Bryan Grunwald is a resident of Oakland with a passion for his city. He is also Principle for an Urban Planning and Architecture firm. He has worked on projects like the Mission Bay campus for UCSF. So why is the City of Oakland seemingly ignoring him and his concept, in favor of inferior ideas?
Before we answer that question, we first have to tell you about his idea. One that was mentioned in passing in a previous post by my partner, ML. I like to think of the concept as, “Lew Wolff says there is no land suitable to build a stadium in Oakland so why don’t we create new land to build on?”
The picture above is centered on a concrete moat that separates Downtown Oakland from West Oakland. Most of us refer to it as the Interstate 980 freeway. Grunwald, taking a cue from other cities (like Seattle, Duluth, and Trenton), has proposed “decking” the 980 freeway and constructing a ballpark on top of it.
I admit, when I first heard this, I thought it was a little too Star Trek. But as I looked into the idea and read more about the other cities successes and the challenges at Victory Court, I realized it was way more Star Wars. That is to say, it was my kind of geeky.
First, the traffic concerns of JLS don’t exist here. This spot is at the confluence of several concrete rivers, or Highway 24, I-980 and I-880. Additionally, there are no trains that run nearby to cause congestion on the two surface streets that pass nearby. There are two BART stations within walking distance. Add to that, a plethora of parking within the nearby vicinity, much closer than parking options at Victory Court.
Other pluses include reconnecting West Oakland with Downtown. In between the stadium site and Uptown/City Center sits several blighted and underdeveloped properties, the stadium could serve as anchor to drive development in the area that sorely needs it. While this could be said of Victory Court, this site requires none of the upheaval that Victory Court does. In a city like Oakland, with a limited business community, why wouldn’t you consider an alternative where existing businesses get to stay put and continue to operate, create jobs and pay taxes?
One last thing, I consider a major advantage. Go back and look at the “renderings” ML created for my original Victory Court post. The view of the estuary is not really that stunning. The estuary is, after all, a man made channel for shipping purposes, not the alluring open space of the San Francisco Bay that AT&T visitors get across the bay. This site offers a true alternative at about one fifth ($30M v. $150M) the price. You can look at a skyline!
This last point leads me to why I really, really like this concept. If the A’s are to stay in Oakland, and be within shouting distance of one of the best stadiums in all of baseball, they need to have something different to offer. A cheap knock off of AT&T Park on the east side of the bay does not offer that. Let’s Go Oakland seems to think that it will be wildly popular. But just like the Public Market in Oakland isn’t attracting anything like the expected demand for office/retail space, partly because businesses would prefer to be close to the real Embarcadero, casual baseball fans will spend their money at the original waterfront park in the only World Class City in Northern California when given the choice of that or an imitation on an inferior “waterfront.” It is what marketing types call “differentiation,” and it is at the heart of the advantage San Jose has by being so far away from San Francisco. Oakland should embrace being different, not try to be the same.
Back to the original question. Why has this been dismissed by Oakland? The answer, for me, rests in the “Property Value Benefit” associated with Victory Court. Think about who stands to gain from that projected increase in property values. Think about who footed the bill for the Economic Impact Analysis. I find it ironic that Oakland Boosters disparage Lew Wolff as a greedy developer, when it is Signature Properties that is pulling the puppet strings on Victory Court. That’s right a “greedy developer” owns most of the land that will increase in value and will see most of the benefit of increased property values.
One last thing of note for those who are skeptical of what is driving this process. Oakland released an RFQ for an EIR to evaluate the potential for a stadium at Victory Court. Responses were due last week. Here is some feedback from one of the companies who received the RFQ but didn’t respond:
No I didn’t respond. The EIR consultant community thinks the engagement is wired due to the impossible timeline. Just like the whole process is wired by Signature Properties.
C’mon Oakland, us A’s fans deserve better.
**** 9/14/2010 HCF asked for an alternate view, here are 3. jeffrey****