Over the last two years, I had routinely criticized the A’s for not talking about the total cost of the Howard Terminal project. At some point they would have to let loose, but I didn’t expect it to be in a tweetstorm. Well, the cat’s out of the bag now. There’s no going back.
Motivation for this move may have been a need to garner public support as the EIR comment period was ending. Maybe it was as simple as the A’s wanting to capitalize on the wave the team on the field is riding at the moment. Regardless, we’re here now, so I wanted to take a moment to get some perspective. The Chronicle’s Roland Li helped me get that perspective when he tweeted this:
Inspired, I assembled a table comparing big stadium projects over the last several years plus Apple Park. I hope it gives you the same sense of perspective that it gave me.
The easiest thing to do is to get gobsmacked by the numbers, the scale of the project. It took me an hour to gather myself. I had to take a walk. The thing is, I saw it coming. When the project was unveiled in 2018/2019 I started adding the ballpark to the housing towers, then the office component, the retail aspect, and the performing arts center. I figured we’d hit $6 Billion. I was halfway there, at least.
As I mentioned in the last post, the $12 BILLION project cost figure is at the bottom of the 29th page of a 30-page document. It’s not on the opening pitch slide. Talk about burying the lede!
When you look at this from a historical context, burying that extremely important info at the bottom of the last text page makes more sense. During the redevelopment era (60’s-00’s), it was easy to get a certain part of a given city’s citizenry to buy into urban renewal plans, no matter how grandiose. Rebuilding downtowns was the key to urbanism and reversing the epidemic of white flight, which wasn’t entirely white when you think about it. After the last non-premium malls emptied out and the recent sports venue construction boom waned, it became less fashionable to talk about big dollars being doled out to benefit sports team owners and big developers. Redevelopment in California died a decade ago, though it keeps trying to be reborn. Thanks to project-targeted legislation, there are plans for at least two infrastructure financing districts to pay for the roads, bike lanes, sidewalks, and bridge(s) near Howard Terminal.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office knows public skepticism about these kinds of projects all too well. Tonight, her office released a statement in response to the A’s letter:
Tepid? Lukewarm? It’s not the ride-or-die spirit A’s ownership and many A’s fans are hoping for. For now the news cycle will be dominated by the sticker shock of the proposal. Soon it will be back to the EIR as written comments are published. Eventually they’ll converge into a full debate. And I wouldn’t be surprised if Schaaf and the City Council, worried about too heartily supporting or opposing the project, left it to a referendum. That’s the most Californian outcome I could conceive. It’s practically destiny.