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.