Missed opportunities

Many, many years ago, just a few months after I launched this blog, I pitched this idea:


View south towards Lake Merritt from the intersection of 27th and Broadway

I wrote to then-and-still-current Oakland Councilmember Nancy Nadel (District 3) about the potential of this site. After a bit of nagging on my part, I was told that other development was “in the pipeline”. Disappointed, I looked elsewhere.

The ballpark site was considered the southern end of Broadway Auto Row. In 2005, the City of Oakland was pushing to move several car dealerships out of the district, gambling on the idea that the area could become the city’s long lost retail mecca. The dealerships were meant to move to the Coliseum area (some did) or the Army Base (they didn’t). Now Broadway Auto Row sits either empty or with car dealerships still there, a fair albeit underwhelming use of land in the city’s urban core. It’s an area begging for redevelopment, but as a result of scuttling of the institution, it lacks the funding needed to make the sea change happen. A feature in the SF Public Press by Alexis Fitts chronicles much of the failed planning and good intentions.

There were dreams to build a retail district to rival Union Square, even as Emeryville ate Oakland’s lunch. Grandiose plans for a over 1 million square feet of retail with Nordstrom and Macy’s as anchors never materialized. It occurred to me that these massive scale plans from several years ago had much of the same lofty language being used now for Coliseum City. Oakland’s used JRDV as a master plan consultant back then, and they’re using the same firm for Coliseum City now. Sub in the Raiders, A’s, and Warriors for Nordstrom, Macy’s, and Target, and it’s very similar: big dreams, little realism.

Sights have shifted to include more housing in the plan, which is fine in that it’s in keeping with the region’s growth. The retail strategy could shift to a focus on hipsters with stores like American Apparel (the only A.A. in the East Bay is in Berkeley). Without public incentives to lure retailers in it’s a very tough sell.

It’s a similar tough sell for the pro sports franchises. During the S.O.S. meeting on Monday, I brought up the potential of infrastructure finance districts. They’re redevelopment in the new era, with less money to throw around and lower expectations in keeping with less money. I reported last week that the City of San Jose approved an extension of the Downtown Property and Business Improvement District. The PBID pays for Groundwerx, a downtown beautification program that cleans up litter and sidewalks, removes graffiti, covers utility boxes in vinyl wraps, and provides a welcome/concierge element to downtown with the crew of Segway-riding, neon-clad employees. Groundwerx will cost $2.2 million for 2013 and is worth the cost, as evidenced by the 91% approval among downtown landowners.

Before Oakland reaches for the stars again and starts dreaming about being San Francisco, it might want to see what’s feasible within city limits. If it wants to make Oakland more attractive to businesses and consumers, it should make downtown/uptown actually visually attractive to those contingents. This weekend, there are little gymnasts and their parents walking around downtown SJ, and the place looks clean, welcoming, and hospitable. Even with that image boost, there’s little hope for great retail there. Valley Fair and Santana Row have ruined downtown SJ for retail for next several decades at the very least, thanks to their free parking and safe, sealed environments. Whether Oakland goes mainstream or hipster or both, it’s going to take a long time to develop any significant retail in downtown or the Coliseum area. New measures are the new skin-in-the-game.

As for Broadway Auto Row, it’s too bad no one ran with the ballpark idea. There weren’t too many landowners. All it needed was a champion within City Hall.

31 thoughts on “Missed opportunities

  1. not enough parking space. howard terminal is the best site with plenty of room for parking, a spacious ballpark AND redevelopment

  2. @ACV – Didn’t you get the memo? Redevelopment is dead.

  3. Howard Terminal – big rail line right there, unmovable sewer line under the sight, correct?

  4. …under the site.

  5. im just talking about development in general then. like if lew wolff wanted to build a hotel there. all that stuff they want to have around coliseum city they can have at howard terminal too. even an NBA arena.

  6. uptown was by far the best site but once that site was killed by brown, how that’s site doing anyway, so was the a’s chances of staying in oakland realistically.

  7. isnt this site ballpark south facing anyway? would that even be allowed by MLB regulations?

  8. This has been my personal favorite site ever since having a beer at Mua. Closing off the last section of Webster st as a pedestrian plaza to welcome those coming from 19th st BART with some fine drinking establishments would be a must. The view of Christ The Light church in the outfield wouldn’t hurt either. In the context of of a larger redesign of 980, this would be my dream. This is easy to say as someone who has enjoyed the final product of the Big Dig, but wasn’t here to suffer through the process.

  9. There is no sewer line under Howard Terminal. The Oakland Estuary is under HT.

    There is a large East Bay MUD line down the middle of 2nd or 3rd Street.

    I love the site ML has laid out but it’s no longer viable, just like Victory Court, as there is no large pot of money available for land acquisition. This is why HT make sense now.

  10. I thought other sites like Victory Court were brought up years ago because sites like Howard Terminal were too expensive. Have I been gone too long? Why does HT suddenly make the most sense?

  11. @ML–Like the comment above, this concept like VC and HT will not work without redevelopment. HT has a lot of contamination to be cleaned up. Moreover, your Uptown site and HT are to far from BART to meet MLB access criterion. If you are looking for a free land alternative that meet the criteria you are only left with 980 Park on the air rights of the subsurface I-980 freeway. So far the only MLB objection to this site is it next to the perceived crime ridden West Oakland. We all know the crime ridden areas are more localized in West Oakland. However, crime in West Oakland needs to be addressed with or without a ballpark. The city should study crime reduction programs and implement a pilot project. The first step in this regard, would be to hire a first class crime reduction consultant team. Some of this funding could come from the West Oakland Specific Plan currently underway. The draft of this plan completely ignores the need to solutions to real or perceive crime.

  12. Bryan, you really need to let 980 go. It’s never going to happen. Any other site would be incredibly expensive to make work. 980 would make them look like pennies for what it would cost to make work without getting into all the hurdles involved. For the time and money involved in it, you’d be better off building a floating stadium. Maybe even a flying stadium.

  13. NOTHING will happen because it’s posted in the comments section of this blog.

    NOBODY with any real influence, authority or money will do anything because you type your fantasies, wisecracks or repetitive name-calling in this little box.

    Lew Wolff is not selling, Larry Ellison is not buying, the Giants are not negotiating, MLB is not deciding, and the city of Oakland (or San Jose) is not building just because you yammer about it on ML’s page.

    ML is tracking the news surrounding the issue, putting it in one nice convenient spot, and occasionally providing commentary. He’s done an outstanding job of it, considering he’s probably made about $18.72 from the whole enterprise. But it’s not a means to an end. He’s not the one you need to convince, and neither are the readers.

    You think building on a freeway is the answer? Do what ML did with the Lake Merritt pitch: tell somebody in authority. Get yourself a champion of industry who is sympathetic to your cause. Get an endorsement from Save Oakland Sports. Take down Zuckerberg in a confidence scam.

    Please do something – – anything – – before trolling with the 980 Park daydream again.

  14. I like 980 park as well and for lack of better alternatives maybe this is truly the last viable site in the current A’s territory. Maybe it’s time for this site to be the rallying cry that everyone gets on board. I agree that it’s time for a grass roots effort by SOS to promote.

  15. i though howard terminal was undoable because it’d cost too much to relocate the loading cranes off the site?

  16. To: A’s Observer,
    Why are all your posts written as email. This is a blog. Have fun and let loose.

    Larry E.

  17. @ Eddie – although i don’t agree with BryanG’s 980 park proposal or his viewpoints, you have to credit him for it and actually getting in front if the city council and getting one of the members to look at it. For all the hoopla LGO, BBI, SOS, etc. throw at the media doing their sideline cheerleading, it’s passionate guys like Bryan that will make make the difference from the teams staying in Oakland or not. Props to you Bryan!

  18. @ML i see alot of families walkin thru the oakland art murmur on fridays with their kids. the opportunities there but in all these years it hasnt happened. Jack London seems to be in rebuild mode AGAIN. whatever happened to that farmers market building? it still hasnt opened right

  19. A dream that will never be realized due to a lack of leadership in Oakland.

  20. Biffs Field. I remember.

  21. What ACV said.

    No matter how good the view, you shouldn’t have an orientation with home plate facing due south.

  22. I certainly can appreciate the motivation behind the ‘ballpark ideas’ postings. However it’s all but moot. The current leader(s) of Oakland are going with a 3 team-one site-one plan located at the coliseum. If you are a ‘keep all the teams in Oakland’ member and are looking for ideas with any practical application, it starts and ends at the area around the coliseum. The moment Oakland leader(s) say “we have an idea for the A’s at 980 or JLS or HT” is the moment they have abandoned CC. Considering the giant, seemingly Mt Everest type hurdle to get one site done, the abandonment of the 3 team-one site plan is all but acceptance that at least one if not two (if not three) teams relocating out of Oakland is going to happen — that is unless you believe that Oakland leadership will make, for example, JLS for the A’s, site X for the W’s and site Z for the Raiders happen. That is all but fantasy.
    At this point it is CC or there will very likely be at least some relocation (and I recognize that is a frying pan or fire choice). And if the push is for the A’s to be somewhere (for instance JLS), you all should recognize it will very likely be at he cost of the W’s and/or the Raiders. And considering attendance history, the stated desire of A’s ownership and the SJ location that has the red carpet out for the A’s, I strongly suggest the limited abilities and resources be put into keeping the other two teams (unless, again, CC can be worked out). That’s just the cold, hard facts….

  23. Comerica Park in Detroit and John Thurman Field in Modesto (single-A) both have fields facing due south. Kind of makes it a pain for people sitting in LF, but doesn’t seem to affect the game much.

  24. I like the auto-row idea. Parking would be an issue, but those blocks between the conceptual park and Grand Ave. have some room.

    I would like to point out that the ballpark, as conceived, would fit easily onto that green point jutting into Lake Merrit — public park land. (Fairyland can be relocated. Don’t worry.) That’s a charmed spot. During winter months, I’ve seen many rainbows arc across the lake to end right there.

  25. Also – the distance from that site to the BART 19th Street Station is roughly the same (possibly even a bit less) than the distance from the BART Embarcadero Station to the Phone Booth. All that would have been needed to make that happen is, well…vision. Okay, that and a kajillion redevelopment bucks.

  26. To Chi:

    You called “everybody” at SOS?

    “Everybody” – really?

    A’s observer

  27. “Funny i called everybody from SOS and Rebecca Kaplan office…none of these iddiot can tell me how they are going to keep the teams without any public financing or private investor.. ”
    Riiight. I called everyone who voted for All-Stars and they won’t tell me why Cook is in and no Reddick. Bummer.

  28. Chi, I don’t think Oakland can win this one by default. The imperative is for new venues that generate significantly bigger revenues. The only thing that will be accomplished by Oakland putting up roadblocks/other cities failures is a delay of the inevitable. I also agree (and have written this before) on some degree of public financing being critical. Without it the chances of Oakland teams remaining in Oakland are small. It is puzzling why Oakland leaders don’t put up a bond measure. Talk with teams, talk with the leagues, get them on board with some $$$ commitments the promise of some public $$$$ being kicked in…….. then put it to the voters. Sell it as: Oakland pays X, the revenue it generates is Y, the ROI is Z……..and the ROI will be used for needed ABC programs in Oakland. Without Oakland leadership being able to put forward an idea like this, I think SOS will be very disappointed. And, as I have also said before, Oakland should pick their battles wisely. IMHO, picking the A’s as one your battles (to keep them in Oakland) is a bad choice. The W’s and Raiders are better the more logical fights unless the TR issue can’t be resolved.

  29. ML please tells us more about the insfrastucture finance districts. If you aleady have just lead me to that blog post. Thank you!

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