25 May 2006

A familiar plan

Barry Witt's writeup of the A's-Quakes announcement has much more detail than the press release sent out by MLS on Wednesday. I've been looking for something more descriptive to indicate what Wolff and Co. were really aiming for, and the piece provides it.

A quote from the conference call, which was only open to the media:
"We think we have a concept of financing that's a little bit hybrid between public financing and private financing,'' Wolff said in a conference call.

"If a community or a jurisdiction or a joint-powers group could provide us with a path to a site, with whatever infrastructure and approvals are necessary, that's probably the most contribution we think we need in order to get the soccer venue done.''

If that sounds familiar, that's because Wolff has used similar verbiage to explain what the A's want for a ballpark site. That means a site with space for a stadium and ancillary development opportunities, preferably at a discounted rate. In Fremont, that means getting light industrial land and turning it around for a profit by virtue of building housing there. That's not a given in San Jose, so "land" might have a more traditional definition than what's happening in Fremont. A deal could have a cheap ground lease for city-owned stadium land, along with the A's having rights to develop surrounding land for residential and commercial uses. And you know what that means:

Soccer Village

A soccer stadium could cost only one-fourth as much as a ballpark, so conceivably, fewer housing units would need to sold and less land would have to be acquired. Keep in mind that privately-funded stadia aren't set up to pay for themselves, so some other revenue stream would have to be secured to take care of the mortgage. The good news is that this kind of plan could be accomplished at just about any of the previously discussed San Jose sites, though other factors may come into play. These factors include parking requirements, mass transit availability, and NIMBY issues.

Wolff seemed to dismiss the idea of Fremont having both a ballpark and a SSS. While co-location has its advantages in terms of cost consolidation, there may not be enough land at Pacific Commons to accommodate all of the pieces needed to put the ballpark village plan in motion. For instance, Fremont has a residential zone type R-3-70, which allows for up to 70 residential units per acre. Typically, high-rise residential towers are required to achieve that density. Fremont residents may not protest much to 3-4 story buildings like the ones going up in the middle of town, but in a place mostly bereft of high-rises, such a development plan could face significant opposition due to it straying from the scope of existing development. The most glaring example of this is Oracle's HQ complex in Redwood Shores. If zoning restricts the density of housing development, the plan would be expected to have the residential component take up a much larger share than high-rises would.

I look forward to the concepts 360 architecture is drawing up for the soccer stadium. Will they be somewhat generic and not site-specific like the August concept, or will they already have a site in mind and base the concept on that site's constraints?


Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to a soccer stadium design. Would a soccer village fit in the Diridon site? And would a soccer village require a public vote, assuming it was financed like the proposed A's village?
Go A's! Go Quakes!

Anonymous said...

I don't see how SJ residents would approve a soccer stadium/village, when approving a baseball venue is no slam dunk. People actually attend baseball in this country. Soccer has died in this area time and time again. And a village? Remember the Pavillion Shops downtown? Get ready for a sequel. I expect the housing to do well, which would be the case with or without a stadium of any kind. But retail needs a draw. Soccer ain't it.

James said...

I don't really see most Fremont residents being upset over highrise development west of 880. Currently, Fremont has no housing on that side of the freeway. The original Pacific Commons plan, FWIU, called for the tallest building, which was to be the Cisco headquarters, to be 20 stories. Folks might complain if you put buildings like that across from the Hub, but at the PC site in conjuction with destination retail, restaurants, and the A's stadium, I believe is unlikely to cause any civic proplems.

Anonymous said...

one thing I have not seen discussed in all these plans for residents and businesses of the "lew-plex" is simply how much premium are they willing to pay to live in "lew-plex"..If new home X outside of "lew-plex" by 5 blocks costs say a nice $650,000 based upon (competition, price of land, etc) am I going to be willing to pay $800,000 for that same house X so $150,000 of it can go to the build the A's stadium fund. Same situation for a business, if I want chevys x franchies, should I build it two blocks from "lew-plex" so I dont have to pay an extra couple hundred thousand to build the stadium. Like they say, if the stadium will be financed by the surrounding area, it means all inhabitants from the surrounding area are willing to pay an enormous premium to be there. Is it appealing as a potential homeowner to know that 45-50 nights a year when your just trying to get home to your house in "lew-plex" you have to deal with the traffic of the 35,000 people driving to the game. Seems thats not a "perk" of living near the stadium

James said...


The benefits for living in lewplex are intangible, except that maybe you'd have a view of the game from you living room... your own built-in skybox! Certainly not all homeowners in the complex would have that luxury, if any, depending on the positioning of the housing. It seems a lot of people are wanting to live in "urban" suburbs where they can live, work, and play. There are probably a lot of people willing to pay a premium for such an arrangement.

The benefits to a service business, Chevy's as your example, are clear. They'd have a customer base built-in to their location, at least on game days. There would also be a trickle-in effect from the hotel. It seems that Wolff will be building a "destination center" where people would be drawn to on off game days. Also, with 2,000 housing units, that's a lot of local locals who would patronize that Chevy's as well... condominium dwellers who probably eat out at least three or four nights a week.

The existing Pacific Commons center doesn't have a lot of sit-down restaurants. Claim Jumper is opening any day, if it hasn't already. There's a PF Changs being built as well. Those are two chains that are destinations in and of themselves, but on game days, they would certainly see an increase in business. Other than that, it's fast-food type establishments (Rubio's, Pik Up Stix, In 'n out burger, pizza, and a Hawaiian BBQ). It is unclear weather Wolff would charge more for commercial lease space than the existing center, but my guess is it would be pretty close. If the deal with Cisco is inked, I wouldn't be surprised if leases in the center started inching up. There are a couple of pads there yet to be developed, and strategically the center may hold off developing those until the stadium is closer to completion, as those would be prime restaurant venues with out-door dining capability.

Anonymous said...

If Lew Wolff goes through with his plans for a Pac Commons ballpark/village, any chance we could see a BART spur in the future, ala the SFO spur from SF/Millbrae? And how much would such a spur line cost?

Jeff said...


I would like to know exactly what a ballpark "village" is. I understand the residential component, but when you speak of retail, are you talking about a series of shops and resturants littered along a path leading to the ballpark itself? Something along the lines of Disney's mainstreet entrance? Or is it just another large urban mall, with big box retailers and fastfood outlets inside?

I was curious because I was at the magic kingdom this week. If Lew is going to build something along the lines of Disney's retail walk, then I think the transportation issue should be resolved along the same lines as Disney. Those trams are remarkable for moving a huge number of people a short distance in a small time frame. Each tram comfortably seated 200 plus adults and covered the mile and a half in less than three minutes. Parking issues could be mitigated by placing parking with direct freeway access and using the tram to move people to the village entrance. Of course the tram could also move people from the BART station to the entrance of the village. I am not an engineer, but it seemed to me the costs would be minimal. All that is required is a dedicated "track", which is really nothing more than a landscaped asphalt roadway. Five trams could move over a thousand people in less than five minutes. Access on and off is easier than getting on a bus. I can't imagine the trams themselves being overly expensive. It really is a remarkably efficient means of moving a lot of people.

Marine Layer said...

James, I won't rule out the possibility of high-rises, but I'm not going to consider it a slam-dunk either. The concept will probably look like a mini city with buildings of varying heights. A 20-story hotel, 15 or 18-story residential towers, 3 or 4-story mixed use buildings lining a main drag. It would make sense for an office tower to be in the area as well since the developer could capture business looking for entertainment-packed environs. The ballpark is typically the equivalent of a 8-10 story building by itself. It's just that there are plenty of Fremont residents who like the city the way it is, and I expect them to be quite vocal about it.

I'm pretty certain the retail concept won't involve any sort of indoor mall.

I can't see BART spur coming. I projected a $200 million cost based on other BART extension estimates. Right-of-way acquisition would be a huge portion of that cost. A tram would cost less to construct, but right-of-way costs couldn't be avoided, even if that only meant widening certain roads to make them tram-specific (like a BRT). In fact, if a tram becomes an option, it might make more sense to think about using an articulated bus since AC Transit already uses them and has been an ardent supporter of BRT as opposed to rail-based travel.

Curious George said...

Here is a quick territorial question. I know the Giants have the Peninsula plus Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey and Marin counties; the A's have Alameda and Contra Costa Counties.

What about farther north and east? Sonoma, Napa, Solano, San Joaquin, Yolo. Sonoma and Napa are too far away from population centers, but southern Solano County is certainly close by.

Are these neutral counties where a team could move but only with 3/4 MLB owners' approval? Something else?

Just a hypothetical question at this point but one I am interested in just in case Fremont doesn't work out.

Marine Layer said...

Vallejo-Benicia-Fairfield is a possibility but it's far away from Wolff's corporate South Bay ties. It's closer to Sacramento, which is a plus. I'm sure it's an option, but it won't be explored until all others in the East/South Bay are exhausted.

MLB would have to redraw territories to include the North Bay as part of the A's territory. I've heard they have a renewed focus on enforcing this part of the business.

Georob said...

If Lew Wolff would consider looking north, he may have a great spot that's still in his current territory; and that's at the Concord Naval Weapons Station being decommissioned.

Get on Google Earth and look at the North Concord BART station. It's right next to the edge of the CNWS, right next to Freeway 4 as well as near freeways 242 and 680.

Plenty of room for a stadium, ballpark village, next to all modes of transporation and in a willing city that wants to develop what is undoubtedly a once in a lifetime opportunity.

James said...


That's close to what I envisioned. My thought was that the hotel would be somewhere between 12 and 16 stories, four- or five-story and mixed-use buildings (retail and apartments), and high-rise apartments/condos. I like the idea of at least one office tower in the revised Pacific Commons plan... personally I'd like to see two or three office buildings there. Hell, the more businesses he can get in the vicinity, the more people filling up his hotel and eating at the restaurants on off-game days. One 20-story office tower and several shorter buildings were already approved by the city, if I'm not mistaken. I don't know if approval lapsed with time. But it seems to me that whatever Wolff wants, within reason, he'll probably get. The City of Fremont wants this project to happen, and I think the residents of Fremont probably do, as well!

Marine Layer said...

Rob, you're right about Concord NWS except for the willing city part. Concord wants it developed and wants to have say in how it's done. But it's not putting any money into the project - not even for infrastructure. They're certainly not buying any of the market rate land (after it's cleaned up) and donating to any developer, including the A's.

James, a completely new EIR will be required due to the drastic change in plans. Wetlands advocates will be out in full force, perhaps even more than they were for the original PacCom project.

Georob said...

By "willing city", I mean that Concord wants it developed as opposed to being kept as open space; which I'm sure much of it will remain anyway. I believe there is also talk of building a minor league stadium to attract a Single-A team(an idea that's been floated in Concord for many years).

Well, if they want professional baseball, here's their chance to get the real thing. In addition, Contra Costa has an good corporate base that, while not as large as the South Bay; is probably more diversified.

Obviously that site presents plenty of issues: Close to residential, an already stressed corrridor in Hwy 4, and certainly NOT centrally located in terms of the Bay Area sports market. But in terms of the A's current East Bay market, plus the up and coming san Joaquin/Solano county suburbs, it may be "just the ticket"

But the biggest attribute of all is BART. In the environmentally(if not freeway traffic)conscious Bay Area, public transit can never be taken for granted. And if anything kills the Fremont stadium, the lack of BART access could do it.

I say that Concord should cut a deal with Wolff to have development rights to a huge chunk of the NWS. He can then pay for his stadium, his "village", a dozen city parks and the infrastructure as well.

Marine Layer said...

The only problem with that plan is that Concord does not own the land nor does it control the price of the land via zoning or entitlements. The Pentagon's selling price will be based on whatever is planned. They don't give discounts. The process will take years to put together and to remediate the land. Typical time to get started is around a decade based on what's happened at Alameda NAS, Oakland Army Base, and Fort Ord.

Anonymous said...

FC Athletics.

Bleacher Dave said...

When is the soccer season and how frequent are the games? Co-location of the 2 stadia seems to be to greater than the sum of the parts. One of the problems with a "ballpark village" is that there are only 81 days a year when the area is swarmed with patrons. Adding soccer dates to that mix would seem to sweeten retail opportunities for potential tenants.

Packaging the baseball and soccer programming may also help brand a new east bay sports radio station.