First off, a quick acknowledgement of the unanimous approval of the Kings ESC arena deal by Sacramento’s City Council. Somehow, that happened a full hour before the Oakland approved its resolutions and expenditures for the Coliseum City project. There’s still a long way to go. The $255 million that Sacramento is committing to the project is the big semi-known. If KJ and company can put a deal together that doesn’t look too risky (and force a referendum because of that risk), they’ll be in pretty good shape. There are still issues of which route the City will go to come up with the $255 million (selling parking rights vs. raising bonds), the Maloofs’ ongoing debt, and the typical EIR mitigation stuff that will be identified in the coming months. Onward and upward.
I realize that my liveblog notes from the Oakland City Council meeting are so messy that they’re nearly incomprehensible, so I’ll boil the whole thing down to its essence.
1. The Council voted for a feasibility study and EIR, not to build anything.
Just to be clear, here’s the relevant language from last week’s committee report (emphasis mine):
The ENA [exclusive negotiating agreement] with the JRDV/HKS/Forest City development team will allow private predevelopment work to proceed for Area 1. The ENA between the City and the development team is for the purpose of determining the capacity of the development team to deliver on the project, and for studying and evaluating the feasibility of a new stadium development.
In other words, it’s a start. It’s not a promise to replace the Coliseum or erect a ballpark next door. It’s about determining whether this concept, Coliseum City, actually makes sense. Speaker after speaker brought up the legacy of major pro sports in Oakland, totaling 111 years (impressive). Some brought up the soul of the city, or how teams leaving could negatively impact the next generation of Oaklanders. Problem is that all these appeals to passion and soul at least indirectly led to the bad deal that the City and Alameda County got into in the first place with Mt. Davis. Ignacio De La Fuente has been consistent in his desire not to bend over backwards for any team, and that any team that wants a deal in what he considers the best land for a stadium in the Bay Area has to be an equal, willing partner. Or in this case, three equal, willing partners. Which brings me to the next issue…
2. The City Council is couching their words.
Libby Schaaf brought up the fact that the original resolution(s) did not specifically call for a project alternative in which no new stadium is built, so she asked for a rewording and got it. This request came after just about every other Council Member other than Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan (who was absent) talked about the “no stadium” alternative. That’s the case where either it doesn’t make sense to build a new stadium to replace the Coliseum, or no team is interested in such a stadium, or some other set of circumstances in which a stadium can’t happen. Those in the audience didn’t want to hear it – they want to hear about progress and results – but it’s a big step forward for the City Council. Last year I wrote about the adult conversation that Sacramento was having with its residents over the Kings future. Oakland is getting closer to having their own discussion, which will be all the more painful because it will involve three teams and choosing favorites.
However, the choices won’t be as simple as “build or don’t build”. There will be an array of choices, permutations, and even sites to consider. Assistant City Administrator Fred Blackwell noted at the outset that because the redevelopment money for the Coliseum City is supposed to be confined to that specific redevelopment area, it couldn’t be used outside the project area. Then Eric Angstadt clarified that all reasonable alternatives will be studied, including sites or options that may be outside Oakland. Who’s right? I guess we’ll find out. My immediate reaction is that if redevelopment is going away from a project/operations standpoint, what does it matter what redevelopment area it’s in?
3. 980 Park and the Ghost of Victory Court
I counted two mentions of Victory Court all night, one by Larry Reid and one by a speaker. It’s almost as if VC has been wiped from people’s memories. Just 14 months ago the Council Chambers was packed to the rafters and an overflow room was needed to hold everyone for a planning commission hearing on VC. This time, a third of the audience was on hand for a different, non-sports issue on the Council’s agenda, and they left when that issue was resolved. There were few people in the balconies, and there were plenty of seats available in the chambers for latecomers. I noticed that neither Let’s Go Oakland nor Baseball Oakland heavily promoted this session, so that may have something to do with the lower turnout.
On the other hand, 980 Park rose like a phoenix. Multiple West Oakland residents spoke in favor of it. Bryan Grunwald spoke out about it, as you’d expect. Nancy Nadel mentioned that her constituents were interested in it, and Jane Brunner pushed it forward. Brunner indicated that there were discussions with city staff about 980 Park’s feasibility, so since Coliseum City’s going through a feasibility study, might as well include 980 Park, even if it’s simply to find out if it makes any sense cost or time-wise. Redevelopment funding issue aside, it can’t hurt to include 980 Park as an alternative. One speaker rightly pointed out that if Coliseum City and its Oakland Live! concept became successful, it could seriously harm the existing downtown Oakland. Cities usually don’t have two downtowns, at least not successful ones. San Jose knows this well, as they forever killed downtown’s retail growth by approving Santana Row three miles away. Downtown Las Vegas is the low-rent, shopworn alternative to the glamour of The Strip. In the next year I can see the Council ask for a full economic impact report, explaining how creating a second downtown could have a complementary or deleterious effect on the original downtown.
That’s it for this early morning. I have a postscript item to tack on, but that will have to wait until the business day starts. Until then, comment away.