Oakland: We’re SF-adjacent!

An op-ed by Oakland Waterfront Ballpark leaders Don Knauss and T. Gary Rogers hit the Tribune tonight, making its case for a ballpark at Howard Terminal. In the op-ed Knauss and Rogers extol the virtues of downtown ballparks, while also talking up Oakland as a beneficiary of spillover effects from the startup boom in San Francisco.

That’s in keeping with the Oakland-as-Brooklyn narrative many are trying to pitch when wooing companies and potential residents to Oakland. From the housing standpoint, it’s definitely working. High rents in SF and comparable or better cultural and lifestyle resources in Oakland make a compelling choice for some residents and companies. But let’s not make this more than it is. Right now, Oakland is a stylish, cheaper bedroom community for SF that Marin’s too stuffy to produce and Daly City is too plain to provide. Is Oakland’s best sales pitch We’re San Francisco-adjacent? If Oakland wants to be taken seriously as a major city of prominence, its pitch shouldn’t be that it’s close to SF. The pitch should be that Oakland is the new home for investment. SF brought in $5 billion of venture capital last year. San Jose brought in $3.5 billion. Oakland? $242 million. Plus Silicon Valley is the home of VC’s and the big companies like Apple, Google and Facebook – companies that regularly acquire or acqui-hire those same startups that Oakland covets. Oakland should be more than simply riding on the coattails of the very city it hates like a bitter enemy. As a coach who recently coached a team based in Oakland would say, C’mon Oakland, you’re better than that.

The other part of the Knauss-Rogers argument seems to be aimed directly at this blog:

Some have said that, as a former industrial site and one close to railroad tracks, Howard Terminal poses unsolvable challenges for development as a ballpark. The reality is that Howard Terminal carries no greater challenge to being successfully developed than other former industrial sites along the San Francisco Bay, including Mission Bay and the famous ballpark across the Bay.

Not unsolvable, guys. I describe these challenges as cost-prohibitive. Nearly any problem can be solved if you throw limitless amounts of money at it. Limitless amounts of money are not available from the City of Oakland’s coffers, and ultimately any group that may want to build at Howard Terminal will face a situation where the cost to develop is too high to make their money back, nevermind making a profit. Those costs, and the lengthy development timeline associated with them, are what Lew Wolff is talking about regarding Howard Terminal. The cost and time of dealing with CEQA, the BCDC, SLC, FRA, CAPUC, Caltrans and local agencies threaten to make Howard Terminal too costly too pull off.

If OWB wants to prove Wolff, me, and numerous other doubters wrong, they sure have a funny way of showing it. The exclusive negotiating agreement signed in the spring, which was supposed to start the pre-development process, only called for a $100,000 deposit by OWB, only half of which will go towards any studies. Frankly, that money isn’t enough to do anything substantial. Howard Terminal will require $2-3 million worth of studies to determine its true feasibility.

Oakland and many of the Howard Terminal proponents had a chance to prove out a waterfront ballpark site five years ago. It was called Victory Court. It offered many of the same economic advantages as Howard Terminal, but lacked the SF-adjacent angle because the nation was mired in a recession. Supposedly over $1 million was spent on studies for Victory Court, some of which could be used for Howard Terminal. We never saw any of those studies. As redevelopment died and the recession showed few signs of abating, Victory Court died. Unlike the big to-do when the initiative was launched, there was never a report issued about the site’s demise. We found out later that acquiring the site at up to $240 million would’ve been cost-prohibitive. Thankfully, Howard Terminal is already owned by the Port of Oakland. However there are plenty of issues that could make Howard Terminal too expensive to develop.  If OWB is so confident in the site, pony up the money to get it properly studied. If OWB really believes in the site, they should’ve paid at least a good portion of that $2-3 million ($500,000 would probably suffice for starters) to get the ball truly rolling. As it stands, the ENA and $50k look like someone did something, but when the time comes to show results, the only thing to say will be that Oakland spent the first year trying to figure out if the ballpark was worth pursuing. We’re past the point of feigning interest, folks. Commit the real money, get those studies going in earnest, and prove Wolff (and me) wrong once and for all. Over the past few weeks there have been a few op-eds from interested parties. Let’s aim for fewer op-eds and more reports. It’s not that hard, Oakland. And if you’re waiting for Wolff to write a big check for those studies, I have to wonder how committed OWB and its supporters really are to the idea.

15 thoughts on “Oakland: We’re SF-adjacent!

  1. Rather than more talk, talk, talk, Knauss and Co. should put their money where their mouths are and establish a $2 billion escrow fund to both acquire the franchise and build at Howard Terminal. That’s what will get a ballpark done, not more talk, talk, talk. $2 billion is totally doable, right?

  2. The OWB has nothing to lose with these press releases. It doesn’t cost a dime for OWB to promote their unrealistic agenda. With MLB’s ongoing dallying on a definitive answer to the question as to whether the A’s would be allowed to move to San Jose, the OWB will continue to have a voice.

  3. The A’s ownership’s view that the A’s should move to San Jose because Oakland city officials are impossible to deal with is becoming more convincing by the day. Wolff doesn’t even need to plead his case – Oakland is doing a very good job of making it for him. Who is going to finance the $400 mil. required to make the HT site suitable for the A’s ballpark?

  4. Yes, MLB is fully aware of the non-viability of Howard Terminal but there’s Oakland’s heroes at Clorox pushing it again

  5. Talk is cheap….money walks and money talks.

    OWB needs to put it where their mouth and prove it out like ML says above.

    Prove to Wolff and everyone else (including myself) it is feasible and there is a financing plan to make it happen at Howard Terminal.

    Wolff would gladly sit at the table if OWB can come with real life solutions.

    Fact is Wolff studied HT more than anyone and could speak for hours and why it is not feasible.

    ML could do the same thing! OWB is full of themselves trying to posture.

    Time to put up or shut up OWB…SMH

  6. Here’s the deal- LW should not be put in a position to publically debate the feasibility of any site. Supposedly MLB has told Oakland that HT is a non- starter- Larry Reid has said this himself- where is bs- all he has to do is issue a press release that says HT is not viable and all the op-eds end and OWB goes away….and we will move one step closer to a resolution. HT seems to be heating up again as the deadline nears for a Raiders deal and potential A’s eviction- more game playing by Oakland and it’s leaders isn’t going to get a ballpark built as the past 20 years have shown- Knauss should commit to building a new Clorox headquarters at HT and move back to Oakland to show just how viable HT is

  7. All part of Oakland’s plan to NEVER concede loss of any of the teams. Give the Raiders the Coliseum property and try to force the A’s over to the unfeasible Howard Terminal site, with Oakland offering $0.00 for site remediation or stadium construction, of course.

  8. Knauss and Andy “Im in need of some attention” Dolich can form and announce an investor group right now. Go straight to BullShit and MLB and tell them we have the money and a plan to build at HT. How can BullShit and MLB possibly ignore it ?

  9. Wait, so did the A’s and Oakland come to an agreement on the lease extension or is MLB trying to push the lease through with that PR release?

    Also I would have to say that pretty much kills Howard Terminal. MLB seems to have no interest in the site either, so this isn’t just Wolff. Great way to undercut Knauss not 12 hours after his Op-Ed.

  10. “Knauss should commit to building a new Clorox headquarters at HT and move back to Oakland to show just how viable HT is”

    Clorox already has a perfectly good HQ in downtown Oakland. They’re not moving to HT

  11. @Tim- yup- but that JQ is not good enough for most of Clorox employees that he moved out several years back while proclaiming Oakland is a great place- je and Lacob come from the same cloth

  12. When you point out that Oakland had 242 million in venture capital, you failed to mention that this was the fifth highest amount of any city in the United States. This amount is fourth highest for all MLB cities.

    MLB and Wolff are trying to play Oakland for fools. This “10 year lease” is just more sleaze from Wolff and Selig. These old rich guys still don’t know Oakland and don’t respect Oakland. These guys are living in the past with their anti-Oakland attitudes and are once again just playing games and hoping that Mark Davis insists on the present site while they dismiss a beautiful site at Howard Terminal. This is more gamesmanship from the usual classless suspects.

    Oakland needs to call MLB and Wolff’s bluff. I’d place Wolff’s bags on 66th Avenue facing San Jose municipal stadium.

    • @Mr Oakland – You could be gone 50 years and sound exactly the same. Welcome back. I’m sure Wolff would figure out something if the A’s were evicted. Talk about Oakland cutting off its nose to spite its face.

  13. Marine Layer,

    Oakland has the central location, a growing economy, attendance which would be much higher had Wolff not decided to tarp the third deck, a location at Howard Terminal which would be one of the more scenic ballpark locations in all MLB and yet Wolff and Selig pretend that they’re in charge.

    Selig and Wolff are just playing games instead of going for that Howard Terminlal location in one of the now more dynamic and interesting cities in the United States. Oakland is leading the way in culture, art, the food scene, a fast growing start-up tech economy, a far better climate than SF, and an already built out location at Jack London Square filled with restaurants, plazas, garages, marinas, transportation options, etc.. JLS is light years ahead of what China Basin was when the Giants did the right thing and committed to their home city instead of playing these silly games that Wolff, Fisher and Selig are so fond of.

  14. All this fuss of Oakland A’s and stadium issues.
    ****NEWS FLASH****
    Relocate the Oakland A’s MLB team to Portland Oregon. We have a site for them, money to build, and double the fans (of the Portland trailblazers, which have 20,000+ fans) to dash for season tickets for the Portland A’s. Just do it. Portland Oregon is ready for MLB!

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