Intransigence

As part of the expanded in-house audio coverage of the A’s, the team launched a new podcast covering ballpark matters. The first installment of The Build features A’s President Dave Kaval being interviewed by Chris Townsend. Included in the discussion is the following Kaval quote:

It’s just really important that people understand that we’re going to be responsible about environmental cleanup. That we’re going to take an industrial area and repurpose it just like San Francisco with AT&T Park or Oracle Park.

I’m sure this has been communicated to the various community groups the A’s are corresponding with. I hadn’t heard it quite so publicly stated until now.

I just wonder how effective this strategy will be.

Every time the A’s start on a new ballpark project, they encounter some sort of resistance. And without fail, that resistance tends to be minimized, only to eventually derail the A’s efforts. Or as Ken Arneson recently tweeted:

The script should be rather familiar by now. The A’s release news of a new site they’re interested in. Then someone mentions a process-related NIMBY issue in an article. The team says everything’s fine and everyone’s being heard, all while opposition mounts. Eventually the team moves on to the next dream site, sometimes scaling back the vision, sometimes expanding it. This happened at the Coliseum North site, then at Fremont, followed by San Jose, and finally the Peralta/Laney site. It’s practically like clockwork.

What concerns me is that the word you rarely hear in these public talks is the one word needed to forge a deal: compromise. It’s almost as if the strategy is that local government or a court will step in and rule for the A’s. There’s rarely any talk about how it could affect entrenched parties. I’ve heard a lot comments to the tune of, It’s hard but was it as hard as X? At this point, whether it’s harder than “X” is largely academic. If it’s hard enough to kill the project, that’s enough, and try as we might deign to understand the process, we can still have a very difficult time with those implications if we maintain blind spots. The one real effort to compromise with the Port pledged by the A’s so far is their willingness to remove several acres of land at Howard Terminal in order to expand the turning basin in the Inner Harbor. I’m surprised at how little press this has received so far, since it could significantly transform the shoreline along the Estuary and maritime uses. Schnitzer Steel could be affected as well, though how much isn’t clear.

Port interests have been upfront that redevelopment of Howard Terminal threatens their operations and livelihood. Perhaps that’s an overreaction, especially if the Port itself isn’t running at capacity. However, there is an argument that giving up shoreline from a purely commercial (real estate) interest is short-sighted.

About Kaval’s comment, I mentioned redevelopment last June when a fire at Schnitzer Steel broke out:

AT&T Park was made possible by the closure and decommissioning of the Embarcadero Freeway in San Francisco after Loma Prieta, which allowed the city to remake the entire waterfront from Mission Bay to Broadway.

The A’s aren’t asking to reform the Oakland waterfront the way the SF waterfront was redone after the earthquake. But if port interests feel threatened by even the hint of a transformation, you have to understand the history of the Port. The Oakland waterfront became a thriving industrial area thanks in part to San Francisco giving up industry on its inner bayside shoreline. Accessible shoreline for large ships and boats doesn’t grow on trees. Short-term concerns, such as impacts on heavy truck and rail traffic, have gotten vague suggestions for accommodation so far. Meanwhile, the Port continues to expand its operations thanks to its takeover and cleanup of the old Oakland Army Base.

Click to enlarge

In the map above, you’ll see that the Oakland shoreline is mostly divided into three zones. The maritime area, where traditional port operations take place, is in West Oakland. The commercial sector covers the Acorn neighborhood south of the 880-980 split through Jack London Square and out to Brooklyn Basin and Jingletown and East Oakland. The airport is its own economic engine. What we’re really talking about, then, is a sort of zoning turf war, with the commercial sector encroaching upon the maritime operations even as the maritime area itself expanded over the last twenty years.

That is the struggle the Port commissioners are dealing with. It may come to a head in the next few weeks, according to Port Commission President Ces Butner:

“It will be up to us to make a decision, both on the financial impact and on whether the ballpark fits in with the port,” Butner said. “We are not going to cause the terminals any financial hardships. We are not going to step on our own throat.”

Butner said a decision will be made hopefully by the end of April.

“Unlike politicians, we will not be kicking the can down the road,” he said.

Butner, who a couple years ago saved Speakeasy Brewing after the company shut down, could help determine the fate of another treasured Bay Area institution.

22 thoughts on “Intransigence

  1. The A’s remind me of my neighbor. They always have these plans for a pool, deck, RV parking, Etc. and all of them need me to do something like have my lawn torn up, fence moved, etc. And I always say NO. To them I’m being unreasonable. a bad neighbor, etc. I just don’t care.

  2. There are a lot of challenges ahead to say the least, but I can’t recall a time when the A’s have gotten so much accomplished at one site.

    I dont recall a site, at least not in Oakland that had full governmental support, as well as property owner, and MLB support at the same time.

    The city, the country, the state, and the Port (most likely), as well as MLB, and the Oakland A’s of course.

    They have already got one bill past in Sacramento, and two more that will probably pass relatively soon.

    They have got an agreement in principle with the country of Alameda to purchase their half of the coliseum site (huge especially if they dont build at HT), they also have the full support of the city, unlike the Paralta/Laney site, and most importantly it looks like an agreement with the Port pending for site control at HT. They are also a few months out from completing an EIR.

    Does that mean it will happen?

    Of course not where still in the 1st maybe the 2nd inning, but it also may be the first time the A’s, MLB, Oakland, Alameda County, Sacramento, and the primary land owner (Port of Oakland), have actually been on the same page.

  3. Our local governmental leadership has failed us in their promotion of this flawed site. The biggest flaws are:

    • Conflict with maritime trade, transport and industry the major economic backbone of Oakland’s economy. Clearly inconsistent with the BCDC Bay Plan. Once you lose port waterfront land, you can never get it back

    • Sole source land sale of the Coliseum site to the A’s without a competitive bid. This is a clear giveaway of a public asset.

    • Inadequate transit and vehicular access to HT not withstanding the folly of the gondola proposal. The two I-880 interchanges will be overwhelmed by traffic trying to access HT, economically choking Jack London Square area.

    There are many more faults. Hopefully our Federal, State and regional government leadership will terminate this bad idea.

    A better site is available.

  4. @ ML

    I know we are just reading the tealeaves’ here, but what in the hell do you think is going on with Schaff and the city of Oakland?

    These quotes don’t sound like someone that is thrilled to work with the A’s on the idea of them controlling the coliseum site,

    “Libby Schaff had hoped to buy out the county’s sare and thus take full control of the site, giving the city leverage in future negotiations whit the A’s on developing the site” and, “It’s unclear if the county has the right to sell its share”

    It’s hard for me to imagine that the A’s are not serious about the HT site, in spite of the mayor really pushing it on them, the fact is they have spent a lot of time, money, and effort on it, which makes me believe they really would like to make it happen there. (Not that them wanting to will necessary make it happen)

    Is the mayor afraid that if the A’s control the coliseum site they will not push as heard to make HT happen, therefore trying to hold off till she is sure that everything at HT is a go? (If it’s even posable at that location)

    • City is getting pressure from the A’s, West Oakland business interests, East Oakland civic groups, and once again, the County. I’ve been saying for some time that the Coli is far ahead in process. If Oakland puts up real or perceived roadblocks to the Coliseum it could help HT catch up.

  5. It’s probably too simplistic to conclude this, but my gut intuition (FWIW!) is that both Oakland and Tampa are going to end up building where they currently play. I think times are changing, or the worm has turned, or however you want to put it. The two teams may be the “canaries in the mineshaft” for the change in fortunes for splashy new, major-city sports stadiums (especially publicly funded ones in Tampa’s case). They may be the first two in a very long time who will have to re-trench and just…set their sights lower. The stadium debacle in Miami might look in retrospect/down the road to have been a turning point. We’ll see; hope I’m wrong!

    Plus, when you look at possible expansion sites for MLB, the metrics definitely start to slide once you get past about #30 in terms of metro areas. So distinctive new ballparks may become fewer and farther between as the number of potentially attractive new locales starts to peter out possibilities-wise; expansion scenarios have economic realities to face once you move past the rumors/buzz/enthusiasm (not to mention increasingly skeptical voters in many places). The threat of moving may not carry the weight it used to because there really aren’t that many alternatives left that are truly more attractive than Oakland and Tampa/SP (excepting possibly Montreal).

    Coors Field is already one of the five or so oldest parks in the NL, if I remember correctly. We could be facing a dry spell for fans of bold new stadium ideas.

  6. Hi ML, do you put any stock into Rich Lieberman’s tweet about someone inside the A’s saying that HT is likely dead? Seems odd that Kaval would be in Sacramento fighting for AB1191 if they’ve already determined HT is going nowhere.

  7. Hey ML, I apologize in advance if this is a stupid question, but will the fate of HT essentially come down to the port’s vote in the coming weeks? I know you talked about compromise in your post, but I don’t see how a shipping terminal and ballpark/commercial retail can coexist on the same plot of land. Seems to me the port holds all the cards, and I can’t see how agreeing to allow the A’s access to HT would benefit them in any way. I also don’t get the sense the City of Oakland has much influence over the port as well.

    Am I wrong on any of these points?

    • The final approval may be by the BCDC Seaport Plan Advisory Committee. But not until after the EIR is finalized.

  8. Quick question ML,

    Why is/was the closed Alameda naval base never considered for a ballpark location? That is a lot of land that has not been in use for quite a while. I’ve heard that it needs some cleanup as a former military base, but so does HT.

    Seems like a giant redevelopment opportunity with prime waterfront real estate on the bay.

    Or maybe some of the shipping companies can shift over there?

    • There’s no easy way to access west Alameda from anywhere else. You’d have to build a bridge, and it would be a big one to clear all the ship traffic. Alameda residents don’t want that.

  9. I still very much believe that the proposed Laney/Peralta ballpark site was far and away the best available potential spot for the new A’s ballpark within Oakland city limits. The possible problems with that location were far fewer and more easily to overcome than that of HT. Unfortunately, what lead Laney/Peralta to its rejection was the lack of political support, namely due to fears of the effects of gentrification on central near downtown Oakland caused by the impact of a new ballpark in that neighborhood.. I hope that Laney/Peralta could be revisited again as a proposed ballpark site, and find a way to keep its immigrant working class character intact and at the same time build a new A’s ballpark in that great location.

    • I still believe a ballpark on the air rights of the I-980 between 14th and 17th is the best site. It conforms to MLB’s desire to locate ballparks Downtown in transit rich locations(near 2 BART Stations). Plus this site has adequate vehicular access and substantial existing parking assets. Since the downsizing of the ballpark, it will fit within the existing right of way without the need for land acquisition. The Laney/Peralta site was to far from Downtown, no parking assets, and poor vehicular access. Alternatively, build the ballpark on the footprint of the Arena soon to be vacated by the Warriors. Turn the existing ballpark footprint into a green and surround the green with “Live Oakland” development.

      • Bryan,

        I hope you understand that I don’t want to discuss the 980 Park concept unless and until some mine official from the City talks about it. To get there, City would have to 1) decommission 980, 2) zone or reallocate 980, and 3) assign air rights after 1 & 2 are done. I don’t write here every day anymore, and I’d rather not devote time or resources to something that’s simply a glimmer in one man’s eye. Same goes for the Stadium365 concept BTW.

  10. ML,

    You can keep 980 in operation while you build the underpass enclosure. There is plenty of room right of way. What is the Stadium365 plan? Do you want me to send you updated pictures?

  11. Rather than gondola’s I think drones like Amazon is trying except large enough for people. Option 2 is just put robots in all the seats and have everyone enjoy the games in VR from home. A third option was a teleporter like in Star trek but I realized that is stupid.

    • LOL! Thanks for the chuckle, Robert. It’s good to keep a sense of humor about the A’s stadium pursuit. Without it, I’m sure many of us would have gone off the deep-end long ago.

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