26 March 2005

More on A's sale

According to an article on, the vote on the A's sale to Wolff & Co. will happen on Wednesday. Not much else new except for what appears to be a confirmation that Steve Schott will remain a limited partner in the new ownership group. There's also another quote from Selig regarding Santa Clara County territorial rights:

"We have a sport where you just can't have anarchy," Selig said. "You can't be changing territories. It's a territory that's owned by the San Francisco Giants and that will be respected. You just don't change those things and we won't."

I believe that places the ball in San Jose's court.

Estuary Plan

This post posits an alternative Oak-to-Ninth plan which incorporates several features in keeping with the EPP. Among the features:
  1. Most of the Fifth Avenue Marina is developed for recreational purposes, including an expansion of Estuary Park on the other side of the channel, a new public marina on the southwest end, a meadow/public park, and parking.
  2. Preservation of the Silveira property.
  3. Potential other mixed use (commercial/industrial)
  4. Conversion of Clinton Basin to a 70-slip floating home community much like those seen near Sausalito, in Alameda and in Seattle.
  5. 1,000 new apartments and condominiums in a 13-acre village concept on the Ninth Ave section, with up to 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
  6. 40,000-seat ballpark at the east end of the Ninth Ave Terminal, with a 1,200-car garage adjacent.
  7. 300-room hotel overlooking the estuary.
  8. Greenbelt/Park established along waterfront for both Fifth and Ninth sections.
  9. An option to preserve most if not all of the Ninth Ave Terminal building.
Click on the photo below to view a larger version.

One of the interesting possibilities lies in the land between the Embarcadero and 880 (the yellow strip in the photo above). Formerly a rail right-of-way for Union Pacific, it's not used for anything right now. The track is still there except for portions paved over at intersections. Part of it will be used for the Caltrans Fifth Ave Interchange project, but much of it may be available for other uses. The strip could be converted into parking for about 250 cars. An alternative plan could have the track reused for a trolley that runs between Jack London Square and the ballpark. Such a trolley could help alleviate the parking problem that will occur on site by letting patrons park near JLS, then take the spur to the game. While a light rail or trolley project for Oakland has been discussed for some time, the presence of rail makes it more of a possibility to fast-track a LRT plan. Alameda has been discussing transit options including bus rapid transit and a tram.


  • Nearly half of the area would used to establish new waterfront parks and recreational facilities.
  • Small ballpark footprint is designed not to dominate landscape.
  • Introduction of new types of housing (floating homes) and numerous units of affordable housing.
  • Subsidies that may be needed to support affordable housing would be lower than those that may be required of Signature plan.
  • Site is "owned" by City and Port, mitigating acquisition costs.
  • Preservation of Silveira property and artist colony.
  • Addition of a luxury or resort hotel, which currently doesn't exist in Oakland.
  • Potential to introduce new mass transit options that serve the waterfront.
  • Location is both close to downtown and highly visible from a major freeway.
  • Costly cleanup and preparation. The land is considered a brownfield, and cleanup is estimated at $16 million.
  • Distance from existing BART (Lake Merritt Station) is 1.2 miles. That's a bit too long to walk. A new station could be built along 8th St near 8th Ave next to BART's maintenance facility, but construction of a station platform and the pedestrian overpass required to span the rail yard immediately to the south could be prohibitively high. The use of a shuttle bus to negotiate the remaining distance may be cumbersome.
  • Limited parking - 1,200 spaces for ballpark in a single garage devoted to the ballpark. A parking district would also have to be created for residents.
  • Infrastructure costs. The Embarcadero along this stretch is often only a two-lane road, and it would have to be widened to accommodate assumed increases in traffic. Controlling ballpark traffic so that it doesn't hamper residents of nearby neighborhoods would also have to be planned accordingly.
  • Startup costs for trolley are high. Cost to build the roughly 1 mile segment would be $40-50 million, which may not be worth it considering the number of riders that might use it. Similar projects were developed in Memphis and Seattle, and both have very limited ridership.
  • Housing advocates may want more units or more affordable units.
The Estuary presents a unique opportunity to create a mixed development that benefits many different groups and gives the A's a distinctive home. However, there are numerous hidden costs associated with development, and it is unclear who would pick up the tab.

Estuary Site Overview

The Oak-to-Ninth Estuary area is a unique site. It's one of the last undeveloped, urbanized waterfront areas on the West Coast. Because of its development potential, civic and community leaders have been keen to make sure it doesn't become overly privatized or densely developed. In 1999, the City of Oakland and the Port of Oakland put together a set of development guidelines called the Estuary Policy Plan. The EPP isn't overly specific about what should be built on the 60 acres the area covers, but it does insist on the creation of open spaces with recreational uses.

Signature Properties has the exclusive option to build on the Oak-to-Ninth site. Its plan calls for 3,100 apartments and condominiums, along with commercial uses and parking. Slightly less than half of the acreage will be devoted to open space. There are concerns about the plan and whether it provides the most benefit for Oakland residents. That and a completed environmental impact report are factors in delaying any possible groundbreaking for perhaps a year.

In the HOK study, two options were presented for a ballpark development. The West plan put the ballpark on the smaller 5th Ave Terminal/Marina site. This would've caused conflict with property owner J.W. Silveira, who owns the only privately-held parcel in the area and has a thriving artist colony on it. Silveira is already suing Oakland because of a lack of disclosure, and it's possible the same sort of thing would happen with a ballpark on his property.

The East plan put the ballpark on the large 9th Ave Terminal site, where it would've run into fewer ownership issues since it's owned entirely by the Port. Instead, it would've run afoul of community interests, would would've noted the more than 3,000+ parking spaces and wondered if someone was trying to pass them for open space. There's also the issue of the 9th Ave Terminal building, which preservationists claim has some historic value and should be preserved. The plan calls for the building to be restored and converted, which wouldn't be a bad thing considering the success of SF's Ferry Building conversion.

Unfortunately, it appears that the City and Port have settled on Signature's proposal. If they hadn't, they probably would've updated the EPP, which definitely needs revision considering the economic changes the Bay Area has gone through. It's possible that major changes to the plan (which could come from community actions, the Silveira case, or the next District 2 councilmember's support) could occur. If Signature were forced to pare down its development by 10-15 percent or make a large number of units fit under affordable housing guidelines, they may very well scrap the deal. The next post shows a compromise alternative plan that could satisfy the majority of interests.