San Francisco chosen for 2013 America’s Cup

Congratulations are in order for Gavin Newsom and the SF Board of Supervisors, who held firm and didn’t give away the farm in their winning America’s Cup bid. The City beat out stalking horse Newport, RI, who did not actually get its 2013 bid out in time, despite having the experience of holding the event throughout much of the 20th century.

72-foot catamarans will be the vessel of choice, and the races themselves will be held at the Golden Gate, with excellent views from North Beach, the Marina, and the Marin Headlands.

The upshot of this is that we’ve now gotten two glimpses into how Larry Ellison makes deals when it comes to his sporting interests. He plays hardball (America’s Cup). He doesn’t overbid (Warriors). And now that he and his partners will be investing $150 million on SF’s waterfront with the idea of ensuring that the event will continue to be held here every three years into the distant future, it seems unlikely that he’ll turn his attention to other potential sports endeavors, namely the A’s. Just in case you’ve forgotten, the sixth richest person in the world has, as part of his day job, gone double-barreled at HP and has also set his sights on just about every other enterprise heavyweight in the tech industry. So for those who want to keep thinking that Ellison will simply head over the bridge and become Oakland’s knight in shining armor, get real. He has other things on his mind.

IDLF DUI WTF Open Thread

I don’t regularly go onto The Google and type in the terms “councilman dui.” After Oakland District 5 Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente’s arrest for an apparent DUI violation earlier this morning, I was curious.

The final tally: 61,800 results, most of them from media outlets. Included were a Hercules councilman’s DUI last month and an incident in which a Westminster councilman wrapped his Mercedes around a telephone pole in 2009. After lightly going over some of these incidents, it seems that all of the guilty properly lawyered up and got probation to the tune of 2-3 years, which may have included ankle monitoring. Could IDLF receive a better or worse fate?

This blog tends to stay away from profiling politicians, but IDLF’s dissenting vote (conditional as it was) earlier in the week makes this issue somewhat relevant. Rumors have been swirling about IDLF potentially taking a job within incoming Governor Jerry Brown’s administration, and this would undoubtedly have a negative impact on his chances. As for keeping his job at Oakland City Hall, it’s probably safe. IDLF is halfway through his current term, his fifth. None of the articles I skimmed in my highly unscientific review indicated that any of the offenders had to vacate their positions, as long as they didn’t maim or kill anyone in the process. I don’t mean for this to sound glib, that’s just the way it seems to shake out. On a personal front, the man has been through worse.

If you’d like to steer the discussion away from IDLF, by all means! Be my guest. Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and be smart if you’re gonna imbibe. Get a designated driver, use public transportation or take a taxi.

End of 2010 news

To celebrate the holiday season, the Marlins have sent out a virtual greeting card showing a time-lapse of the construction of their new ballpark. It’s scheduled to open in 2012. Impressive, right? Maybe not when you take a look at this cross-section (via Autodesk/Hunt-Moss), in which all of the luxury suites have been stuffed behind the plate:

Craig Calcaterra thinks Oakland is wasting $750k on the EIR study. His rationale at the end may be more spot on than you might think.

Jeff Moorad and partners finally completed their purchase of the Portland Beavers. The team will play in Tucson for at least the 2011 season, with the idea of playing in Escondido as soon as 2012.

The San Diego Reader’s business/finance writer, Don Bauder, considers Petco Park a failure and considers it a cautionary tale for those who may want a downtown SD football stadium for the Chargers.

At Biz of Baseball, Maury Brown has a slew of new articles:

Lancaster is adding solar panels to its ballpark, which will make it 98% self-powered.

The ballpark for the now relocated Omaha Storm Chasers (Royals) is already having the team move in, even though construction started only in August. Called Werner Park, the new digs are expected to open in April.

What’s next for Oakland?

Now that funding for the Victory Court EIR has been approved, what will the next year-plus look like? How does the process work, and what could speed up or slow it down?

I posted a possible timeline for the EIR work at AN. Here’s the entire comment:

Jan-Mar: Draft EIR prepared
Apr: Notice of availability, distribution of Draft EIR
Apr-May: 45-60 day comment period
Jun-Nov: Final EIR prep

Dec: Final EIR notice of availability and distribution
Dec-Feb: Final EIR comment period (30-60 days)
Mar: EIR Certification, 30-day period to allow for challenges

That leaves anywhere from 12-18 months to do land acquisition, depending on if/when MLB gives the green light. That could be the biggest problem, since there’s little chance that Oakland will start negotiations or property takings if MLB doesn’t commit to Oakland. The later it starts, the worse it gets. Construction should start in a 6 month window between November 2012 and April 2013 if all parties want to make Opening Day 2015. Also, this schedule is based on everything going smoothly. For big projects in Oakland, often someone mounts a legal challenge that inevitably delays the process.

The final EIR prep may be shorter or longer because it is largely a response to new information requests and comments by various public agencies and private parties. There’s also the possibility that some of the methodology may be questioned, which could cause some portion of the EIR to be redrafted.

CEQA‘s flowchart shows more detail:

CEQA usually calls for a feasibility study to scope out the cost of mitigation for the project. That’s the last step before the City approves the project, and the cost of mitigation tends to vary greatly depending on what’s involved. This is often a point where lawsuits come in, because certain parties may not feel that mitigation measures are comprehensive enough or even completely lacking.

MLB could make this much easier on Oakland by making a decision in the City’s favor sometime in the next few months. Then Oakland could start the land acquisition process, though that would be with the idea that they’d have an uncooperative ownership group for whom they’d be buying the land. A long period for land acquisition helped San Jose in the long run, as SJRA benefited from dropping property values over the last three years.

Oakland and its boosters would also have to get MLB to commit to bringing in a more Oakland-friendly group, a task which will range somewhere between difficult and impossible. Looking for Larry Ellison? Don’t bother, since he and his buddies will be investing $150 million either in San Francisco or Newport, RI over the next 2-3 years. At this point, I think it’d be more likely that MLB buys the A’s as they did the Expos and as the NBA is buying the New Orleans Hornets. If MLB can’t find a suitable buyer or Oakland drops the ball, then well, I really don’t want to go there.

Oakland City Council approves EIR funding 6-2

Liveblog of the meeting (watching the stream):

7:15 PM – The first of eight speakers, Chris Dobbins, is up. The first three speakers are in favor of the resolution: Dobbins, Mike Davie, and Jorge Leon. emperor nobody is fifth with the the phrase “green stadium” as the magic words to making the ballpark work. Ethan Pintard suggests other alternative sites, is concerned with land availability. Bryan Grunwald suggests 980 Park, wants more transparency in the process.

7:28 PM – Council is speaking. Nancy Nadel asks about the Uptown garage, which will have $3.8 million in available funding, which will not be enough to finish the garage (it was also dependent on a now dormant housing development). Funny, she talks about the garage in terms of bringing people in from outside Oakland; isn’t that one of the purposes of a ballpark? Just asking.

7:33 PM – Rebecca Kaplan is up, is encouraged but wants alternatives (uses of the Victory Court site) just in case MLB doesn’t choose Oakland or a ballpark doesn’t pan out. Suggests the Coliseum as a possible site, though she takes care that mentioning the Coliseum is not opposition to Victory Court (sounds like a backpedal from the pre-election stance). Asks about pedestrian and rail crossing improvements, potential for a streetcar project.

7:36 PM – Ignacio de la Fuente thanks A’s fans. Is concerned about how MLB plays one city against another to squeeze out the best deal they can. Implores MLB to make a decision, says he can’t in good conscience support the resolution without a commitment from MLB. Brings up the DC-NoVA bidding war to land the Nats. Northern Virginia, like San Jose, was considered in the lead because it was well organized and had good political and economic support. DC got the team because of the deal put together by Robert Bobb and then-mayor Anthony Williams.

7:41 PM – Jane Brunner rebuts IDLF. Basically says that if we don’t approve this, we lose the team tomorrow (applause).

7:44 PM – Jean Quan expresses her support. Also looks at the site for other potential uses.

Motion passes 6-2. “Let’s Go Oakland” chant ensues.

Side note: A Bay City News article (via NBC Bay Area) mentions Fremont as Wolff’s fallback if MLB doesn’t allow a move to San Jose but only as a past (and currently not active) site possibility.

Greetings from the Southland again, where I am working on an ark to transport me, family, and pairs of animals away from the flash flooding here. At least it ends tomorrow. I think.

Rich Lieberman has the scoop that the A’s are dropping out of the KTRB bidding, due to the station’s “significant internal issues.” I think Big Vinny is cutting the A’s a bit too much slack here. Lew Wolff and Ken Pries are fully aware that individual stations don’t come up for sale very often, so to be able to jump in on one that already has your programming and really only needs some upkeep is a pretty rare opportunity, especially in the Bay Area. I’ve gotten on my soapbox two weeks ago, so I won’t belabor the point. Let’s just say I’ll be seriously disappointed if this comes to pass.

Speaking of opportunities, the Oakland City Council will take up the $750k EIR decision on tonight’s agenda (PDF). Be forewarned, however. The agenda has 47 items, and the meeting starts at 5:30 PM – which makes sense if you’re going to cram 47 items into a single session. The Victory Court item, 10-0260, is way down towards the bottom of the list and is a non-consent item, which means it will be heard after 6:30. A staff note for the item goes as follows:

The December 14, 2010 Community and Economic Development Committee approved recommendations and directed staff to spend conservatively – as slow as possible and decisions to expend funds should be leveraged against tangible certainties.

Staff further directed to add a RESOLVED that the contract is subject to termination at any time, with remaining funds left unspent, should the City’s work with the Major League Baseball stop progressing towards a satisfactory conclusion; 4 Ayes

Again, the item should pass handily with the added termination clause, though there will undoubtedly be a great deal of discussion before that vote is taken. The meeting will stream here.

Escondido votes 4-1 to approve… something

If you’ve been following the Twitter feed, you’d know that tonight I’ve been following the Escondido city council’s decision on whether to move forward with its $50 million AAA ballpark plan for the Padres.

The City Council voted 5-0 on two items: to move forward with EIR work and the acquisition of some land that would be needed for the ballpark. The last item was a MOU that brought more questions than answers among the Council and public speakers. Because of these questions, the Council chose to approve the MOU 4-1, with every Council member expressing reservations in an effort to get a better deal down the road.

A better deal than what, you ask? Let’s break down this $50 million, 9,000-seat ballpark:

  • $40 million for ballpark construction
  • $5.1 million for remaining land acquisition for the ballpark alone
  • $0.4 million for demolition
  • $0.5 million for paving a parking lot
  • $6 million for additional property acquisition (relocations)
  • $5 million for infrastructure
  • $0.5 million for current expenses
  • $2.5 million for contingency costs

A little addition shows that the cost above totals $60 million, not $50 million as advertised. To help shore this up, Jeff Moorad and his partners will pony up $5 million. That leaves a gap of some $5 million, money that is not accounted for yet. The city is also getting the team to pay a lease of $200,000 annually, adjusted for inflation every 5 years. There’s a serious shortfall between that lease payment and the debt service on the $50 million, though the Council didn’t seem overly concerned, citing revenues from other sources (generally other taxes including tax increment).

There are multiple opportunities for the City to back away from the project. As is customary with big projects, staff were quick to explain that a MOU is not a binding contract, and that if the Council doesn’t approve any of the subsequent necessary steps (lease terms, development agreement), the project won’t move forward. Those decisions aren’t really due until February. While the Council made it clear they want to get a better deal, Moorad was equally clear in his statement as the last speaker of the night. Moorad was not really open to reopening the deal, and he was afraid that the ballpark may not get built due to “death by a thousand paper cuts.” We’ll see if the agreement in the end has any significant material changes. For now, it’s a serious gamble by Escondido, one that will tie up its redevelopment funds for up to 25 years.

The public speaker discussion was, other than for a nasty racial debate component, somewhat reminiscent of what I saw in Fremont. Fremont is a good analogue because like Escondido, it’s trying to make a splash as a city that’s not particularly large. The types of discussions Escondido citizens are having about the ballpark could happen nearly anywhere, and with the San Jose Giants possible moving elsewhere, it’s likely those discussions will happen somewhere else. It’s quite likely that this Escondido deal will create a sort of baseline for what the Giants (Bill Neukom and partners) will ask for elsewhere in the Bay Area.

A Triple-A ballpark is larger than the typical Single-A ballpark. Here’s a partial list of California minor league teams and stadium capacities:

  • San Jose Municipal Stadium – 4,200
  • Banner Island Ballpark (Stockton) – 5,500, $22 million cost in 2005
  • John Thurman Field (Modesto) – 4,000
  • Clear Channel Stadium (Lancaster) – 4,600, $14.5 million in 1996
  • Raley Field (Sacramento) – 11,000, $42 million in 2000
  • Chukchansi Park (Fresno) – 12,500, $46 million in 2002
  • Aces Ballpark (Reno, NV) – 9,100, $50 million in 2009

With inflation, a new Single-A park (~5,000 seats) would probably cost somewhere north of $25 million, though land cost could make that price tag vary considerably. Any city that might consider such a project would be smart to have it somewhere there is already a decent amount of public parking, along with BART, Caltrain, or even Capitol Corridor. The North Bay, which I’ve always thought would be a natural fit for a Giants minor league team, has none of those transit options. Yet I don’t consider transportation much of a deterrent, as I expect several groups to come out of the woodwork hoping to land the team if the A’s move to San Jose.

You know what it means if that happens? My work on this blog will NEVER end.

Oakland committee approves full EIR study

The Trib’s Angela Woodall observed the proceedings today. The result? 3-1 in favor of a full EIR study. As expected, the lone dissenter on the committee was Ignacio De La Fuente. The issue will appear before the Oakland City Council next Tuesday, where it should pass. The one important detail:

In the end, the committee added a provision that allows the city to cancel the contract with LSA Associates and pay only for work that has been finished.

That’s a good safety mechanism to put in place, just in case.