Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf wants to extend the Coliseum City ENA. But that comes with one huge condition. From BANG’s Matthew Artz:
“…the 90-day extension, expected to receive City Council backing on Tuesday, would come with a condition that the two teams are free to offer competing plans.”
In effect, the Raiders and A’s would be pitted against each other, and also against Coliseum City.
It’s a bold and wise move by Schaaf that’s likely to garner much broader support from Alameda County than Coliseum City has so far. It would also force Mark Davis off the sidelines, into a role with much greater involvement in the stadium process. Previously, Davis had been content to be mostly hands-off, allowing developers to sell him on their plans while remaining detached. This would also explain the promotion of Marc Badain to Raiders team president. Badain, the CFO and interim team president, was the lead in Oakland stadium talks to this point.
What does this mean for Coliseum City? That depends on how much lifting the Raiders want to do. Badain’s the long-time numbers guy for the team, not a developer. It seems most logical for the Raiders to partner with Coliseum City, since some $5 million has already been spent on studies for the project, including an in-progress EIR. The plan already favors the Raiders over the A’s, so unless Davis dislikes some part of the plan so severely that he’d rather strike out on his own, it makes the most sense for him to partner with CC. At the very least he’d have to sign a completely nonbinding letter of interest or something similar.
If the Raiders choose to craft their own plan, Coliseum City as we know it is dead, since it would be competing against the two teams it’s trying to sign. It’s unlikely that CC would be able to satisfy both teams and its own investors to all parties’ desired benefit, especially now that the amount of land being discussed is merely the 120-acre Coliseum complex (out to Hegenberger), no additional land involved. That’s also a game-changer, since shrinking the focus to 120 acres would preclude further public land acquisitions by the City, County, or JPA.
Meanwhile, the A’s have been waiting for this moment for more than a year. Lew Wolff, as well as most of the discerning public, knew for some time that Coliseum City was serious pipe. Wolff will legally have the opportunity to present his own plan, and the City/County can decide which plan is best, or if no presented plan works. There’s a series of questions everyone will have to answer before a single shovel can hit the ground. Among those questions:
1. Which of the venues will be demolished to make way for new development? Neither team wants to play in the Coliseum long term, yet neither wants to build a new stadium for the other since it would blow up their own respective budget. So it might make the most sense to allow the other team to stay at the Coliseum, which would be renovated to some degree (or not) to make it more suitable long-term. Naturally, the Coliseum’s current condition is much better suited for football than baseball thanks to Mount Davis. Plans could also call for the demolition of the arena, which represents 8 valuable acres within the complex.
2. Who pays for the infrastructure? While it was assumed that the City/County would pay for new infrastructure, the introduction of competitive bidding gives them some leverage in terms of allowing the developer to pay for some or all of that cost. That cost would eat into each bidder’s bottom line, so the challenge for the bidders is to balance that public desire with their own internal projections. For instance, a bidder could adjust to assuming infrastructure costs by adding additional square footage to offset. However, keep in mind that Coliseum City’s full buildout at the complex called for around $400 million in infrastructure.
3. How much does one team’s plan respect the other team? Both owners have expressed an interest in limiting the construction of parking garages in order to preserve surface parking. That’s also valuable, developable land. Again, how does the bidder strike the balance? Does one team’s bid kick the other team to the curb?
4. Does either plan pay off the existing Coliseum debt load? The original Coliseum City plan had no provision to pay off the $100 million at the Coliseum. Floyd Kephart added that responsibility to his plan. Lew Wolff’s alternative also appears to take care of this. If the Raiders propose their own plan do they offer the same? And what about the $100 million owed on the arena, which may not be paid off if/when the Warriors leave?
5. How does the development fit in with Oakland’s planning strategy? A hidden issue in all this redevelopment talk is how the future Coliseum will affect Oakland, especially East Oakland. Will it add much needed affordable housing? Will it gentrify East Oakland? Could it attract one major employer in a campus setting, or numerous smaller companies? Would the retail component be targeted properly, or could it end up with a bunch of empty shell buildings bringing in few rents? What if the retail part is just more big box stores? And how does the plan work with Oakland’s desire to create a thriving transit hub? Does that plan compete with downtown Oakland?
This is finally the emergence of the adult conversation we have long been waiting for. Kudos to Mayor Schaaf for acting so quickly to allow that conversation to begin in earnest. There’s actually a decent chance that Oakland can come out of this looking good in that the City won’t be ripped off. It’s a better chance than it had previously. It gives Oakland new, real leverage. Oakland should approve the ENA with the new conditions, and let the best team win.