Here we go again with that nasty word: infrastructure.
Lew Wolff told Matthew Artz today that not only was he not interested in Coliseum City, he felt there isn’t enough space at the 120-acre Coliseum for development the City desires and the surface parking the team needs. That’s a major revelation because Wolff’s vision not only precludes other development in what’s considered a potentially high-density transit hub area, it goes against the City’s goals for the Coliseum.
There’s a lot that’s being unsaid by Wolff, who demurred on questions about financing and multiple venues. Let’s focus on what he said.
The only way it could work, Wolff said, would be to build multilevel parking garages, but that would leave fans waiting in long lines to exit the garages and begin their drives home.‘Parking is a key issue for us,’ Wolff said. ‘We want surface parking surrounding the ballpark wherever we build it unless we’re in the heart of a downtown.’…‘We said it before he even came on the scene that we are going to 100 percent control our own destiny, period,’ Wolff said. ‘We don’t need a third party involved.’
First off, let’s be clear about how much land is available: 141 publicly owned acres in the area bounded by 66th Ave, Hegenberger Rd, 880, and Damon Slough. Take away 18 for the existing Coliseum or its replacement, and 8 for the arena if it stays. There’s other stuff like the sewer interceptor and power lines, but we’ll leave that out for now. The remaining land totals 115 acres.
As Andy Dolich notes in the same article, garages are ill-suited because they’re expensive and don’t get utilized well. Parking garages cost around $20,000 per space to build. ROI can be difficult to achieve unless those garages can be filled nearly everyday. But the City is supposed to fund infrastructure like garages at Coliseum City, so why is this such a big deal? The surface parking requirement, which Raiders owner Mark Davis has also communicated at times, stands in the way of the City’s plans for Coliseum City, whether you’re talking 120, 200, or 800 acres. The Coliseum City plan has 13,000 event parking spaces in it, only 4,200 of which are surface spaces mostly in the south lots out to Hegenberger.
Shouldn’t 4,200 (or maybe 5-6,000) spaces be enough for most A’s games when taken with a few thousand new garage spots? Especially if the TPMP (Transportation & Parking Management Plan) were conceived in a way to manage traffic from these various lots and garages? Especially if it’s only a single venue such as a ballpark? Let’s say that the A’s average 30,000 in attendance at a new ballpark. According to BART, 15-20% of fans take the service. Let’s make it 20%. That means 24,000 will come in cars. At 3 per car, the A’s would need 8,000 spaces. So they’d need some 2-3,000 additional spaces, maybe half of those in garages, the rest in a remote lot on the other side of the complex where people would have to walk through the retail/commercial area to get to the game. That way you have everyone covered:
- Fans who want direct access to the ballpark and the quickest in-out (4,200 surface spaces adjacent to ballpark, south)
- Fans who want to have dinner/drinks at a restaurant nearby (3,000 garage spaces, perhaps with validation, center)
- Fans who want cheap parking and don’t mind walking through the business district (3,000 remote surface spaces, north)
If you look at the parking depiction above, it’s not hard to see how that would come together. Put the ballpark where the football stadium is and the remote parking where the ballpark is and you have the basic concept. The idea presupposes that the arena is no longer there either.
The problem, as ever, is that no one wants to pay for any infrastructure like parking. A 2,000-space garage is bad enough, and it’s merely a piece of the $300 million of infrastructure. Wolff has suggested that he’d take care of the Mt. Davis debt, but if he has to pay for infrastructure too it starts to become too much. The City has suggested a slew of taxes that would pay for it through huge Mello-Roos and infrastructure financing districts, but that isn’t certain. Some of those taxes would eat into A’s revenues, so again it becomes a question of cost-benefit for the A’s.
In the end, if the A’s and the City/County are going to make this work they’ll have to come to a compromise. Whether the A’s claim a large piece of the land for ballpark and parking and leave the rest for the development, or the A’s control development rights to the whole thing, they’ll have to come half way. That also means the City will have to dial down its pie-in-the-sky dreams of a bustling second downtown anchored by multiple sports venues for something a little less ambitious. There probably is a way to accommodate both Wolff’s and Oakland’s goals. It’ll take a lengthy negotiation, which I should remind you, hasn’t happened yet. In fact, we’re not even close to negotiating yet.
P.S. – Would you believe that until last year, there were no major pro sports venues in the Bay Area with adjacent or nearby garages? It’s true. The Coliseum, which houses three teams, obviously has no garages. Neither does AT&T Park, which has surface parking across Mission Creek from the ballpark. SAP Center has multiple surface lots, including an elevated lot next to the arena that some might mistake for a garage. Candlestick Park had a small peninsula of parking next to it.
That changed when Levi’s Stadium opened last year. As part of the deal, an 1800-space garage was built directly opposite the stadium on Tasman Drive in Santa Clara. That garage has been notorious for excruciatingly long waits to leave, thanks to its single point of entry/exit. Wolff knows this because his Earthquakes opened Levi’s last summer, Quakes fans as guinea pigs. As we saw with the Sharks-Kings Stadium Series game over the weekend, parking and transportation is still a puzzle that hasn’t been figured out by the 49ers, Santa Clara, and VTA.
Other ballparks in suburban locales (Dodger Stadium, Angels Stadium) also don’t have garages. PETCO Park, Chase Field are downtown ballparks with attached garages that work well in concert with other nearby parking options. Coors Field has practically all surface lots available as parking. Downtown ballparks not only have garages or plenty of nearby parking infrastructure, they have the proper street grids and built-in traffic management needed to support large events. The Coliseum City plan is not set up like a new downtown with many ways in and out. It’s essentially the same plan as before, which has led to poor level of traffic service (LOS) grades in the Coliseum City EIR. It’s natural for Wolff to want to avoid the Levi’s situation.