12 April 2005

BART to Warm Springs - not a ballpark item

I attended the BART public hearing on the Warm Springs extension earlier tonight. The proceedings were mostly civil, except for when David Schonnbrunn of Transdef, who was the only opponent of the plan. Schonnbrunn criticized the plan for being wasteful and not smart-growth oriented. While I agreed with some of his points, I felt that I had to speak up to defend the plan, even though I was only there to observe and had no intention to speak.

My comments had to do with the fact that I live in San Jose and work in Fremont. This makes for a usually stress-free reverse commute, but during afternoons it isn't always pleasant. I would take public transit regularly to work, but public transit takes as many as 3 different transfers to get from door to door. Add to that some thoroughfares that are not bike-friendly, and it makes for a serious deterrent to going green. One of my quotes, which was played on the KTVU's 10 PM newscast, went like this (I'm paraphrasing myself):

I work in the Warm Springs area. The place is woefully underserved, and to make things worse, it's difficult to transfer from Santa Clara County's VTA to AC Transit (Alameda County). I would say that at least 1/4 of the workforce at my employer comes from Santa Clara County, and many of them would seriously consider using transit if it were easier. If I could take a single bus from downtown San Jose to Warm Springs, I could bike the rest of the way and abandon my car at home everyday. In fact, if the extension were already in place, I would already be doing this. The best part is that I would be encouraged to use BART more, but even if I didn't, the indirect benefit would be positive because it would motivate AC and VTA to better synchronize their service offerings. (AC runs many hub-based routes from BART stations, whereas VTA runs more point-to-point routes.)

I didn't stick around to see how much my comments resonated or to get interviewed by KTVU reporter Diane Guerazzi, but they did have enough affect that I caught a few smiles from the BART officials out of the corner of my eye, and there's the newsclip to boot. Even if BART doesn't come to San Jose as soon as Ron Gonzales wants it (or even never), the Warm Springs extension will help Valley travelers much just because it's closer. Having potentially one less transfer to make is a very big deal to public transit users.

My next post will cover the effect the Warm Springs extension could have on a new ballpark. The extension is due for a final decision in June.

News items galore

The AP article titled A's President Says Team May Build Own Stadium is a little misleading because the title could be easily misinterpreted. Take a look at the quote from A's President Michael Crowley:

"We're going to look at ourselves, take a look at the options, take a look at what can be done. And when we come up with something we feel comfortable with, then we'll talk to the city at that time."

There's nothing about how much the A's will pay (or conversely, what the city's share is). It's a given that regardless of the types funding sources, as long as the requirements are met, the A's will build it. That's Wolff's forte.

Also, a Merc editorial approves of San Jose's Diridon South site.

Wolff meets with Signature

Gwen Knapp writes about Wolff in her Opening Day column in the Chronicle. Several good nuggets were inside, including:

  1. Wolff met with Signature Properties' Jim Ghielmetti on Monday. They may have been discussing Signature's multiple Oakland developments, especially the Estuary plan. (See one of my previous entries for a mock-up.)
  2. Wolff stayed at his daughter's place in Los Gatos over the weekend. The daughter, Kari, has been a longtime A's fan. She helped put together a season-ticket package she could sell to friends and acquaintances, to get more of a following in the South Bay. 20 packages have been sold, and half were for full-season plans. Depending on whether you're exclusively an East Bay or South Bay supporter (or neither), you may interpret this differently.

It didn't appear that Knapp had any direct questions about the ballpark, which must have come as a relief to Wolff.

Opening Day notes

I was one of the 44,000-plus announced at the McAfee Coliseum last night. Kirk Sarloos's inability to get left-handed hitters out allowed me to look around and note some of the changes:

  1. The improvements made to the Meyer Sound PA system are noticeable. Not that Roy Steele's voice could ever sound tinny or weak, but the enhancements made him sound clearer and boomier than ever.
  2. The GM Friday night campaign should bring out a few new folks, though I am disappointed that they didn't have a Saturn Sky or Pontiac Solstice roadster up for grabs.
  3. More signage. I saw a few more advertisers in more locations. The outfield wall is saturated with ads. The two big signs that hung above the stairs in left and right now have a trivision-type display that features A's Brand and Verizon Wireless. I also saw a new sign for E-Loan and a couple more new advertisers. It looks like the team has been more aggressive in the offseason looking for stadium sponsors.
  4. The centerfield, plaza-level sign showing the names of previous A's greats is gone. There are two new signs on the plaza facade near the foul poles that show the years of the A's world championship teams.
  5. The historical video montage shown before games has changed. It now has more contemporary music and ends with a vintage 70's-era Swingin' A's graphic.
  6. The team has also produced a cheesy-looking "public service announcement" promoting proper fan behavior, also to be shown before every game.

KTVU interview with Lewis Wolff

Wolff was on Mornings on 2 Monday morning, interviewed by Ross McGowan. The archived video can be found here.

Here's a snippet from the interview:

McGowan: Considering that Oakland has no money, is this going to be privately financed?

Wolff: It (public funding) may not be in the traditional way in terms of issuing a bond issue or by guaranteeing seats and things like that, but there will be public participation. Just in the fact of getting entitlements and zoning, so there's value that cities can add without going broke.

I get the feeling that Wolff is going back to his old redevelopment roots, and the A's are the anchor of an ambitious development plan. Public financing for a ballpark without bonding or seat licenses? Pardon me for being skeptical, but I'm having a hard time seeing it. Then again, he may have something up his sleeve. That's why he's a billionaire and I'm just an observer.

Note: A small clip of the interview was shown during the 10 p.m. KTVU newcast as part of business editor Brian Banmiller's featured story. Banmiller also interview Councilman Ignacio de la Fuente, who reiterated his stance that Oakland doesn't have any public money to put up for a ballpark. He must be referring to Wolff's "traditional" methods as well.