A Personal Update

Hello everyone. Your friendly regional blog runner here. A lot of you have wondered where I’ve been and what/how I’m doing.

It starts like this. I’ve been dealing with high blood pressure for some time though I haven’t done much about it. It finally caught up to me January 21, when I fell after having a stroke and multiple seizures. I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have the healthiest lifestyle out there, with all the bad foods and drinking. I was taken to the local emergency room and eventually transferred among three hospitals in the Dignity Health system in Phoenix. At the time I was 42 years old.

My twin brother Caesar, who is an occupational therapist at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Phoenix, has been watching me like an eagle the whole way through, including the part when I was placed in a medically-induced coma for a month, and my eventual ongoing recovery. I’ve been making good progress on the recovery, as my mind has taking leaps and bounds. My body is taking longer, as I’m too weak to walk long distances and I’m mostly wheelchair and walker-bound. It should all come back as my core recovers (not that I habitually work my core out). I’m getting discharged from the hospital today, and I’ll be staying at my brother’s place for a couple months-plus while I get the walking part down. During that time, you may see me more active on the blog and on Twitter as I’ve been this week. I’ll be doing that until I’m cleared to work again.

When I emerged from the coma, my body had atrophied so much I had a hard time moving in my bed. For the first week, I thought I was in better condition than I actually was, leading me to have a couple of accidents in my hospital room, one involving me kissing the business end of a commode when I tried to stand up. I eventually was restrained until I calmed down and was transferred to Barrow, the Neuro Rehab side of this sprawling complex. There I got some religion and have been nice, compliant patient ever since.

The lengthy hospital stay is likely to incur massive bills, so I’m going to refer you to the YouCaring Page that was set up on my behalf to help defray the costs. Hopefully existing insurance and ACA will help with some of that as well. I was working for a small startup business when the accident occurred, and they decided to let me go last week as it was getting too expensive and the timeline for my return was still unknown. (Arizona is an “at will” employment state.)

I expect to come back the Bay Area for an A’s series or two in the summer. I hope to meet many of you (again in many cases) when I do. You may notice that I have stopped drinking, as I need to do that on doctor’s orders, to prevent any adverse drug interactions, and because, frankly, it’s time for me to do so. I’m also considered a mild Type 2 diabetic, so I have to watch that, although my treatment for that isn’t nearly as invasive as you might think.

If you have already contributed, thank you very much. To those who are going to do so, thank you all for your support. If you questions about what I went through, comment below.

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P.S. – Thanks to the great team at Barrow, Select, St. Joe’s, and Scottsdale-Osborn for your patience and professionalism. I’ll be back sometime, hopefully walking in and joking around.

P.P.S – Additional thanks to my family, including both of my brothers who have been kicking my ass during recovering, my sister-in-law Andrea who has witnessed some of my rehab up close (and is expecting in a few months), and my various cousins and other relatives who have been sending support from afar.

Mayor Schaaf to approve ENA’s for A’s on both Coliseum and Howard Terminal sites

During a joint announcement with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf today, Dave Kaval made this rather pointed statement about how he envisions the future home of the A’s:

Having just a destination ballpark with a sea of parking — that’s not a suitable sports complex for the 21st Century for millennials, for fans.

Based on ENA discussions with Schaaf, that could be at Howard Terminal or the Coliseum. Howard Terminal remains a sort of mirage: beautiful in pictures but a sort of illusion up close. The Coliseum is the practical albeit thoroughly unsexy choice. We all know that the A’s are lukewarm at best on HT. It’s Schaaf’s jewel on the waterfront. Whether the A’s will truly continue to fully evaluate or keep it on the board to placate Schaaf is unclear.

Let’s break down some of the key pros and cons of both sites:

The difference between the two sites is the HT is still essentially a series of drawings without a framework for execution, whereas the Coliseum has a framework but few cool concepts (renderings). To that effect, I expect the A’s architecture firm HOK to release something by the end of the regular season. The previous drawings envisioning a Raiders stadium as the anchor with the A’s ballpark in the periphery can be thrown in the trash. What we can expect next will be A’s-focused with no trace of football in sight. (I hope the team of HOK + Snohetta + T-Square are retained as they could create something truly eclectic and local-focused.)


 

If the A’s are going to use all 120-130 acres, I’d love to see the creation of an Athleticsland, a multipurpose, multi-venue complex that retains the arena for concerts, wrestling, and drone races with a street plan that ties it together with the ballpark. I’ve been to a few of these concepts that have failed in the execution (Atlanta), and the A’s can do better. As long as they focus on turning out future generations of fans and not just the currently well-heeled gentry in Rodeo or Pleasanton, they’ll be on the right track.

How much is the Coliseum complex worth?

Is the basis the debt? The buildings that exist on the land? the land and its potential?

M&R: A’s to talk buying Coliseum this week

UPDATE: The A’s are offering $135 million for the whole shebang.

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Matier and Ross are reporting this week that A’s brass are going to enter discussions about buying the Coliseum complex.

The 130-acre complex, which now includes peripheral lots to the south thanks to a swath of acquisitions, has the Coliseum and Arena currently residing there, both with sizable but dwindling debt (the city and county will pay both off over the next several years).

The new talks about the Coliseum come as the team discussed the Howard Terminal site with waterfront neighbor Schnitzer Steel. Schnitzer runs its recycling operation 24/7, and would likely create massive noise during night game. The logistics problem in terms of getting people to HT/Jack London Square from existing BART stations remains, and will probably remain a low priority when compared to larger regional transit problems.

The A’s are positioning this as a sort of defensive move to keep the Coliseum land away from encroaching developers, including the kinds that previously pitched a Raiders’ stadium. Now that’s gone by the wayside, some of those same devs could look at the Coliseum as a sort of land grab.

We don’t know yet what the A’s are offering, but it’s likely to be at best a slight premium above the remaining debt on the Coliseum/Arena. Oakland and Alameda County might have entertained such a deal 10 years ago, but it shouldn’t now. I worry that the A’s will run into a similar situation as San Jose, where they lowballed a land offer of the Diridon South land, only the be blown away when Google decided to buy the whole neighborhood including the ballpark site years later.

If anything, the A’s should focus on acquiring only the Coliseum South/Malibu site, which only comprises 20 of the 130 acres. Let the City/County figure out the rest.

50th Anniversary Game, A’s New JLS Offices

Tomorrow (January 10), the A’s will start selling free tickets for the regular season game on April 17 vs. the Chicago White Sox. That date is better known as the A’s 50th Anniversary game in Oakland. Tickets will become available at this page starting at 8 AM. Frankly, I can’t think of a better way to spend tax day than to go to a free ballgame.

The A’s showed off their new corporate offices to the media at Jack London Square today.

It has a lot of A’s history in it. It’ll be a much better place for doing business, interfacing with the public during non game days, and maybe even for players during the offseason if they decide to stay in town. It’s something they A’s brass were working on for at least a year, long before their announcement last fall.

It’s somewhat reminiscent of the Earthquakes’ set up at Avaya Stadium, where a separate administration building connected to the stadium also houses the locker room. It also reminds me somewhat of similar facilities at spring training ballparks.

While I suspect some sponsor events will be held at the building on 55 Harrison during Fan Fest, I hope that fans get a chance to look at some part of the building.

Speaking of FanFest, there’s another opportunity to check out Howard Terminal. I’ll probably be available for a “tour” and a drink at Plank if anyone’s interested. Pray that the weather is as excellent as 2017’s edition.

 

 

 

Official: Peralta/Laney Ballpark is Dead

Wash: “It’s incredibly hard.”
Beane: “Hey, anything worth doing is.”

About six months ago I wrote the tweet below, not knowing yet which ballpark site the A’s were choosing:

Reality is here, and it is a bitch.

Feeling pressure from faculty and students alike, the board for the Peralta Colleges abruptly ended ongoing discussions with the A’s about building a ballpark at the current district headquarters next to Laney College. There was to be a Board vote next week to decide whether or not the district would enter formal negotiations with the A’s. Not anymore. With tepid support from Oakland City Hall, the A’s were facing an uphill battle for approval even at this lowest level. They didn’t even get to the first switchback on the trail.

The decision was followed by a series of reactions from relevant parties, including the A’s using 280 characters instead of a screenshot:

This doesn’t require much analysis, and with the whole process being cut short after three months it doesn’t merit recriminations. The A’s underestimated the potential opponents, and the City was hands-off with no support. That’s often a quick recipe for failure, even as I hoped the parties to get through at least to next week. So much for that.

So what happens next?

Well, we’re in the holidays, so for now, nothing. Early in 2018 we should hear more, especially as the A’s will have to regroup leading up to FanFest, whenever that is. And unlike 2017 FanFest, when many fans interpreted the site as the A’s leaning towards Howard Terminal, maybe next year’s choice will reveal more about the A’s plans with Peralta fading away. The A’s led by Dave Kaval have shown that they’re willing to accelerate their process if they see an opportunity. Despite the missed opportunity at Peralta, I’ll be encouraged if the team shows the same urgency in 2018.

As for sites, they don’t suddenly change in value or potential now that Peralta has dropped off. Let’s look at them, December 2017 edition.

Howard Terminal

People are asking about this, naturally. I remain skeptical of the site because of the cost of infrastructure (transportation and parking), the cleanup costs that the site would incur, and the need for enhanced rail safety for cars and pedestrians. Oakland and HT proponents could salve the A’s wounds by offering a package of improvements that address the A’s concerns. Not so sure about any way to mitigate winds and temperatures at HT, which for the A’s were a few degrees cooler than at Peralta. (I informally saw this from looking at wunderground.com maps while watching late season games.)

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum

There are several approaches that can be taken at the Coli. The most popular has the A’s playing there until a new ballpark is built nearby within the Complex. That’s clearly the least disruptive path. It doesn’t resolve who pays for the stadium’s or arena’s outstanding debt. Development of the remaining 100+ acres is already entitled thanks to the failed Coliseum City plan, but those entitlement can start to have developers attached to them with a revised plan and cleared land.

Kauffman Stadium

BANG’s Dieter Kurtenbach, who lives close to the Peralta site, suggests that the A’s renovate the Coliseum. While that could be the cheapest option, it would also appear to be the cheapest option, which MLB doesn’t want. Then again, Kauffman Stadium was brilliantly renovated, though it was originally built as a ballpark, not as a multi-purpose cookie cutter with a gazillion unfortunate compromises.

I can see the A’s reign in their approach at the Coliseum, given the comparably limited economic potential there. Instead I suspect they’ll focus on the old Malibu/HomeBase lots along Hegenberger, which are somewhat separate from the original Coliseum complex in terms of access and ownership. The A’s may proclaim that there’s no “Plan B” – a classic Lew Wolff tactic – but they’ve always had the Coliseum plans in the desk drawer ready to quickly revise and present at a moment’s notice. Why? They’ve talked with the JPA about the Malibu/HomeBase site on-and-off since 2003, before the City even bought the land.

Malibu (triangle) and HomeBase (rectangle) lots at south end of Coliseum

Lest you forget, there were other sites under consideration!

Somehow part of the Oakland Army Base near the Bay Bridge was rumored. If Howard Terminal was too windy, OAB has to be disqualified just for the wind alone. There were no other serious contenders.

And whatever happened to San Jose? In normal Silicon Valley fashion, Google is about to swallow much of Downtown SJ whole, as it is planning with San Jose a sprawling, 240-acre campus by the Shark Tank that could bring in 20,000 additional employees to Downtown everyday. Google and its real estate partner have already bought a bunch of the land previous set aside for the ballpark, including the old AT&T facility on Montgomery. Amazing what happens when you just wave a bunch of cash in an landowner’s face.

Even Scott Ostler put a new (old) site in the hat, Victory Court! He even wondered how it didn’t work, I “chronicled” it for you Scott. Or in one two words: Redevelopment Died.

It’s been a long journey, and it’s far from over.

I am a poll… And so can you!

A’s projected development timeline for the ballpark

Since the A’s announced that the Peralta site is the preferred location of the new ballpark, there has been precious little actual news about the park. Other than talks with community groups and potential stakeholders, the only release of note is the announcement of a team of architecture firms to work on the ballpark concept. As expected, the lead for the ballpark structure will be HOK, which also worked on Avaya Stadium, the Earthquakes’ stadium in San Jose. They also worked on the “twin” venues in Columbus, Huntington Park and Nationwide Arena. The principal for the A’s ballpark, Brad Schrock, who previously worked on Coors Field and Safeco Field while part of HOK’s previous sports practice. Schrock later started 360 Architecture with George Heinlein, while the HOK sports practice eventually split off to become a separate company named Populous.

The other architecture partners may be familiar as well. That includes Norwegian firm Snøhetta, which Chronicle architecture writer John King pointed out was behind the

“ill-fated arena that the Golden State Warriors proposed for the city’s Piers 30-32, where the firm emphasized the public space aspects of the private building.”

Seems as if there is a parallel in that like Piers 30-32, there are harsh critics on the other side of the bay who are against the ballpark at Peralta full stop, though for clearly different reasons. In SF’s case the Piers were considered part of the Bay, not land, so they faced an uphill battle towards approval versus a well-heeled political gentry. The Peralta land borders Lake Merritt Channel, which will require its own special approvals, though not to the extent of anything built on the shores of the Bay proper. Snøhetta is also notable for having just finished the SFMOMA expansion, which was funded and overseen by one John Fisher, a.k.a. the A’s owner.

The rest of the team will work as follows:

“The public aspect of planning efforts will kick into full gear in early 2018. Sasaki and Studio T Square will be at the front of such efforts. The ballpark design itself will be handled by HOK in partnership with Snøhetta, which also will take part in the urban design work.”

Sasaki is expected to work on how the ballpark works within the context of Lake Merritt and the Oakland Estuary. Studio T Square, an Oakland firm, is slated to handle the relationship of the ballpark with the delicate Chinatown, Eastlake, and San Antonio neighborhoods.

On the heels of this news are a pair of polls. The Oakland Chamber released a poll in which of 500 likely voter respondents, the ballpark was supported 2-1. A week later, another poll by Oakland Rising indicated that 80% respondents prefer that the new ballpark be constructed at the site of the old Coliseum instead. How do appraise these polling efforts?

We don’t.

The polls are for the news cycle and public relations, nothing else. There’s nothing to vote on, only vague promises and threats. Most of the dealmaking will be done by the A’s and Peralta CCD, and only after Peralta decides it’s worthwhile will the project be planned and debated in earnest. And even then, there’s no promise of an actual vote, referendum, or any other plebiscite. After all, Oakland voters never voted on Brooklyn Basin (Oak-to-9th), the most transformative project to hit the city in years. If anything gets voted on at all, it will be for funding some package of to-be-determined infrastructure improvements.

Let’s see the vision take form before approving or dismissing it out of hand. A project this iconic deserves a proper, full evaluation. Oakland residents deserve it. A’s fans deserve it.

(Apologies to Stephen Colbert for ripping off the title of his 2012 children’s book.)