’d likely see in tonight’s session. It pretty much fell in line with that demarcation, but I wasn’t ready for the considerable intensity of one particular type of comment.

I took shorthand of each of the 42 comments and tabulated the totals. Suzanne Chan took her own poll and had it as 8 for, 30 against (!), and 4 neutral, giving the caveat that most of the negative comments were not negative about the project in general, but rather a specific site. I had slightly different numbers. Read ’em and weep:

You can see that 20 out of the 42 comments were related to the Warm Springs alternative, in which the ballpark would be decoupled from the village and placed near the future BART station. Opposition was passionate, some parts thoughtful and others hysterical. One resident didn’t want a ballpark serving alcohol a half mile or less away from the local elementary school. Another mentioned the twelve traffic light cycles he had to wait through at the Auto Mall/Osgood intersection on Black Friday, as shoppers entered and exited the nearby Fry’s parking lot. Two commenters talked about “letting the genie out of the bottle” as the ballpark would start to transform the area from a safe, well-heeled neighborhood into East Oakland around the Coliseum.

The addition of the Warm Springs alternative was a response to suggestions by BART and the MTC. The transit agencies and the A’s feel that a ballpark could fit into a transit-oriented development design, though the concept is merely in its infancy. Surely they knew what kind of wrath they would encounter if they floated the idea, right? Many of the anti-WS folks were not opposed to the A’s or the Pacific Commons site. They were vehemently against having it in their backyard.

Had Warm Springs not been included in the Notice of Preparation, tonight’s comment distribution would’ve looked more like this (Other means neutral):

That’s fair when you consider that sessions like these tend to bring out more negative comments.

Matt Artz of the Argus (thanks for the shout-out BTW) focused his article on Catellus, who officially came out against the project as it exists in the Notice of Preparation. Catellus is the real estate unit of ProLogis and has been working with the A’s and the city to mitigate existing retailers’ concerns. Unfortunately, I think Artz left out something. The statement read by Catellus veep Aidan Berry was not so much a general disapproval as it was frustration over where the ballpark was placed in the original plan. The site plan placed the ballpark less than 1/4 mile from the three big box anchors: Costco, Lowe’s and Kohl’s. Those three have been and always would be the most difficult to deal with because their business models don’t mesh with a ballpark. The statement suggested that another site within Pacific Commons would’ve been more agreeable. The ballpark location hasn’t changed since conception, ergo Catellus can’t sign off. I can only guess that the A’s didn’t want to pursue a change because it would require a major change in the EIR, especially with regard to environmental concerns (I could use some expert verification of this, e-mail address in my profile hint-hint), and that would lengthen the process yet again.

How difficult is this? The NIMBYs want the project as far away from them as possible, at the expense of environmental and transit concerns. Some business owners and transit advocates want the ballpark at Warm Springs, but had little to say about the NIMBY issues. Meanwhile, there are supporters out there who want either Pacific Commons or Warm Springs or don’t care either way. And that, my friends, is why ballot box planning is so problematic. People tend to look only at their own interests. They have every right to do so, but that doesn’t make them good planners.

Council member Anu Natarajan chided the crowd at the conclusion by bringing up frequent complaints by Fremont residents that there aren’t enough entertainment options in the city, that there isn’t enough good retail. She initially supported the plan in an effort to address those quality of life issues. No good deed goes unpunished, eh?

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