AB 734 works its way through legislature

While the A’s have a team of people working on future concepts for a new ballpark…

… legislation to blunt the impact of potential legal challenges continues to progress through the California legislative calendar.

Here are the simple facts you need to know about what’s happening.

  • The two items above are only tangentially related for now. As mentioned in the previous post, the Coliseum site is already entitled, in that a new stadium is already approved there once everyone figures out what to do with the old stadium and the rest of the land. Howard Terminal has a ways to go before it’s entitled; that’s why the legislation is being considered – to limit the ability of those seeking to create roadblocks. Planning for the actual ballpark structure and its features is a different discussion and will take months to years regardless of site.
  • The legislative calendar is on a pretty tight schedule. You may have heard that AB 734 made it through two committees so far, the Finance and Judicial committees. The bill has been referred to the Appropriations committee next. The idea here is that by having the bill sponsored and through to this point, the heavy lifting for it has already been completed. There shouldn’t be any showstoppers from here, though that doesn’t mean the A’s could start clearing either site once the season ends. If you want to keep track, here are the key dates for the bill:
    • July 6 (last week): Legislature went into a monthlong recess
    • August 6: Legislature goes back into session
    • August 31: Last day for legislature to pass bills
    • September 30: Last day to get governor’s approval for any bill

    There are a few more rules to this, but I’d rather keep focused on the key dates and not burden you with a bunch of legislative mumbo-jumbo. If you need more details, please ask.

White line is the extent of the complex for potential sale

One other thing I wanted to point out. The Coliseum land being considered for possible sale to the A’s is only the original Coliseum parcels which include the stadium and arena, assuming the arena’s own financial responsibilities are settled. The land doesn’t include the Malibu or HomeBase lots near Hegenberger Road, which were long assumed to be part of planning for the aborted Coliseum City project.

Last thing to mention is that in AB 734, the bill specifies LEED Gold certification by the National Green Building Council as part of the package. To me this is exciting and could make the A’s a sort of trailblazer, because most baseball stadia built over the last few decades have been certified Silver, not Gold or Platinum. Getting to Gold or Platinum often requires greater conservation efforts, though I sometimes wonder about the scoring on that. For example, Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta was certified Platinum last year, though it is a heavily air-conditioned domed stadium that employs artificial turf. Outdoor grass baseball parks haven’t been able to reach that standard.

 

Schnitzer Steel fire sends dark cloud over Oakland

Just before 4 PM today, a fire broke out at the Schnitzer Steel metal recycling plant immediately to the west of Howard Terminal. This followed a similar fire in March, and other fires that have hit the facility over the last several years. Thankfully, the blaze came under control shortly after six, after help came from Alameda and San Francisco fireboats.

Schnitzer and the A’s met before the season started as the A’s renewed interest in Howard Terminal. Schnitzer clearly warned the A’s that if the A’s were to build there, either the metal plant or the team would be impacted because the plant’s operations have already changed to overnight hours to help reduce the impact during regular business hours. While this fire occurred on a Saturday afternoon, it could happen at any time as long as there’s a pile of scrap metal ready to ignite at the plant.

That brings up a serious conundrum that may face the City of Oakland, the Port of Oakland, and the A’s if the three parties decided to go forward with the Howard Terminal site. Would they have to figure out a way to get rid of Schnitzer? The company likes their location, with access to freeways, rail, and the waterfront for shipping to other countries. That’s pretty hard to beat as long as the company can comply with environmental regulations. The plant is overseen by an alphabet soup of public agencies. California’s DTSC (Department of Toxic Substances watches what gets leaked into the ground or bay. The BAAQMD (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) tries to make sure that toxics aren’t released into the air as they were today. Moving the plant to another location – in Oakland or elsewhere – would require drawing up new toxics control agreements and invite protests from potential neighbors.

We have a couple of test cases to guide us through the process. 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. In Minneapolis, Target Field was placed on a site next to a plant that not only recycles, it actually burns garbage and creates energy in the process. That’s not the same as a metal recycling plant whose main job is to recycle steel from old cars and appliances. At HERC the burning is controlled. At Schnitzer, fires can occur without warning.

To support their cause, Schnitzer enlisted from former State Senate President and East Bay politico Dom Perata. While Perata has seen his image disgraced and his power diminished, I don’t doubt for second that he still has some weight to throw around and that Schnitzer will use it to make any negotiations difficult. The question is, does Oakland and the A’s want to venture down this road? Schnitzer’s problems have been well known, but it provides a useful service for area. What is to be done about it? What if a fire broke out during a night game next door? How do you protect the fans, or evacuate them safely? These are among the many questions the A’s will be considering over the next six months.

Or, as Dave Kaval wrote in a letter to Mayor Libby Schaaf in March:

Of course, significant uncertainty remains on how the various challenges for Howard Terminal can be satisfied.

One thing’s abundantly clear: We can no longer wish away Howard Terminal’s challenges.

Update 6/4 7:23 PM – ABC-7’s Laura Anthony has further clarification on the incident.

 

Personal Update #3

Hello again. It’s Memorial Day weekend, 2018. I recently slowed down my posting rate throughout the month of May while I transitioned, first to my brother’s home in Phoenix, then back to my home in Scottsdale – hopefully for good. I also moved from in-patient care at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix to outpatient, then starting last week I started getting daily therapy at the Center for Transitional Neuro-Rehabilitation (CTN), also on the St. Joseph’s campus. CTN is a premier facility for treating those who suffered from strokes and traumatic brain injuries. The goal is to eventually get me back to shape for working.

A fetching part-selfie of me in the hospital post-tracheotomy

The good news is that I’m feeling very strong mentally, as if I could start working tomorrow.

The bad news is that my body is telling me to slow down. I still have hypertension and type 2 diabetes as diagnosed originally, and I’m trying to get all of it under control before I venture back into the working world. I’m not sure how long that could take, but I have been told the process often takes months to complete.

I just finished a battery of neurological tests, from which the results should be coming in a week or two. I’ll provide another update when that happens.

In the meantime, I’m going to fill my time watching A’s games, reading, watching summer blockbusters, getting my brain back up to snuff, and working on getting my body to catch up to my brain. I’m able to walk around the neighborhood unassisted, and have taken rides on public transportation and ride sharing services such as Lyft (which has been very helpful).

As my job status is rather uncertain thanks to my still-recovering physical state, I’m going to reach out to you readers another time. My brother closed the YouCaring fundraiser he set up a couple months ago as part of transferring the funds to me, most of which I will use for various out-of-pocket medical costs I have incurred since my stroke.

While my YouCaring fundraiser is closed, I am also re-launching my PayPal Donate button, to be visible on my site newballpark.org. Give there if you can, as WordPress’s renewal fees will come due in June. Thank you to all who have contributed so far, and to those who continue to support this site. I sincerely appreciate your effort.

 

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Battle of the dueling ENAs

So here we are, almost Memorial Day, and the A’s have entered separate Exclusive Negotiating Agreements with two potential ballpark sites in Oakland: the Coliseum and Howard Terminal.

That was followed by A’s president Dave Kaval’s response on Twitter to an inquiry about Howard Terminal:

First, it’s good to hear that the A’s will have (with the Port’s help) a weather station installed at Howard Terminal.

But where will it be located? And is one enough?

To gain some insight, let’s check with our friends at Weather Underground. Unlike last year, when it appeared that a station was installed on a buoy in the Oakland Estuary, this time it appears that it’s situated on the southwest corner of the Howard Terminal pier. That’s not the likely location of home plate or the grandstand, but it should provide a sense of the prevailing winds in the neighborhood.

Here’s what that station is registering as of 6:20 PM tonight:

Now let’s look at the Coliseum area at 6:23 PM:

Now I’ve heard a lot about how Howard Terminal won’t be Candlestick, Part Deux. Let me point out that Howard Terminal is not Jack London Square, and while HT isn’t exactly Land’s End, it isn’t the most wind-protected area ever and it’s probably not going to be in the future. Even if a ballpark is built there, local and environmental groups will fight hard to keep the A’s from building a 100-foot-tall, 800-foot-long edifice on the waterfront. The A’s will probably unveil a design that orients the park more towards downtown and away from the water, to provide allow the ballpark grandstand to block the wind. Or, as the Giants found out:

The wind and temperature conditions aren’t necessarily going to be the gating factor that determines the viability of Howard Terminal. Economic factors and political process will.

Speaking of process, now that the ENAs for the Coliseum and Howard Terminal have been approved, the A’s now have given themselves a scant six months to figure out all of the details.

Say that Kaval makes an announcement in early December. Because of the normal City Hall schedule, a project won’t be brought up for City Council review, let alone planning commission review, until early next year. Then the CEQA process will begin. If you’re keeping track of how other recent projects have been affected, consider that the Warriors ownership group bought the site of the future Chase Center from Salesforce in April 2014. It’s scheduled to open in time for the 2019-20 NBA season, which starts in October 2019.

Then remember that the Coliseum, thanks to the aborted Coliseum City project, already is entitled for one or more stadiums and a slew of ancillary development. The Warriors ended up going with a backup plan. What will the A’s do?

Las Vegas AAA’s?

No, that’s not a typo.

BANG’s Jon Becker is reporting tonight that Las Vegas is opening up – but it’s not quite the threat you think.

Vegas, which briefly hosted the A’s at Cashman Field in the mid 90’s, will soon lose its AAA team, the 51’s, to Syracuse, where the Mets will better localize its minor league operations. The Mets purchased the Chiefs in 2017 and will officially change the affiliation starting next year.

Meanwhile, there is a new ballpark being built in the Vegas market. However, it’s not on the Strip or near downtown Vegas. It will be in suburban Summerlin, which feels much newer (and nicer) than the rest of Vegas. So nice, in fact, that the NHL’s Golden Knights built their practice facility, City National Arena, in Summerlin.

In the never-ending game of affiliate musical chairs, where does that leave a team in Vegas? Or Cashman Field, for that matter?

For starters, Cashman Field is being abandoned by baseball. A USL soccer team, Las Vegas Lights FC, started playing there earlier this year. Once a minor league team moves into the under-construction Summerlin ballpark, the soccer franchise should have Cashman all to themselves (unless they want to move to tonier Summerlin as well). There’s also talk that the XFL may choose Vegas as a city in its next iteration; chances are they’d choose the larger Sam Boyd Stadium instead.

After being ditched by Sacramento for the Giants, the A’s went to Nashville, which is far away but at least has a new ballpark. The A’s player development contract with Nashville ends this year, as do several others:

  • Fresno
  • Reno
  • Round Rock
  • Colorado Springs
  • Rochester
  • Scranton/Wilkes-Barre
  • Norfolk

Fresno may be a favorite because of its Central Valley location, but it has suffered for years for having a subpar airport, contributing to high travel costs for teams and players. Reno’s better in that regard, as is Vegas. The rest are likely to re-up with their existing MLB affiliates, with Colorado Springs always in flux because of its elevation.

Reno could happen because the MLS Earthquakes have a partnership with USL side Reno 1868 FC. It would be easier for ownership to make junkets to Reno to check out both the USL and PCL clubs.

We should find out towards the end of the season which way the AAA’s move.

P.S. – I took some pics of Cashman when I was in Vegas last year. Here’s one.

Port of Oakland set to vote on Howard Terminal ENA

Does this read like deja vu?

That’s because it is.

The Port of Oakland is getting ready to approve a one-year window for negotiating with the A’s on Howard Terminal. To help pave the way, they will also approve a feasibility study for the site. I know you’re asking, wasn’t a study done a few years ago? And I’m here to tell you, no, it was never done. Not one released in public, at least. The A’s shared their findings with the City and Port. Neither the Port nor City furnished their own study or EIR. Neither did Oakland Waterfront Ballpark, the group that championed Howard Terminal oh so long ago. Here’s the agenda item:

1. CLOSED SESSION (1:00 p.m.)
1.1
Closed Session discussions and materials may not be disclosed to a person not entitled to receive it, unless the Board authorizes disclosure of that confidential information.
CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATOR – (Pursuant to California Government Code Section 54956.8)
Property: One Market Street, Oakland, CA (Howard Terminal) Negotiating Parties: Oakland Athletics and Port of Oakland
Agency Negotiator: Pamela Kershaw, Director of Commercial Real Estate Under Negotiation: Price and Terms of Tenancy
Property: Oakland International Container Terminal (Berths 55-56 and Berths 57-59) and Matson Terminal (Berths 60-63 – Port of Oakland
Negotiating Parties: SSA Terminals (Oakland), LLC; SSA Terminals, LLC, and Port of Oakland
Agency Negotiator: John Driscoll, Director of Maritime Under Negotiation: Price and Terms of Tenancy
File ID: [141-18]

Not much has changed in the intervening years. Obstacles remain for any project at HT. There’s the lack of BART serving the area. It’s still polluted. It’s still on the wrong side of the tracks, as mentioned by former city administrator Dan Lindheim:

“The reason was it was on the wrong side of the tracks,” Lindheim, now an assistant professor at the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Policy, said recently. “Major League Baseball feared in the event of a catastrophe. their illustrious fans and players would be stuck. They didn’t want 40,000 people stuck over there.”

And don’t forget the A’s finding that Howard Terminal is appreciably colder than other sites in Oakland. Or the constant pounding noise coming from Schnitzer Steel at night.

Maybe the A’s-led effort will resolve the myriad issues plaguing the site. You have to give the parties credit for giving this a good old college try. However, I’m afraid that thanks to MLB backing the A’s into a corner, the team will have no choice but to kick the can down the road. We’re all familiar with that routine by now.

—-

P.S. – You noticed how third parties came out of the woodwork to hopefully bid on the Coliseum, but none have done the same with Howard Terminal? I wonder why.

Kaval pitches gondola to link Howard Terminal, Downtown Oakland

That’s right. Matier and Ross are reporting that, absent a BART link to Jack London Square and Howard Terminal, A’s President Dave Kaval is proposing a cable car or gondola to link the waterfront to Downtown Oakland.

Oakland and BART have experience working with this type of transportation before, having built the $500 million Oakland Airport Connector from the Coliseum to the airport. It was built by Doppelmayr, an Austrian firm with plenty of experience building similar systems for ski lifts and other urban environments.

The need for an alternative may be guided by this revelation:

then BART General Manager Grace Crunican recently slammed the door on the idea of building a new BART station near Howard Terminal, claiming it was technically infeasible — not to mention that the price tag would be in the stratosphere.

Many transit advocates were hoping for a Howard Terminal BART station to be useful for a second transbay BART crossing. It still remains to be seen if that will ever get beyond the planning stages. The 2004 JLS Feasibility study covered BART and streetcar links to JLS, but it didn’t investigate an aerial tram.

A possible JLS gondola would have to soar from 50-60 feet above I-880 as the freeway travels above downtown. That would make for a very scenic, but brief trip to and from the ballpark. The Airport Connector ride costs $6 each way atop your regular BART fare, so I would imagine that a ride for the shorter JLS line might cost $3-4 per person each way.

The question is, who pays for it? Riders could if they were locked into the fare gate system as they are at Coliseum BART. The experience would be different for JLS-downtown, as you’ll invite patrons who might want to park downtown and then take the gondola. An A’s ticket surcharge would help during games, but what about others who go to JLS/HT for other reasons? And who would foot the construction cost? This Cable Car is Over My Head, indeed.