30 May 2005

Uptown's price tag rising

From the this isn't exactly a big surprise department: the Oakland Tribune is reporting that new costs may force the city of Oakland to fork over additional subsidies to the Forest City Uptown housing development. Among the rising costs: escalating values of land to be acquired, and cleanup costs for a site that used to house a Chevron station. A Sears Tire and Auto Center also needs to be relocated, which may force Oakland CEDA (Redevelopment) to pay for additional land on which the relocated garage would be placed. The cleanup effort would cost the city $4 million, and the cost to relocate the garage could be as much as $12.5 million. That pushes the total cost of subsidies and ancillary costs to nearly $80 million, or about $80,000 per apartment.

Rising costs are common in projects of this magnitude. It is possible, though not likely, that the subsidies will run high enough to push the Oakland City Council and Mayor Jerry Brown to dump the project. Virtually every important politician in Oakland supports the Uptown project, and it would take some major revelations and negative political sentiment to turn the tide against it.

But what if it did? It could make the land available for a ballpark, since Oakland has already used eminent domain to acquire the majority of the individual properties, allowing them to sink the costs to an extent - though the public may demand the team pay for the land to reimburse the city. Previous property owners who were forced to sell because of eminent domain may have the potential to sue because the city would be using the land for a different purpose than originally intended. The cleanup costs mentioned in the article would still need to be covered, and it would be unclear who would foot the bill. Then there would be the political problem - no one associated with the city outside of Larry Reid has publicly supported spending taxpayer money for a ballpark. Proponents including the A's would probably have to wait until Brown left office and hope that a more friendly face, such as Ignacio de la Fuente, won the next mayoral election. Then the political machine would have to get in gear to line up other support, from the City Administrator Debroah Edgerly to State Senator Don Perata. Why? Because no matter how much many fans would like a privately-funded endeavor, it's much more likely that some public component will be required, whether it's 75% in the Minnesota Twins deal, 33% in the St. Louis Cardinals' new Busch Stadium, or 5% in the Pac Bell Park deal.