Live blog – SJ Chamber breakfast

Watch this space for frequent updates. Comments are in brackets [].

8:00 – Mostly full, at least 150 people
Pat Dando addresses meeting – informal conversation

Council members: Constant, Kaira, Liccardo, Chu
Redev head Mavrogenes
Comerica Bank

KCBS reporter present

8:07 – Lew speaks
Business is not business as usual
We can’t wait out the recession
We need to use the few assets we have to at least get projects teed up

I hope SJ won’t tolerate the kind of self-interest delays that threaten projects

No public money/Union built soccer stadium – We plan to use union labor because that would be the best use for the project. It’s not about trying to deliver a block of votes.

“I guess I’m a lobbyist”

All of my projects are union-built and didn’t use a single lobbyist.

I shouldn’t have to hire somebody to talk to the council. The current law is strange to me.

8:13 – Baseball

Cisco Field will do what the Arena and the Sharks have done for the region.

A few self-interested and in my view absurd voices have used double-speak to derail the process.

On this wild traffic situation, it isn’t anywhere near the alternative use for the alternative site [not specified].

We think issues should be fully aired, but not forever. A “No” answer is as good as a “Yes” answer for those of us who want to move forward.

There are ways for the city to smooth the process without reaching into their pocket.

The process is killing California. How is the stimulus package going to stimulate things?

Let’s help the city. Let’s not fight every little thing. Let’s support people who want to create jobs.

Forget about my baseball and soccer desires. [cue up cancer analogy] The process is the end product. We’ve gotta get to an end.

8:19 – The cost of indecision

The cost of not doing something is greater than the cost of going forward.

Q&A begins

When he moved to LA, Lew talked about the Arena. People asked him where San Jose was. He bought a bunch of 45’s of “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” and handed them out. When the Sharks came to town, the city got on the map.

When we open the soccer stadium, the naysayers will go away. The Arena and the Sharks have been the single biggest stimulus for the city.

Dando cites several cities who have benefited from having sports teams.

Studies fail to cite how a stadium is financed. A city going out of pocket is far different from a private developer who wants to build it himself. Protesters like to say we’re trying to tag the city – we’re not. In terms of economic impact, I’d love to debate anyone from these schools (Cal, Stanford) [is Roger Noll available?].

8:30 – The Earthquakes have been great for the community since we brought them back. [Dando thanks Lew for bringing the team back, Lew thanks John Fisher. Dando asks about Beckham.]

Dando: Talk about bringing back one of the Giambi boys.
Wolff: We have a lot of young pitchers, and it’s important to try to get them more than 3 runs a game. It’s going to be tough but the teams will be more comparable (compared to last year).

Dando: Talk about the soccer stadium.
Wolff: We’re piecing things together without any public money.
Dando: Any timing we can look at?
Wolff: In the next year we should be able to see something. I don’t see the need for luxury boxes. It’s going to be a user friendly stadium, with seats as close to the pitch as possible.
Dando: Has the real estate market changed the financing?
Wolff: We’ve always had at least two gameplans. We’ll have some income streams coming in to the A’s that weren’t expected that’ll help with the stadium. I won’t go into anymore detail on that.

Dando: Let’s talk about the A’s in Fremont. What are some of the obstacles you may have to overcome if it doesn’t work?
Wolff: From the day we’ve started I haven’t entertained any “what if’s.” We’re trying to earn our way to be in a city. I didn’t think it would be this difficult.
Dando: What do you see happening with T-rights if Fremont doesn’t work?
Wolff: If I even entertain those thought it keeps me from working on Fremont. I want to build a stadium. It’s small, it’s doable, and it’s financeable even in this crazy market. I’m gonna go crazy if I can’t get it done… I feel that there should be a time limit on environmental impact studies, which was the case when we first started out [I can’t verify this].

Dando: What do you feel this soccer stadium will do to put us on the international stage?
Wolff: The more distribution we have – we want to get to about 20 cities – the better is for the soccer community. You look at regions in terms of number of soccer players, and Northern California is #1, followed by 8 states, then Southern California.

Wolff: We had a meeting in Phoenix about the spring training facility (PHX Muni). There were 8 public employees at the table. We came up with a concept in which we’d pay for it upfront and either the city could pay us back or we’d get lower rent. They said they couldn’t do it for various reasons even though there wasn’t any specific reason at all. They came back to us in a month much more willing to discuss it, because they realized they were doing things “the old way.”

Dando: I think there should be a standard on how many projects succeed, not how many fail.

Wolff: I dropped out of developing here for a while. Phil DiNapoli and I had a project to build a Marriott Courtyard where you get off the freeway here downtown. The land is still undeveloped. We had 40 meetings. We spent $1.2 million. Finally I asked the redev head if we were done, she said “Yes we are done.” I got a call over the weekend about the roofline. Some elected official didn’t like the roofline, now you have to change it. I said we’re not doing it. Goodbye.

We have to stop doing that. The process benefited the project, but we could’ve done everything in 10 meetings. [I vaguely remember the Courtyard project and wondered why it disappeared.]

9:00 Dando: Is there a particularly design you’re trying to do in Fremont like Camden Yards?
Wolff: We don’t want to do retro. We have foul poles running through (luxury) boxes. It’s so intimate that we have to have a few columns [big acknowledgement]. We have a few things and Cisco has a few things that we’ll be bringing to the table. [cites oft-mentioned technology]

Dando: What do you see happening along with the soccer stadium?
Wolff: We don’t see a lot of ancillary uses right now. We see a lot of civic uses – graduations and such. If Apple has a product demonstration we’d like to have it happen there. San Jose lacks a modern outdoor venue [Spartan is old].

Dando thanks Wolff. Wolff mentions that even though he doesn’t officially live in San Jose, he’s here a lot as his daughter and grandchildren live here. Wolff is headed to Treasure Island to do the Giants-A’s joint media session.

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