20 June 2005

Report from Measure DD Coalition Meeting

Just came back from the meeting at Lake Merritt's Lakeside Center. There were more than 20 people in attendance, all representing different interests and community groups. The Coalition was created to give the community a voice in how $198 million in Measure DD funds should be spent. A major focus for the past year has been the Oak-to-9th development, which is currently awaiting a completed environmental impact report (EIR). One of the agenda items was the approval of a set of recommendations regarding the creation of open space at the site, to be given to Oakland's Planning Commision, City Council, and others who could help shape the final development plan. The recommendation received all "yes" votes with three abstentions (one of which was me).

I was then given some time to open up the Oak-to-9th discussion to the subject of a ballpark, which is not in the current plans or EIR. Absent any kind of real proposal, I asked the only question that could be objectively answered by the Coalition members:

  • Is it feasible to place housing (Signature Properties), open space (as recommended by the Coalition), and a ballpark on the site?

While some members refrained from rendering an opinion due to the lack of information available, many who did said a ballpark was definitely not feasible. The reasons listed were varied and numerous:

  • Not enough space. Either the housing or open space would have to be sacrificed for a ballpark, and neither party was ready to give anything up to accommodate a ballpark. The ballpark itself could eliminate up to 75% of the open space in Signature's plan, and their plan has less than the ideal amount of open space according to the Coalition.
  • Traffic. The Embarcadero is a simple two-lane road that will have trouble accommodating traffic from 3,100 new housing units (6,000+ residents) alone.Adding a ballpark could add ten times the number of cars to the area, which would create instant gridlock.
  • Transit. The distance from BART is a factor. Not having BART there might push fans to drive to the ballpark, which would increase gridlock even more.
  • Visual impact. After I was asked what a ballpark's footprint could be, I spouted off some numbers: 15 acres without parking, building at least 100 feet high without light standards. The response to that information was not positive, as the ballpark would significantly block the view from the freeway and parts inland, including Lake Merritt.
  • Parking. There is no existing infrastructure for large amounts of parking in the development plan. Even the potential for under-the-freeway parking only yields a few hundred spaces. No open space could be used to develop parking, either.

Other comments were made about resistance to public financing (Raiders deal), Wolff's true motives in his ballpark search (Vegas?), and the suitability of the Coliseum site (prematurely dismissed, and not for a good reason). There was also a sense that this idea was just being thrown out there without much planning, especially considering Wolff and Ghielmetti haven't yet had any formal discussion about sharing the site.

So there you have it. These are the kinds of issues that any ballpark effort faces. While it's easy to view things through green-colored glasses and believe that everyone likes baseball, the reality is that it is often not considered worth bending over backwards to accommodate a team or owner. And it's clear from the meeting tonight that one or more parties, who have both been working over a year to get this project going, would have to sacrifice something significant to get a ballpark built at the Estuary. That's not going to happen quickly or easily, if it happens at all.

I'll have some commentary on this tomorrow.

Also, thanks to the Coalition for giving me ample time to gather comments. Considering I arrived there without advance notice, they were more than accommodating.


Joanna said...

It's too late for a ballpark to be included in the OT9 EIR unless SigProp and Mr. Wulff want to start all over again - at the cost of several more years! Why is
there (seemingly) no focus on downtown Oakland or somewhere around West Oakland Bart? Middle Harbor would have been okay, except for the lack of public transit - and it's a cold, windy spot much like Candlestick.

Marine Layer said...

Wolff tried to stir the pot by putting out a rumor that the Forest City Uptown deal was about to fall through. That didn't happen, and it effectively killed any shot at a downtown site.

West Oakland BART might have a shot if either UP or Caltrans is willing to sell some land south of the station. I remember something about the city possibly buying some of the Caltrans land, but for a different project, like housing. The West Oakland area itself probably isn't all that attractive because it's a low-rent neighborhood. Middle Harbor? Maybe, but the wind and transit issues make the area problematic.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the insite regarding refused planning matters. Planning permission in order to have some form of planning gain will always make money for the site owner. We can explain further the issues on refused planning so stop by and compare opinions.

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