Port of Oakland approves ENA

10 months. In the short term, that’s what we’re looking at with the approved exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) for a potential ballpark at Howard Terminal. 10 months to figure some things out. Not the really important things, such as the real hard/soft costs of building there. No, the $50,000 (half of Oakland Waterfront Ballpark’s deposit) available for any kind of environmental impact study won’t go much further than figuring out if the soil at HT is still contaminated. (Hint: It probably is.) Instead, 10 months will buy Oakland some time to figure out, well, what exactly are they figuring out? According to the East Bay Express:

The agreement may also shed details on the feasibility of the site for a ballpark and its costs to investors and the public.

That’s a good start, though again, $50k won’t go far. It won’t even cover the full cost of a feasibility study, which usually ranges in the $100-200k range. Now, you may think that’s pocket change to all the rich people who want this to happen, but consider that $100k is still hanging up the process with Coliseum City, almost 6 months after the timeline was put in place. Some time in the near future, the Port of Oakland and OWB will have to come to another agreement to fund a feasibility study, which will take at least 6 months to complete. Historical notes: the City Council approved $750k for Victory Court studies at the end of 2010, while a 2010 Raiders stadium study at the Coliseum cost at least $125k.

Timing is a curious thing, since 6 months from April at the very earliest puts the publishing of such a feasibility study past the date of the 2014 general election. That works out well for all of the various mayoral, city council, and port commissioner candidates, since they don’t have to be linked to anything written that details costs, and thus they can support Howard Terminal in a nicely vague, non-committal way. If Mayor Jean Quan loses, her successor can pick up the ball and modify the proposal or push it through.

The way the ENA is constructed, 10 months is the time for the Port, City, and OWB to work out the basic tenets of a ballpark deal. Presumably this would include the following:

  • A very rough estimate of site prep costs
  • Who ends up paying for site prep and infrastructure, or the identification of a funding gap (similar to Coliseum City)
  • Options that include various forms of on-site ancillary development, including a separate arena or other public facility
  • How does the Port make money from this?
  • What happens if MLB and A’s ownership go along with the plan
  • How the agreement changes if new team ownership takes over
  • A plan B if Howard Terminal is rejected by MLB

That last bullet point has led to speculation that the site could work for the Warriors, who are running into legal and regulatory difficulties with the Piers 30/32 arena project in San Francisco.

Naturally, any broad study won’t be able to get to the bottom of determining the full cost of site prep and infrastructure the way an EIR is designed to. Victory Court’s demise was forced by a number of factors, including rising land acquisition costs (not applicable with Howard Terminal), regulatory hurdles, and the death of redevelopment (very applicable). The W’s are running into the same problems now. Pursuing the W’s in this manner still looks awkward, as Let’s Go Oakland leader Doug Boxer is being paid by the W’s to work on the Piers 30/32 deal – in effect moving the W’s out of Oakland – while leading the effort to keep the A’s in town. And if W’s co-owner Joe Lacob is interested in buying the A’s, well, it’s not hard to connect the dots to figure out who’s giving Lacob advice.

Assuming that the ENA leads to a working agreement and a ballpark project, the parties can proceed to the environmental review phase, which the Port concedes could take 2-3 years. To keep this in perspective, that’s an EIR starting no earlier than 2015, and probably finishing sometime in 2017 if no legal challenges come along. We’ve already heard about neighbors looking for answers about infrastructure. That’s nothing compared to CEQA challenges, which in California are simply part of the process. Though, if the project skimps on providing infrastructure, those neighbors could easily be an early source of a CEQA challenge.

Signature Properties President and Brooklyn Basin (O29) developer Michael Ghielmetti noted the similarities between Howard Terminal and his project from a process standpoint.

Lot of the same issues, certainly not the same, but very similar regulatory frameworks and outreach process we would expect to occur. This is more complicated in many ways and less in others.

For those who care to remember, Brooklyn Basin was no slam dunk. It took 13 years to get to the recent point of groundbreaking. During that time it had an EIR certified, then thrown out, then recertified. Then-State Senate President Don Perata wrote a bill authorizing a land swap that exchanged waterfront Trust land for industrial land at the Oakland Army Base. A petition to force the project to be subject to a referendum appeared to have garnered enough signatures, then was declared invalid because of improper ballot language (like Sacramento but without the carpetbagging element). Multiple lawsuits were filed. By the time the dust settled, the recession was in full swing and the project laid dormant. The Bay Area’s economic upturn allowed Brooklyn Basin to rise like phoenix. As long as the tech sector continues to grow, it’s reasonable to expect a full buildout.

A land swap shouldn’t not be required, since a ballpark could simply be a privately-funded facility built on public, Port-owned land like AT&T Park. However there are already murmurs of legislation waiting in the wings. Bills could be limited to CEQA streamlining (so far good for the Kings, not so good for the Warriors) or extensive enough to authorize financing for the infrastructure piece.

This all promises to get good. Not immediately, but soon enough. This time the flood of information shouldn’t begin and end with an economic impact report. Fans want real info, as does the press. Don’t settle for less.

P.S. – While I was writing this I got some feedback on Twitter from Port Commissioner (and Mayor Quan’s campaign manager) Michael Colbruno. BTW, love his Twitter handle.

48 thoughts on “Port of Oakland approves ENA

  1. He thinks the process has been transparent?

  2. I swear, the longer this drama goes on, the more moody ML becomes! It’s just baseball, nothing personal.

  3. @Steven,

    I’d be moody to if I had to discuss HT, Oakland’s ballpark “effort” in the name of being fair and balanced. Anyone not made of straw knows a ballpark at HT isn’t happening (see MONEY). Uptown, Coliseum North, Victory Court anyone?

    BTW, all costs associated with HT have been made public? WTF?! That statement there pretty much sums up the state of Oakland’s stadium efforts (or lack of)…GO A’S!!

  4. Ballpark “totally doable” at HT? Sure it is! Just like my $2 million beach home on the north shore of Oahu is totally doable…

  5. @Steven – I don’t spend hours every day writing and updating just so that you can childishly try my patience. Enjoy not being able to comment on here anymore, and grow up.

  6. Not much to say – spend good money to re-study a site that already has been ruled out because it has so many problems it’s really not even worth looking at. It’s all about stalling, stalling, stalling.

  7. This game of cat and mouse wouldn’t even be going on if bs had any leadership ability. Money would be better spent fixing the freaking plumbing of the existing dump- btw- looks like Montreal will be the new stalking horse for Tampa bay

  8. Wolff should get going with that temporary ballpark construction A.S.A.P – before the Coli gets condemned for violating health/sanitation codes.

  9. In the meantime, tell him to stop flushing his Depends down the toilet!

  10. @ GoA’s: Combine a very greedy franchise (giants) which is attempting a unprecedented action by attempting to drive the A’s out of town so the giants can monopolise the bay area MLB fanbase; a no-balls MLB commissioner who won’t do his job and straighten out this farce, and a badly outdated MLB anti-trust exemption which is being currently enforced and should be overturned (and soon hopefully) by the federal court system – equals a situation similiar to the Coliseum’s plumbing problems – one big, stinking mess.

  11. I think it’s clear that these studies and red tape can drag on out for at least five years plus, and even after all that effort, there still will be many difficult hurdles to getting a HT ballpark built. This scenario does fit to Lew Wolff wanting a ten year lease extension at the Coliseum. However, all bets are off if the Raiders can get a CC stadium deal done within the year. I can’t see the A’s playing at either AT&T Park or any other temporary facility, especially if the A’s continue to be in limbo for a significant period of time. MLB may be willing to let this all play out over time so that they won’t have to make a decision on San Jose. However, It could also wind up that either the Raiders or the ongoing lawsuits could ultimately force MLB to make a decision on the A’s future permanent home much sooner than they would like.

  12. @ llpec,
    Despite where we’re at in this never ending drama, I still don’t believe that MLB will continue to throw one of its franchises under the bus to “protect” one of its wealthiest, most successful. It’s beyond comprehension! This is a partnership of 30 teams, not 1 over 29. The success of ALL major league teams, not just the Giants.
    Of course it’s all Lew Wolff’s fault (silly us!). GO A’S and GO TEMP BALLPARK!

  13. @Tony D: hopefully Wolff will take over as new MLB commissioner once Selig quits – he’s the only one (along with ML) who appears to know what he’s doing about this ongoing nonsense.

  14. So if port commissioner says all HT costs are public and ballpark is doable why are they wasting time on a feasibility study. EIR process should be underway- how can these yahoo’s get away with such ridiculous statements without the media calling bullshit-

  15. I always felt Howard Terminal would be a better location for the Warriors. ..it is a neutral dite between S.F and the wast bay crowd while helping the Oakland area with a extra attraction. ..A’s to San Jose with the Raiders having full control on the Coliseum land…cmon Bud plz make a move. …

  16. because the local columnists are too busy painting the Montgomery Burns caricature to be turning cheek now and painting a broad picture.

  17. I had to go find the twitter exchange to see if he pointed us all to where the cost information is… Turns out, he has no fucking clue what the word transparent means… It’s not secret information shared only with private interests, Mr. Government suckass.

  18. Should be irrelevant that all the local columnists are yahoos’ – isn’t that why we have a commissioner of baseball who sees above all of the rhetoric and shit (literally). On-going epic fail by bs and all of MLB- as someone suggested Larry Baer and bs should be forced to wade through the shit at o.co today-

  19. GoA’s, I agree.

  20. If you go to the West Oakland library on Adeline Street you can review all the DTSC documents on Howard Terminal. Is this the transparency Cobruno is talking about? Here are a few highlights:

    “(an) area of aged hydrocarbon fuel, about three inches thick, was found in the groundwater in the southwestern corner of the Site.”


    “…the construction activities that would breach the asphalt concrete cap would cause excessive exposure. Therefore all construction would need to be performed in accordance with a Health and Safety Plan.”


    “the removal of contamination would cost in excess of $100 million. It would also require the terminal to shut down for a long period of time.”

    That was just one report. There are many more. Many many more. I went and read them and you can too. The librarians at that branch were/are fantastic. But seriously, you don’t need an engineering degree to know you must dig down before you can build up. Digging down exposes contamination, and that’s an expensive fix. So, hooray for transparency. Right?

  21. What muppet, Jeffrey and ML know about the HT site means LW knows which by extension means MLB knows. So this whole thing is nothing more than a political charade orchestrated by Quan, Boxer and her campaign manager? Nothing is more annoying than sleazy politicians playing cat and mouse with the facts to support their own personal gain. Would love to see an editorial written that exposes what is known about HT from a clean-up and infrastructure requirement and force the 3 amigo’s to respond to it-

  22. People believe what they want to believe. And people want to believe HT is a ‘great” site even when it is the opposite of that. So the narrative that it is a “great” site will continue….Chuckle. I remember one of the local Oakland-only columnists championing Victory Court as the long-sought savior for the A’s in Oakland. Oops…

  23. MLB may be silent in public, but I get the feeling that behind closed doors they are laughing their asses off at this whole situation. Any momentum the A’s had to build a ballpark is gone, along with the semblance of a plan. Are the A’s moving to San Jose? Fremont? Oakland? Is Howard Terminal the preferred Oakland location? Coliseum City? All we have is long, growing list of failed sites. JQ says baseball needs to decide. Baseball is silent. Lew Wolff still prefers San Jose, but is now saying Coliseum City is a possibility and iss playing chicken with a 10-year lease. At this point I’m so confused and I don’t even know what to hope for. The only thing I know for certain is A’s fans are getting screwed.

  24. @ gojohn10
    Could not agree with you more, the tealeaves are tired. We all have an opinion, which means nothing because none of us know anything. The one thing I think we could all agree on is “I know for certain is A’s fans are getting screwed”, as you said.
    This is a bunch of sh*t, San Jose is getting screwed, Oakland is getting screwed, although their politicians are screwing up so bad it not easy to see how the city of Oakland its self is getting screwed, but they are along with them San Jose, all of us A’s, as well as baseball fans in general, we are all secured…

  25. MLB laughing their asses off at a situation they themselves have created? Again, I just don’t see them continuing to screw the A’s organization just to satisfy the Giants. It would be absurd beyond comprehension! Simply open San Jose to Lew Wolff/A’s, fairly compensate the Giants for “loosing” SCCO AND THIS DRAMA IS OVER! Very simple! Re the city of Oakland; what they do from here on out is irrelevant IMHO. The O has been screwing itself (and the A’s) for 20 years; enough is @$#&%! enough! GO A’S AND GO TEMP BALLPARK!

  26. @Tony D. – Your solution may be simple, but it may not work. Suppose for a moment that the Gnats honestly believe that giving up territorial rights (TR, for the uninitiated) is worth more than any amount of lump sum compensation that may be offered by the interested parties OR that the compensation package that the Gnats demand is more than any of the interested parties are willing to pay. What then? If Selig and MLB threaten to just take away sole TR to the Gnats and give it in part or in whole to the A’s, the Gnats will take it court and the A’s are probably that much longer from not establishing San Jose as their new home. Again, then what? I agree with gojohn10 that whatever happens, we A’s fans are getting the shaft.

  27. @ Matt,
    I guess we can “suppose” all day what the Giants want, but at the end of the day it’s not up to them; it’s up to MLB. Also, in reality SCCO won’t be forcefully taken from them; it’ll most likely become a shared territory of both teams ala similar to the other two-team markets. Giants file a lawsuit for loosing exclusivity to SCCO? Not allowed under the MLB constitution. If you’ve been following this blog Matt for the past year, you realize that the Giants probably want to much for giving up SCCO (ie ransom), but that could and most likely will change in the future. Stay tuned, and welcome to the blog…

  28. @matt- agree with everything you said but the lawsuit- teams cannot sue each other or MLB per their constitution. Of course they can use astro turf groups to sue like the S4SJ group but it’s a delay tactic v. Substance. I hate to say it but the A’s best hope for a solution to the stalemate will be a successful SJ lawsuit against MLB. At least we should have some indication how that is going by end of summer-

  29. @Tony D. @GoA’s – Thank you for correcting me on my erroneous statement about MLB teams suing each other. I should have known that since I’ve been reading this blog for a while and I’m sure somebody previously brought that point up. My only excuse (and it is a weak one) is that I’m getting more and more forgetful as I get closer to retirement age. Personally, I would LOVE to see the A’s remain in Oakland since it is their fans and the atmosphere that made me an A’s fan to begin with. That and that transportation costs would be cheaper for me to go to Oakland than to San Jose. It would be even better for me if they moved to Sacramento since it is closest to where I live and I could go to more games. But, in the end, I want the A’s to stay as close to where they are now as possible and if that means San Jose, well, so be it. I’d go to fewer games because of the overall expense, but at least I know I COULD go see them by riding the train instead of by having to go to the airport.

  30. @Matt- most of the true A’s fans who read this blog are pro Bay Area A’s- wherever that is so they can stay and be competitive without having to purge their upcoming stars every 5 years. The fact that nearly 20 years later after the it’s of Oakland prioritized the needs of the raiders over the A’s and ruined the Coli leads me to believe that Oakland does not have the leadership or financial means to get the A’s a new ballpark and rather than admit that fact they continue to play pr games and paint the ownership group as the villain- ultimately those of us who want the A’s to remain I the Bay Area will suffer if MLB doesn’t call bullshit on the charade currently going on in Oakland-

  31. @ Tony. I am not saying Oakland has not screwed up big time, because I think we all know they have that dose not however preclude them from being screwed at the same time right along with San Jose and the rest of us.

  32. Wow, haven’t visited the site in quite some time. It’s irksome that we are still left in limbo. I can’t figure out why some believe the city of SJ’s case is weak. It’s not. I think this may be the quiet before the storm. Time for MLB to experience some “pucker factor” with the case being given serious and expedited consideration in the Appellate Court. That’s no small thing. IF this case makes it to the SCOTUS, I believe they will have little difficulty in reversing the ATE. So many former justices have weighed in off the record that it’s ridiculous. MLB will stall for a moment, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them settle this very very soon. I have to believe that there is a significant schism in the ownership ranks that’s causing the paralysis. But with the spectre looming that ALL the owners could potentially lose, combined with the fact that the TR’s will be stripped anyways, I could see the issue basically settling itself. The other owners will tell the Giants that they negotiate and settle the issue or the Lodge will do it for them.

  33. So who is ready for the game tonight?

    Rain or shine, we’re stoked.

    Money talks.

  34. “Money talks.” Tell that to your Oakland political leaders Freddy…AND GO A’S!

  35. Happy opening day, y’all. Go A’s!

  36. I am with Jeffrey happy opening day to everyone, well except the San Francisco Giants.

  37. Muppet states its 100M for cleanup alone at HT. The HOK study in 2001 did not factor this #.

    So if you add to the 100M the site factor (27.5M), Parking (75M), and Acquisition/Business relocation cost (37M).

    Add it together 100M+27.5M+75M+37M= $239.5M. This # is probably more but this is fair for argument’s sake.

    The ballpark itself in the HOK study at that time was 340M, today that number is around 400M (probably more but fair for now).

    Therefore a HT ballpark would cost approximately 640M based on my math above.

    San Jose would cost 460M total and would be built in a fraction of the time.

    You wonder why Wolff says a ballpark is more feasible on “Treasure Island” than HT.

  38. I might have some trouble asking the taxpayers of any Bay Area city to donate their hard-earned cash to John J. Fisher. This is what I will hear. He’s worth $2.8 billion of inherited money. His list of accomplishments is somewhat lackluster. He’s a staunch Republican and a Giants fan – he was instrumental in the deal which kept the Giants in SF and gave them the territorial rights to San Jose.

    If someone can provide me a convincing argument, I’ll be hanging out with 30,000+ loyal customers this evening, I’d be happy to run it past them. What is the expected donation?

    I’ll need a good pitch, I’ll give you until 4pm. If I’m not convinced, I’m just gonna put on my A’s hat, forget about this nonsense, and and join the chant: LET’S GO OAKLAND. Hope everyone stays nice and dry this evening.

    • @freddy – If you’re gonna bring the money/politics MO into this you might as well give up on baseball altogether. From Mother Jones, today:

  39. You mean they don’t have any MLB franchises owned by struggling, poor people? Well, how about that?…I’d like proof, please, that John Fischer is still a Giants fan. (Walter O’Malley, famous for moving the Dodgers to LA, grew up a Giants fan. I’m betting he gave that up once he took ownership of the Dodgers.)

  40. re: might have some trouble asking the taxpayers of any Bay Area city to donate their hard-earned cash to John J. Fisher.

    …When did John Fisher ask either Oakland or San Jose to build him a ballpark? I must have missed that one. (Of course, what is going on here is Fisher wants to build where he’ll make his money back – San Jose. Oakland-only advocates don’t really care if Fisher makes any money building a stadium and figure he’s rich enough to absorb the loss he’d sustain building a stadium in Oakland.)

  41. I grew up a Dodger fan in L.A. and nothing gave me more pleasure than listening to the play-by-play of a Dodger game by the great Vin Scully. It came as a surprise and a mild shock for me to learn that in his younger days, he was a Gnat fan.

  42. Someone asked me to convince some Oakland pols, I’ll be sitting around their constituents this evening. Deadline’s gone and nobody has given me anything very convincing. Everything I listed above is from Fisher’s wiki; those are some of the questions I’d expect to be fielding. He was a pretty invested Giants fan, there’s no evidence he changed his colors other than your imagination.

    I got nothing against Giants fans, I know some very good ones. I like this new guy on the radio. Gotta go, see you at the game.

  43. Um, purchasing another team is not evidence that he is no longer loyal to the Giants? If that’s not enough evidence for you, nothing ever will be. You want us to believe the A’s owner is really loyal to another team. OK. If that’s what works in your world…The problem Oakland-only folks have with John Fisher is the same as it has been for many years now: His unwillingness to charitably donate a new ballpark to Oakland.

  44. No, purchasing the A’s is not evidence that John Fisher is not a Giants fan. He’s on the record as a Giants fan. His grandfather was a Giants fan.

    He sold his remaining stake in the Giants to purchase the A’s. As a businessman, I would assume he is loyal to his business interests first and foremost, but in his heart of hearts, the owner of the A’s is a Giants fan.

    I have no problem with that, but to profess otherwise, the burden of proof is upon him. Otherwise, just keep that in the back of your head the next time you disparage a Giants fan.

    If Oakland-only means I patronize the only Oakland Athletics ballpark in Oakland, I don’t want his charity, rather suggest some ways he could increase his revenue by making better use of his existing infrastructure. He doesn’t talk to people much, but I would charitably offer that to him.

    Holy crap, it’s hailing! Glad we got that game in.

    • @freddy – Oh, you expected someone to take your inquiry seriously? Here’s a tip: Come up with something less harebrained next time, then someone might give it a second thought.

  45. I dunno, ML – this was my inquiry:

    “So who is ready for the game tonight?”

    “Rain or shine, we’re stoked.”

    “Money talks.”

    Who purchase this product vs. who is just chirping on the Internet? If you don’t have first-hand experience with the product, please.

    Someone else interpreted this differently, suggested I need to say “money talks” to Oakland politicians. That’s where politics crept back in. A Rorschach thing.

    I thought about that, looked around, and found you’d be asking Oakland taxpayers to give their money to a Giants fan.

    I agree. That’s kinda harebrained.

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