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?

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.

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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.

Tram-a-lam-a

For those who haven’t yet dismissed out-of-hand the idea of an aerial tram linking Downtown Oakland (12tb Street BART) to Jack London Square/Howard Terminal, I’ve put together the following chart comparing the proposed transit option with other existing trams and other non-bus, non-subway modes.

Chew on that over the weekend.

And if you want further related info, check out a study done for the City of Hercules for its own circulator, which could have included its own aerial tram. It’s worth a read.

With that, have a good weekend everyone.

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.

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.

 

 

 

Looking backward to 2018

Square one.

That’s what we’re talking about. We don’t know what the A’s next steps are on the ballpark front. We may get a glimpse of it on Saturday, January 27, when the team will again host FanFest at Jack London Square. At FanFest 2017, Dave Kaval was coy about site choice, insisting that the A’s were still in the midst of studying site options. The Peralta site hadn’t been rumored yet, let alone publicized. Momentum built little by little throughout the spring, followed by the crash after the announcement.

The team has been licking its wounds since Peralta stopped talks with the A’s. Kaval has said nothing about next steps. Like last FanFest, visitors next month will be tantalized by visuals of Howard Terminal in the background. The Coliseum lingers in the background, though what can you say about a neighborhood that lost a Pak ‘n Save and a Walmart in the last ten years? Fans will be asking the A’s brass about both options, so I think this is an opportunity for the A’s to backers of both sites to start making their own efforts.

Howard Terminal, Coliseum JPA?

Let’s start bidding on the A’s. You want them? Really, really want them? Then show your hand. Present what you’re willing to offer. By that I don’t mean contributing cash for stadium construction. We already know that since the beginning the A’s have pledged to make the stadium part a privately financed affair. That leaves infrastructure, in terms of parking, improved roads, and enhanced transit options. Howard Terminal still has no estimate for what anything will cost to make it viable. The Coliseum still hasn’t figured out its ownership and debt situations, choosing to put those on the back burner. Any bids have to include those plans, respectively. Both plans effectively have to start with the City, because Oakland has to initiate the purchase of the half of the Coliseum land from Alameda County (the county would loan money to the city), or Oakland has the start the process of rezoning Howard Terminal to non-industrial port (or city) land.

Most of the details of any negotiations would be held in closed door sessions, as most municipalities do with real estate. But we can at least get some kind of framework to get started on either side. And that would give fans something to work with that’s more than a skin-deep debate over a pretty, impractical site vs. a cheap, dumpy one. A competitive approach is likely to yield better results than another one of Oakland’s aimlesss task forces.

The one wildcard to look at in 2018 is The Lodge. Commissioner Rob Manfred has stayed patient so far, preferring not to criticize Oakland while the A’s completed their search. Now that Phase One has ended with a thud, I’ll be curious to see if Manfred’s patience starts to simmer.

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.