Tuman: Oakland should be like Brooklyn, not Detroit

Joe Tuman re-entered the public sphere in Oakland today with a scathing indictment of Oakland’s attempts (such as they are) to keep its pro teams in town. In an op-ed in the Tribune, Tuman called the Coliseum City project’s proponents in City Hall “depressing” and “in denial”. Those words could be important a five months from now, as Tuman is running for the At-Large City Council seat this year against Rebecca Kaplan. Both were also in the 2010 mayoral election, with Kaplan finishing 3rd and Tuman 4th to Jean Quan.

First, back to Tuman’s column. Tuman, who is also a professor of communications at SF State, compared Coliseum City (and indirectly, Victory Court) to China Basin and AT&T Park.

What did work in San Francisco is the new AT&T baseball park. But while we in Oakland admire that, we often overlook that economic redevelopment of SOMA (south of Market area) was under way before the new ballpark was planned or constructed.

It occurred because so many tech companies and startups wanted office and loft space in the less-expensive SOMA area.

Tuman absolutely nails it here. Yes, the Giants deserve credit for transforming a rundown section of San Francisco, but let’s remember that in 1997, the region was in the throes of the dot-com boom, epicentered only a few blocks from the ballpark site. That’s why when people ask, I say that South Park was just as important or more important than Pac Bell Park. Back then, SOMA was one of the last redevelopment frontiers in SF (remember the live-work zoning weirdness?). In most cities with new ballparks, the ballpark district is where you can find reasonably priced apartments, condos, and office space. In SF? Yeah, right.

Every so often I get a question from an East Bay citizen or fan about why companies from the SVLG couldn’t just support the A’s if a ballpark were built in Oakland or some such. I usually reply with an answer along the lines of, “You know how a San Jose stadium wouldn’t be convenient for you? Well, an Oakland stadium isn’t convenient for them.” Things are different from football, which plays the majority of its games on Sundays, or basketball/hockey, where the schedules aren’t as rigorous as MLB’s. Convenience is only one factor, with civic/regional pride and the attractiveness of the location are major factors. In the post-redevelopment era, with tax increment usage forbidden or severely curtailed, these redevelopment-based models need to be replaced with something more practical and smaller in scale (I’ll go into this more later tonight).

Tuman also goes on to point out how there’s no Airport Connector stop along Hegenberger which could be a focal point for transit-oriented development.

Zennie Abraham got Tuman to comment on Zennie’s blog about the A’s during his mayoral campaign.

Should Oakland Sue The Oakland A’s?

Tuman’s not in favor of using the legal process against the Oakland A’s, which seems to be threatening to leave Oakland every year, as he thinks it just encourages them to try harder to do so. But suing the City of San Jose is something Tuman’s willing to consider, as that municipality has worked to try to take the A’s away from Oakland, interfering with contracts between the parties in the process.

Tuman says he will be a friend to all of Oakland’s sports teams, but does not want to give away public money to retain them.  But he does leave tax increment revenue as an exception because of it’s market  generated nature.

Tuman isn’t anti-sports. He is realistic about the City’s interests and likelihood in keeping one or more of its teams, and frankly it’s good to hear this kind of talk. It’s a lot more honest than anything that’s been coming out of City Hall for the last few years. Now, Tuman probably isn’t going to beat Kaplan with her plucky attitude and infectious energy, especially on the campaign trail. (It’s a bit ironic that a communications professor is woefully behind on linking up with social media.) Still, a little more honesty and reason can’t hurt discourse. Honest discourse is exactly what Oakland needs.

Of course, the Brooklyn that Tuman refers to has itself succumbed to the allure of pro sports. Barclays Center will open this fall and the once-New Jersey Nets have already taken up the Brooklyn moniker replete with new colors and logos. Sometimes even Brooklyn can’t always be Brooklyn.

43 thoughts on “Tuman: Oakland should be like Brooklyn, not Detroit

  1. re: “You know how a San Jose stadium wouldn’t be convenient for you? Well, an Oakland stadium isn’t convenient for them.”
    …Absolutely. As I wrote the other day, getting to Oakland from San Jose is quite a trek. Are these high-tech executives and their guests in the South Bay supposed to travel up crowded 880 or 101, travel across the San Mateo or Dumbarton bridges and then maybe swing on over to Union City BART? It’s just too much of a hassle. There’s nothing that can be done about Oakland being 35 miles from the Silicon Valley companies needed to pay for a ballpark.

  2. “But suing the City of San Jose is something Tuman’s willing to consider, as that municipality has worked to try to take the A’s away from Oakland, interfering with contracts between the parties in the process.”
    Has that ever happened during or after a potential franchise move (one city suing another)?

    • @eb – When John Russo brought this up a couple years ago, I tried to look up instances where this actually happened. I couldn’t find any. The argument has always been that the A’s acted in bad faith or breached contract. It’s hard to see an instance of forcing a team to stay on those grounds, shaky as they are.

  3. At this juncture, Oakland needs people, not pro sports teams. A city is shit unless it has proud residents to maintain a sense of community.

  4. “At this juncture, Oakland needs people, not pro sports teams. A city is shit unless it has proud residents to maintain a sense of community”
    Oakland has proud residents in spades. What kind of “people’ does Oakland need? The knuckleheads who are committing violence are the vast minority, though they do make a large impact. Oakland’s teams are an important aspect of the community and to lose all three would be a huge, historic blow to a city that already gets looked down upon.

  5. @ML- he would try to sue SJ over the A’s but no mention of suing SF over the W’s- either way it’s a joke but help me understand how they differ?

    • @Briggs – Oakland has plenty of people and plenty of pride. What it needs is even more people outside of the East Bay to believe in it. That’s a much tougher sell.

      @GoA’s – Abraham’s interview was from 2010. Lacob-Guber had not yet made their intentions public.

  6. eb: The teams are important but Oakland simply can’t pay the $2 billion price tag for the 3 modern facilities needed for these teams. $1 billion for a football stadium, $500 each for an arena and ballpark. Telling the teams to pay for it themselves doesn’t look like it will work…

  7. Major development in the China Basin area actually got going with the UCSF Mission Bay campus. Up through the 80s, the old, lightly used Southern Pacific Mission Bay railyard dominated that area. UCSF committed in the mid 90s to build a big new campus there; ground broke in 1999. The Giants got their project added to the efforts to develop the area back while the getting was good. UCSF and the ballpark both transformed that big part of the City.

  8. Not sure what contracts Oakland feels the A’s have breached to even sue over?

  9. Hey Tuman was speech professor at sf state lol very cool dude.

  10. Oakland suing the A’s for leaving is like an apartment complex owner suing a tenant for leaving. Really makes no sense.

  11. I like me some Joe Tuman

  12. …..And I like me some Tapatio Doritos! They are the bizzzomb!

  13. I think this is spurious, this “No SVLG companies will support the A’s in Oakland” argument… has anyone ever gone to these companies, made a presentation and asked them? We hear for years and years that we East Bay people should just be OK with a SJ ballpark because “It’s only 37 miles from Oakland to SJ! Get over it!” but doesn’t the 880 run south AND north? I read that only 15 percent of the SVLG companies do business with the Giants, leaving 85% that don’t. If you got a fraction of that 85%, say 5 or 6 known name firms, and added that to the money up here with Knauss’s group, plus all the other things going on behind the scenes, you might have a really good impetus to make it happen in Oakland.

    • @en – If more of those companies were okay with Oakland, more of them would be in Oakland. Oakland’s has/had cheap land, huge redevelopment zones, a central location and great public transit access. For whatever reasons, those companies don’t care. Don Knauss relented on allowing R&D jobs go to Pleasanton. Oakland’s attractiveness for those employees had a lot to do with that.

  14. SoMa was no more “under way” than downtown oakland and JLS are right now. i hope they dont build at victory court because its a terrible site but that howard terminal site is way better and cheaper to build at as well because there arent any businesses to relocate, just a bunch of shipping containers which can easily be moved. a ballpark at howard terminal would be the best in baseball. it would basically be a newer, nicer AT&T park on a better site

  15. Generally it is better to take legal advice from someone who went to law school AND was able to pass the Bar Exam.

  16. I had dinner at Henry’s Hi-life on Sunday night. Got on the freeway, headed for home at 8pm. Walked in my front door in Vacaville at 9:15. Typically, Vacaville to/from the Coliseum is 55 minutes for me. I can live with the extra 20 minutes if it means a new yard and the ability to retain our home-grown talent.

  17. “@Briggs – Oakland has plenty of people and plenty of pride. What it needs is even more people outside of the East Bay to believe in it. That’s a much tougher sell.”

    Agreed ML. At the risk of starting some sh*t, this notion that “Oakland needs people and pride” is, to me, barely veiled code for “Oakland is the Kinshasa, Zaire of America. Jean Quan is Mobutu. No business ventures can ever work there because, well, the prideless people that live there aren’t… you know… PEOPLE.” The mind boggles. Has Briggs ever spent time in Oakland? Has he seen the thriving Uptown district, named by the New York Times as one of the underrated triumphs of urban development in the US of the last decade? I’ll drop it here, but I gotta say that some of what I read in this blog’s comments makes me wonder if I’m really in the Bay Area or in some small town in the South whose only idea of Oakland is the mass-media hype of “All ghetto, all the time.”

  18. @ML: I think aspects of the current and evolving situation mean that someone needs to go to those companies, tell the whole story, and see what they say. At the end of the day those companies aren’t about civic pride… many of them are in Redwood City and Mountain View, not SJ. They want to mke money and imprint their brands and brand-consciousness on as many people as possible in the most potentially fruitful ways. As things have gone on I have come to believe that with the proper pitch and all the relevant, current information, several of those companies could be persuaded to pledge substantial support to a park at say, the Howard Terminal site favored by Knauss and others in his orbit.

    • @en – Pitch away. Unless there’s a painless way for someone from Santa Clara or Menlo Park to get to the Coliseum or DTO, don’t be surprised if you get a lot of lukewarm responses. And if Oakland’s efforts are actively to derail or stop the South Bay’s efforts, don’t be surprised if there’s minimal sympathy.

      Here’s a question the Oakland boosters should be asking themselves: What is it going to take to bring those corporate interests across the bay?

      BTW – It’s borderline insulting to assume that the South Bay lacks civic and regional pride while the East Bay is awash in it.

  19. @ML: I meant no insult, nor to suggest that one region has a pride the other does not. What I was pointing out is that the bulk of the companies are not in SJ proper but rather in other municipalities, the South Bay being by nature a more spread out place. As for what it will take to bring a segment of those companies to engagement with the East Bay, I think those elements are largely in place and soon to come to the fore in the public consciousness about the whole situation.

  20. EN, Also to your point about 880 going both ways, yes it does. BUT the traffic goes north at night. It’s FAR easier to go south on 880 on a weeknight than it is to go north. I say this from experience of 25 years going to games in Oakland up 880 and living in Fremont for several years commuting from San Jose to Fremont daily. 880 is a breeze comparatively south bound.

  21. I’m from SJ and lived in OAK on and off for 11 years… I just don’t see the SVLG folks making the trek to any of the proposed sites in OAK. The fact is, some of the SV companies may sponsor the Giants because of the cache associated with the city and the brand they’ve built, but I don’t think we have that going for us at the moment. From the looks of it, the A’s could be doing more to sell themselves to the SVLG crowd, but I’m not sure how much such pitches would move the needle, to be honest.

    What’s interesting is that the recent upswing in tech may provide an opening for OAK (or the east bay generally) for companies to set up shop there — both SF and SJ are pretty saturated (and thus expensive) at the moment. This would provide the critical mass of development that Tuman refers to, which would set the stage for a SOMA-like redevelopment movement that an OAK stadium could hitch a wagon to.

    Challenges: (1) like it or not, OAK has an image problem. When you’re selling your employees or potential hires on a place to relocate to, this issue comes into play. Case in point — I’m an attorney in NYC. A peer firm has a beautiful office in OAK and I’ve heard of numerous NYC attorneys dismiss the idea of working in their Bay Area office — purely because it’s in OAK. These are relatively young (mid-20s to early-30s), educated professionals who want to move to CA because of the weather, the slower pace (compared to NYC) and the ability to have a yard — when they think of OAK, that’s not the first thing that pops into their minds. It’s sad, but the image of OAK outside of the Bay (and I would argue, outside of the more liberal, educated, open-minded population in the Bay) is pretty negative… there has been plenty of cheap office space in Downtown OAK for a while (I used to work in the Tribune building) — this image problem is part of the reason.

    (2) the critical mass, if possible, takes a while to build. Given outside pressures (including the A’s to SJ possibility), I’m not sure that OAK has enough time for a SOMA-like redevelopment effort that would need to precede a stadium in order for it to really gel into a neighborhood/community. I’m not a community development expert, but building the stadium first and then trying to grow a community around it seems like trying to start a garden with a rosebud and a flower pot — you need some good soil first…

  22. @en – 40% of the 75 signatories and 6 of the 8 big ones are in San Jose. Most of the rest are within 10-15 minutes of San Jose. If anything I’d suggest going after the SLVG members who did not sign on. You might get better results.

  23. JLL- Thanks, I had no idea that Oakland had such an image problem outside of the state, that it was so well known. I just thought that that was just local reputation, and that that kind of image rarely left the area. For example, I couldn’t tell you if it is better to live in Dallas or Ft. Worth, or for example, Phoenix or Mesa. If Oakland’s reputation is nationally known, that IS a big problem, whether the reputation is fair or not.

  24. It doesn’t help that when Oakland is shown nationally, it’s usually riots or some other negativity. Also, Al Davis’ Raiders had an image that may have helped the team, but didn’t paint Oakland in a good light.

  25. Joe Tuman also wants to put big box stores Downtown. As well as more parking lots. Get real

  26. Pretty interesting comments on this thread. OT, but did everyone hear that Wolff is going to do a 40 minute interview on 95.7 next Thursday? Could be interesting, maybe he’ll shed some more light on what was discussed in the Knauss meeting and what he might think of Howard terminal location.

  27. Although Tuman could be smarter than we think. He could be setting him self up for a comfortable campaign donation from Fisher and Wolff ala Don Perata

  28. @eb – It’s part of the Newsmakers series with all (?) of the local team execs. It should be a good series.

    @Dinosaur JR – I didn’t say that Tuman was electable. He still has good points about pro sports in Oakland, like it or not. The irony is that for Oakland to be more appealing to corporate investment, it has to have more politicians that show a willingness to work with business, particularly big business. There’s no one on the City Council, nor the Mayor, who fits that bill.

  29. Going back to what JLL was saying about Oakland’s image, my uncle was in town from Wed of last week to this past Wednesday. I asked to take him to the A’s vs Yankees game on Friday. He turned it down because of the image Oakland has outside of here. I mentioned to him that I’d never had issues at a game, and that hanging in downtown Oakland was also a pretty good time.I’ve also had other friends from out of town that won’t go when visiting. He wouldn’t bite. It kind of sucks that this is the image Oakland has but it’s a reality that there are people who have a bad impression of the town.

  30. D jr, not that I think big box retail is the best way to go, but there is a long history of Oakland residents shopping outside of Oakland. 2/3 rds of the US economy is driven by retail spending, governments run on tax revenue and sales tax is a significant source of tax revenue. Outside of big ticket items (like cars) the most significant opportunity for the city of Oakland to grow revenues is by keeping sales tax revenue for things that a lot of people buy at big box retailers.

  31. Downtown Oakland needs more retail yes. But Big Box stores don’t really work in a downtown urban environment. I’m not opposed to Big Box elsewhere in Oakland, but how many big boxes can you name that are in the heart of major cities? Target recently has done some newer stores in the last few years that are starting to change this so we could see a shift.

  32. They could put some big box stores in…. I dunno? The Coliseum Complex after all the teams leave?

  33. Downtown Oakland isn’t really in a position to pick and choose which retailers they want. If Sears goes under and Target or Wal Mart wants to go in there, I’m all for it. People live there now – it’d be nice if they could shop there instead of going to Emeryville or Concord or wherever.

  34. “What did work in San Francisco is the new AT&T baseball park. But while we in Oakland admire that, we often overlook that economic redevelopment of SOMA (south of Market area) was under way before the new ballpark was planned or constructed.”

    The thing that works about so much of Oakland, especially near the Coliseum, is that it is IDEAL for creating a new business center in so many ways. I’ve maintained for years that Oakland should have seen the type of development that happened in SOMA. While even places like Emeryville grew up during the dot com rush, Oakland was left behind. We could argue why but I digress. Oakland is still the most grossly underdeveloped city in the Bay Area, in my opinion. Simply by it’s location, it should have started to draw much more heavily on San Francisco’s wealth by now.

    At first I didn’t really get it but now I think the Coliseum City site could be a homerun, to borrow the phrase. The Coliseum City site has an airport less than 5 miles away, which is a real cinch for business travel – none of the current tech centers in the Bay Area have that. That site has a dedicated BART station, an AMTRAK station and a freeway, which all provide for easy daily commuting – none of the other tech centers has all three of those things. Oakland is in the geographic center of the Bay Area. You’d think tech companies would be dying for cheap office space near all of that – and it can essentially be built ground up in Oakland. Oakland should have been stealing tech companies from Silicon Valley this whole time. But, the opportunity to rehab the ENTIRE area is right now – complete with new places for Oakland’s sports franchises to play. With the interest rates right now, the timing almost couldn’t be better…except the owners don’t really want to stick around for some reason. Hmmm…

    For years, Brooklyn suffered a similar reputation that Oakland does now. And, as you pointed out, Brooklyn turns out to be perfectly suitable for stealing a sports franchise.

  35. @JLL – There has been a subliminal, deliberate effort to make Oakland seem like it is totally lawless. While it certainly does have crime, only the residents and their friendly neighbor towns in the East Bay actually know that it’s not exactly what it seems.

    I can’t really blame people. If you were from out of town or you just came from Powell St. station in SF, and the first thing you saw when you took BART over to the East Bay is West Oakland through the windows of your BART car, you’d think you just left Beverly Hills and entered Lebanon. It looks fairly awful, honestly, especially in comparison. If you were driving through Oakland on 880, as most out-of-towners do, you’d think Oakland was one of the ugliest places on earth. My God, if you were from Orange County and you got lost near the Coliseum, you’d probably consider never coming back. Nobody from out of town knows there’s another, lovely side of Oakland. (No disrespect to those folks in East or West O. I used to live in the deep East at one point in my life. I can say these things about the Town without looking down my nose.)

    Next time you watch the news, pay close attention to how local crime is reported. When a crime happens in SF, they make sure to specify “Tenderloin” or “Hunter’s Point”. But when a crime happens in Oakland, they just say “Oakland”. (The ghost of William Randolph Hearst still lives, I guess. At least his news reporting policy still pervades in SF – trash Oakland to oblivion at every opportunity. Yeah, I said it. What?) The sum effect of this subtle-but-not-so-subtle descriptive difference is that people not from the immediate area think you get robbed, raped and shot the minute you set foot in Oakland. Of course, Oakland has a pretty colorful political past that I’m sure some people haven’t forgotten.

    Not to be politically incorrect, but Oakland would do itself some good by beginning to define neighborhoods more clearly and find a way to encourage use of the neighborhood monikers among the locals. Over time, it will become apparent that most of the crime happens in certain neighborhoods. Again, not to be politically incorrect, but there needs to be a clearer distinction between “International Boulevard” and “Oakland” in general. No offense. It’s been killing the City’s overall reputation for decades.

    These might be offensive comments and I acknowledge that the perception of Oakland isn’t exactly accurate, but what I speak is painful truth.

  36. “The Coliseum City site has an airport less than 5 miles away, which is a real cinch for business travel – none of the current tech centers in the Bay Area have that.”
    .
    Seriously? All of downtown San Jose is within five miles of SJC, along with most of the North San Jose/237 Tech Corridor and most of Santa Clara.
    .
    “That site has a dedicated BART station, an AMTRAK station and a freeway, which all provide for easy daily commuting – none of the other tech centers has all three of those things.”
    .
    The South Bay has Amtrak, Light Rail, Caltrain, ACE, and eventually will have BART and maybe high speed rail. San Francisco has BART, Muni, Caltrain, and multiple ferries. All of them will have freeways. Let’s not get carried away with the supposed transportation advantages of the Coliseum.
    .
    “Oakland is in the geographic center of the Bay Area. You’d think tech companies would be dying for cheap office space near all of that – and it can essentially be built ground up in Oakland. Oakland should have been stealing tech companies from Silicon Valley this whole time.”
    .
    And yet it has not. So what does that tell you? Cheap office space is not their primary consideration.

  37. “And yet it has not. So what does that tell you? Cheap office space is not their primary consideration.”

    Very good. That was the entire basis for my comment. I should take a writing less from you. Your 3-sentences succinctly captured my sentiment. Most people just don’t like Oakland, espcially billionaires. End of story.

    By the way, let’s not get carried away with the tranportation advantages of SF or SJ. Lew and Joe (Lacob) want to move because they want to get away from the Oakland image and take advantage of the comparatively greater (perceived) prestige that SJ and SF offer. Well, Lew bought up a bunch of land down there so he’s personally going to take a bath if he doesn’t move the team there. And wedging an arena into the waterfront of SF could not in any way be easy, logistically better or cheaper than Oakland. Yes, fine, San Jose has an airport. SF obviously has public transportation.

    The reasons I’ve heard for avoiding Oakland are pretty flimsy. They just seemed like code for: “I don’t want want to be in or spend my money anywhere near Oakland’s impoverished, violent, criminal minority peasants.” Which, as I mentioned, isn’t exactly the correct perception but I acknowledge that’s what people think of Oakland.

    Again, this is basis of my comment.

  38. I’ve lived in Sunnyvale, San Francisco, Piedmont and Oakland. Back in the 80s I used to go to work either in SF, next to the lovely Sunnydale projects, or in West Oakland, on 7th Street (i.e., the dreaded “Lebanon” area another poster has glimpsed from the BART trains). Both of those neighborhoods were dangerous then and are dangerous now.
    .
    In the old days, going to a game at the Stick was similar to going to a game at the Coliseum, except you didn’t have the convenience of taking BART to the Giants games. A new Oakland ballpark in a good neighborhood would not be exactly like China Basis, but it would be excellent in its own way. People would attend; it would be great for the City of Oakland. Build it by the water, and baseball-fan tourists in SF while the Giants are on the road will take the ferry over to watch the A’s. Oakland’s alleged “image problem” would change tremendously.
    .
    Alternatively, let the A’s dump Oakland, and Oakland’s image problem, and its real problems, will only get worse.
    .
    Oakland has always been the Brooklyn of the Bay Area. See, e.g., Jack Kerouac, The Subterraneans.

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