Oakland FD Training Site

In the last few weeks, I’ve gotten several requests to add a particular Oakland site for review on the blog. The site in question is a veritable wedge formed by the mouth of Lake Merritt channel to the east, 880 to the north, Fallon Street to the west, and the combination of Union Pacific railroad tracks and The Embarcadero to the south.

The site is often referred to as the OFD training site, and while that’s correct, the city only owns 6 acres in the area, 4 of which are actually usable for the ballpark (the rest is either underneath the elevated freeway or a buffer for the channel). Another key section is owned by Peralta Community College District, though it by all appearances is cleared out. The area was once home to a sizable homeless encampment, which was cleared out about 2 years ago.

In between the two parcels is the remains of an old rail right-of-way. A bridge spanning the channel still exists, AFAIK. According to OaklandExplorer, the ROW is not on any parcel maps, so it is also probably owned by the city. As you’ll see from the next image, the combination of these parcels is not enough to contain the ballpark.

The ballpark encroaches upon a few industrial properties in the area. At least one of these is either vacant or available for lease, which means it could be ripe for purchase. However, as V Smoothe pointed out in the previous thread, this is where it gets complicated. The entire site is split between Central City (Downtown) and Central City East (Fruitvale/San Antonio/O29). I don’t have specifics about how this makes the situation more difficult, but I can imagine that either some kind of RDA annexation would have to occur or bonds may have to be raised separately to acquire parcels in either section. Each district has its own distinct RDA budget and bonding cap. Here’s a breakdown of the district separation:

  • Central City East – OFD, Peralta/Laney, East Bay Restaurant Supply and adjacent warehouses
  • Central City – Self Storage facility, residential triplex, additional warehouse

The other industrial properties in the area wouldn’t be a big deal if it weren’t for an additional requirement – 1,200 parking spaces near the ballpark. Yes, there are parking garages being built near JLS, but a new, 1,200-space garage will be the minimum for team employees, VIP’s, and premium seat holders.

As I mentioned in the previous post comments thread, freeway infrastructure in the area is severely lacking. The Oak St offramp from 880 north is less than 1/4 mile long, and it will need to be lengthened and widened to handle new traffic. The 5th Ave overpass and exit project is currently out for bid, and was not designed to handle traffic from something like a ballpark. The Embarcadero is slated for widening and new traffic signals as part of the O29 project. The recently certified EIR for O29 shows that traffic at Embarcadero/5th Ave will reach unacceptable levels by 2025. A ballpark will not enhance the situation, and if something gets built there a major revamp of on/offramps will be needed to make things livable for all who live and work in the area, not just the A’s.

Fortunately, the site is only 1/4 mile from the Lake Merritt BART station. It’s also 1/4 mile from the JLS Amtrak station. A shuttle is planned to take new O29 residents around Downtown. There was talk earlier in the decade about a trolley, but there’s no chance of that happening in anytime soon.

If the outfield view doesn’t look too terribly impressive, that’s because the distance to the Oakland Hills through center field is twice as far as the distance from the Coliseum to Leona Quarry.

Now’s the time for some back-of-the-envelope numbers.

  • Ballpark: $500 million (assuming 2014 or later opening)
  • Land acquisition for ballpark: $30 million
  • Relocation costs for OFD training site: $5 million plus land acquisition
  • 1,200 space garage: $30 million including land
  • Freeway access improvements: $50 million or more depending on how extensive already planned 880 project is going to be
  • Surface street traffic improvements: Unknown

That’s $115 million in infrastructure improvements with additional mitigation work on the horizon.

Keep in mind that a ballpark project would have to undergo its own EIR/CEQA process. Judging by the difficulty encountered in the O29 project, a ballpark EIR could be just as lengthy. The same environmentalists who decried O29 would only have to shift their vision slightly to the west. Why? The key piece of land, the fire training site, has already been designated as open space. When I asked this same group a few years back about whether or not a ballpark could be used on open space, I got two reactions: quizzical stares and chuckles.

There’s also the question of whether or not area landowners are willing to sell. Thankfully, there aren’t that many here. Should one or two balk, it would be difficult to get a ballpark deal done. The one I’m curious about is East Bay Restaurant Supply, which just celebrated its 75th anniversary in Oakland. Eminent domain has to be out of the picture, unless one lives in Fantasyland.

Economically, the site would be better for the A’s than the downtrodden Coliseum area. Still, there’s probably a sizable gap in available corporate dollars between this site and San Jose, given that the ballpark is moving further away from Silicon Valley. The cost of needed infrastructure has to give one pause. The City of Oakland has requested $2.6 billion in stimulus funds. I’m not going to present a false dichotomy here, but if the City really felt it had to request more in stimulus funds than the rest of the Bay Area cities combined, it’s pretty difficult to justify adding another project whose value outside its limited purpose is questionable at best.

Gotta admit, though, it looks pretty good in the screenshots.

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