Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff continues to chase a pipe-dream of a project to build a ball park in Fremont using a financing plan that I've told Don Fisher of the Gap is not workable. It's funny what ego can do, but even a large ego can go only so far. It's a waste of time what the A's are doing. What's even sillier is saying they're not going to stay in Oakland. Where the hell are they going, and with who's money? Baseball, both in TV ratings and franchise value, isn't the investment it used to be for an organization in a market this size. There's an answer, but I'm not going to give all of....Well, ok.
Part of the answer is that Lew needs to learn local politics. Right now, he's really screwing up. He would get a losing score playing my Oakland Baseball Simworld.
A's owner says there's no chance team will stay in Oakland Carolyn Jones, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Monday, October 22, 2007
(10-22) 22:13 PDT San Francisco -- The Oakland Athletics will leave Oakland regardless of whether Fremont approves plans for a new stadium, team co-owner Lew Wolff said tonight. "We don't want to move. We don't want to start pitting cities against each other, but it's out of the question we'll stay in Oakland," he said after a speech at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco. The A's cannot succeed while sharing a ballpark with a football team, he said. The torn-up outfield, awkward seating configuration and lack of space to build fan amenities including restaurants and shops make it impossible for the A's to remain in their home of the past 40 years, he said. Other locations in Oakland, such as the former Army base, downtown and the Uptown neighborhood, have not panned out, said Wolff, a Los Angeles real estate developer who bought the A's three years ago with a group that also includes Gap founder Don Fisher. Wolff's solution is to create a $1.8 billion "baseball village" near Auto Mall Parkway in Fremont, a 200-acre complex that would include a shopping mall, hotel, school, 3,000 housing units and a 32,000-seat ballpark , the smallest in Major League Baseball. The A's announced their plans early this year but still have not submitted a formal development application to the City of Fremont, and some Fremont officials have questioned whether the plan would be a good fit for their city. The ballpark, to be called Cisco Field, would be several miles from the nearest BART station and near the environmentally sensitive Don Edwards National Wildlife Refuge. A's fans at the Commonwealth Club event questioned the Fremont move. They said they fear they'll be shut out of games due to nightmarish traffic, potentially higher ticket prices and fewer seats. Wolff responded that those problems will be solved by the time the stadium would open in 2012. Fans should be happy the team would still be staying in the East Bay, he said. "We're still here, folks," he said. "We're not moving to Timbuktu. We're just moving down the street." But after his speech, he told reporters that anything is possible - except staying in Oakland. If the Fremont stadium is built, the team would get a new name that would include "Fremont" - but the full name has not yet been decided, Wolff said. One possibility is the Athletics at Fremont. Wolff blamed the Fremont plan delays on the California Environmental Quality Act, which requires environmental impact reports on most major development projects. He said the EIR process will push back construction at least a year, as the plans wind their way through the City of Fremont's planning process. The EIR process also exposes the project to extensive public scrutiny and possible opposition, he said. "If someone in California has a cure for cancer, you can be sure there'll be someone against it," he said. "But we'll follow the process we're stuck with." The Athletics aren't alone in their stadium plight, he said. Professional and college teams throughout the country are struggling with outdated stadiums, and "we're all relying on public support to find modern venues," he said. Unlike other businesses, sports teams rely strongly on the loyalty of local fans, whom the teams risk losing by relocating. The goal of moving to Fremont is to build a baseball-only ballpark but still retain local fans, he said. And once they get used to the idea, they'll appreciate the shopping, dining and other amenities they would get at the new Cisco Field. "We love our fans and wish we had a fan experience to bring even more supporters," he said. E-mail Carolyn Jones at email@example.com.
EBMUD and UC Berkeley's present: A Clean Sweep - Help Protect the Bay!
WHEN: Friday, October 26, 2007 7am-3pm WHERE: 1000 Folger Ave. at San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, CA 94720 (near Ashby)
* FREE COMPUTER RECYCLING Accepting personal TVs, monitors, portable DVD players, CPUs, laptops, power cords, circuit boards, keyboards, and mice. More info at 510-642-1186 or http://overstock.berkeley.edu
* SAFE MEDICINE DISPOSAL Bring unwanted medicine in original containers with your name marked out. More info at 510-287-1651 or www.ebmud.com/cleanbay
* THERMOMETER EXCHANGE & MERCURY DEVICE DISPOSAL Exchange mercury thermometers for a free digital thermometer. Also accepting other mercury devices. Bring in two plastic zipper bags to prevent spills. More info at 510-287-1651 or www.ebmud.com/cleanbay
I read the latest news on the Oakland Army Base with more than the usual passing interest. I absorbed it and chuckled. I could not help it.
Because the Oakland Army Base land has sat largely unused for years -- since 1999 -- while the Oakland City Council and whomever happened to be Mayor jockied with the Port of Oakland for control of its development. That struggle is also itself countered by competing ideas of what Oakland Councilmembers want to do with the land.
It's these political tug of wars that have delayed development of what is still the Bay Area's best infill development opportunity. I can go over scores of examples of land uses that have been proposed for that area, from a ballpark for the Oakland A's to a farmers market, which was the proposal of long-time Oakland development activist Steve Low, my friend and for some time the with the West Oakland Commerce Association (WOCA).
But as much as I like Steve, even he's been part of the enormous number of Oaklanders who want the Oakland Army Base remade in their way, and without compromise. Then each Councilmember has to make their mark on the land, using it to say they talked to this star or that mogul about building something there.
The Oakland Army Base is a great example not just of what's wrong with Oakland politics, but what's screwed up about Oakland's economic development. It's not agressive. Period. It never has been. When I worked for Elihu Harris, and the U.S. Army was being coy regarding its plans for the property, I advocated suing the Army to gain control over the land and its disposition. At the time, the Army was playing chicken with the City and the Port of Oakland. It was nuts.
Finally, all of this was settled in 1997 and we had direction for the designation of the property as a redevelopment project area. But even then, the Redevelopment Agency took its time in forming a plan to quickly draw private sector interests, instead we have all of the legal portions -- redevelopment plan, EIR, etc -- in place, but no plan or process for drawing developers and investors. This should have been in place in 2000, but it wasn't.
Because Oakland's process of letting every councilmember, person, and dogcatcher have his or her say over the disposition of a property slowed this process. In this time we've wasted, Emeryville has transformed itself into what West Oakland could be if Oakland ever really got its act together.
What's so freaking funny is that it's Oakland that actually spurred the development of a good portion of Emeryville when the Oakland Redevelopment Agency successfully blocked EBMUD from making a "wet weather storage facility" on the very land that hosts the East Bay Bridge Shopping Center, where Home Depot is located today.
How do I know this? Because in 1987, I was the intern that wrote the economic brief that gave the City Manager (really. Ezra Rapport as Assistant City Manager and point person on the project and Henry Gardner as City Manager and Ezra's boss ) the intellectual weapon he needed to do so, that's how. I calculated what the property tax revenue gain would be from a development project there, and later created a giant spreadsheet that I eventually called the Area Redevelopment Economic Model.
Celebrity Hob-Nobbing Not The Answer
Roger Staubach and Emitt Smith of The Staubach Company are here to do a deal, not smoke cigars. But the City of Oakand should focus on a plan. How about a convention inviting all developers to a one-day symposium? I did this for Mayor Jerry Brown's 10K Project (And before you get any ideas, I sure as hell don't want to do it again.)
I'm not interested in fixing Oakland. It's time Oakland fixed it economic development self. The simple problem here is lack of aggression and it plagues every project the city takes on. The Oakland Army Base deserves a better approach.