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09 May 2006

Fremont website/survey up + The missing argument

The A's Baseball to Fremont website is up, folks! There isn't much there yet, but there are links to a survey and a bulletin board. As more information becomes available about transportation options and the plan itself, the site will be the place to go for information. Also, please take a look at the site's mission statement. There is no blanket endorsement of the A's moving to Fremont yet, and there won't be until greater detail is released. Note on the survey: 59 responses came from a single Comcast IP address (yes, I get that information). I haven't blocked anyone out because I'd like to see all survey feedback, but any abuse of the survey will be handled quickly and vigorously. So far the tally among mostly Fremont-based respondents is 60% positive, 40% negative.


An article in today's CoCo Times compiles feedback from fans, pols, and economists on the A's possible move to Fremont. Ignacio De La Fuente gives his usual unproductive statement, while Larry Reid all but starts up the moving vans - which is sad, considering Reid was the guy who said he'd stake his political career on the August plan.

Andrew Zimbalist opines that the A's departure from Oakland wouldn't have a significant impact on Oakland's economy. This is probably true, since the only money the city got from the A's was the small, yearly rent check. If the impact of the A's departure were compared to the prospect of an A's stadium in downtown Oakland, it could be significant. However, that's not a black-and-white issue either, since any positive impact in Oakland would have to be weighed against public costs (funding if necessary) and opportunity costs (what could be built in its place). I have to give credit to Wolff for not trotting out the "economic development" argument much during his quest. The only time he really used it was during his Coliseum North presentation. Statements about the Fremont deal have had little to do with benefits; they've been more about paying for the ballpark.

18 comments:

Jeff said...

Just checked out the Fremont site. As usual, a great job by you. I noted links to various city functions, and was curious if the site was endorsed by any groups affiliated with moving the A's to Fremont? Is this also a non partisan site administered soley by you? Not that it makes any diffence to me, I was just curious to know if the site is primarily for advocates of the potential move to Fremont along the same lines as the OAFC site is dedicated to the A's remaining in Oakland.

Do you happen to know where the negotiations concerning the Pacific Commons site now stand? I haven't heard anything in several weeks and was wondering if the talks had stalled.

Kevin said...

ML,

As expected, great job on the Fremont site.

It's pretty clear for the survey that traffic is the number one concern among fans. In one of his interviews, Wolff commented that transportation/traffic is a problem which will be addressed at a later date. Any ideas on what might be feasible? I guess ideally you would want BART located as close to the site as possible. But barring that, are we looking at bus or shuttle service. Seems like an expensive option. Also the buses would still need to travel on the congested roads.

Also, many respondents to the survey had concerns about destroying the surrounding wetlands. Wouldn't that have also been the case if Cisco had followed through with their plans to build a campus on the site?

jrbh said...

The notion that public transportation to a Pacific Commons site will be addressed at a later date, well, I wouldn't call it an out and out lie on Wolff's part, but it's not real honest, either, and disingenous at best.

Public transportation infrastructure development is a hugely difficult, contentious and expensive problem in the Bay Area, and providing such for an A's ballpark is going to have to get in line behind other, much more important considerations.

I think it's fair to say -- I'd of course be interested in ML's take on this -- that there will *never* be public transportation other than busses to an A's ballpark at Pacific Commons in Fremont.

Marine Layer said...

I run the site, but it's sponsored by the Fremont Chamber of Commerce. I wouldn't call it an advocacy site per se. At this point, we're just trying to get as much information as we can to assist the public in making an informed opinion.

I've been told that this is the slow, quiet time in the process. An EIR has to be drafted, and that could prove to be just as contentious as the San Jose EIR. While housing and retail may seem more germane uses than light industrial or office, they could foster more negative impacts on existing wetlands habitats that they encroach upon, especially if domesticated animals are introduced into the area.

jrbh, I'm extremely concerned for Fremont residents about the traffic/transportation issues. I have a fear that whatever solutions get proposed could make for a stumbling block in getting a deal done, especially if they run well into the millions. That said, I think a cost-effective solution is out there.

Keith Salminen, unofficial RF Bleachers spokesman said...

I still just find this all funny that people are acting like this a done deal when it really isn't. Wolff says he has no hidden agenda, but any smart buisness man has to keep people from guessing what he truly wants to do.

The ballpark is going to end up in Oakland, end of story. If BART ever gets its act together, there won't be a station in Warm Springs till 2015 or even later. Also, regardless is he has something in the new lease where he can leave town for Fremont within 100+ days, You do NOT work out a lease extention of any sort at the Coliseum till 2013 if you are planning on putting a new park in Fremont.

I believe your Broadway site has a better shot of becoming real than this "wet dream" in Fremont.

Jeff said...

So one could safely assume that the Fremont Chamber of Commerce is in favor of the A's relocating to Fremont? That certainly makes sense. Have any of the major corporations in the Fremont area given an indication that they also support a move? It is odd that an announcement that a deal was close to being made and then silence.

It seems Oakland may have maneuvered a delay in the A's announcing their departure via the lease extension. I suppose Lew is keeping his options open, which would be prudent from a business perspective. But I seriously doubt the A's will remain in Oakland. I will stick with my original contention....follow the money. I certainly think Lew is doing exactly that.

Marine Layer said...

The Coliseum lease extension is a smart move regardless of Wolff's intentions. Any site can get caught up in red tape. Funding falls through (San Diego). Accidents happen (Milwaukee). The price to get out of the lease early (advance payment of the remainder of the lease) is peanuts for a few more years of security. That's $5 million. As I said before, they're paying more for Esteban Loaiza to suck and be injured. The value of the ballpark, housing, and commercial property is going to be nearly $2 billion. $5 million is peanuts.

Dentist on thursday said...

Taking a brief look at the survey comments, it's no wonder why the A's are so poorly supported. Sad to say it, but if this were in the Midwest or on the East Coast, people would be rejoicing that their local baseball team would be moving closer to them and wouldn't bitch so much about how it would make their precious suburban lives a little bit more inconvenient. Instead we see a bunch of complaints about everything from the mundane (noise from concerts) to the outrageous (gang activity???).

Keith Salminen, unofficial RF Bleachers spokesman said...

These are 10 points that my godfather and I came up with and I read on A's Fan Radio(http://www.asfanradio.com) about 2 weeks ago titled "Move or . . . No Move?":

1) We are not dealing with Steve Schott -- he got "shot down" with respect to his plan to move the team to San Jose and he has "left the building".

2) Lewis Wolff comes to the A's with a great reputation:

a. He keeps his word. Though his actions as of late show he wants to go to Fremont, He knows it is in his best intrest to keep the team in Oakland and which is why talks in "The Town" will pick up again after the June 6th election.

b. He has had a lifetime of experience dealing with huge business deals and has always accomplished what he set out to achieve.

c. He is very, very smart besides being highly experienced.

d. He has retained the very best group of people to handle building a new stadium, including real estate attorney (Mike Dean), real estate developer (Glenn Isaacson, who developed City Center at 12th & Broadway) and a former politician (Dick Spees), who really knows the City of Oakland and Oakland politics intimately.

e. He can out-maneuver, out-flank and out-fire the opposition at every turn. He not only has good strategy, he has good tactics, as well.

3) Inertia plays a big role in keeping the team in Oakland. That is the principle of physics which states that a thing that is stationary will likely continue to be stationary and a thing that is moving will probably keep moving. The As have been stationary since 1968 -- 38 years.

4) History would indicate that the A's will stay in Oakland. In the 1970s, Charlie Finley was going to sell his best players and then sell the team, which would probably be bought by a group that would move the team to Denver. The then-commissioner of baseball Bowie Kuhn nixed that plan and as we all know, the team was bought by Walter Haas. In the late 1990s, Steve Schott was going to move the team to San Jose, but that fell through when Bud Selig lined up with the San Francisco Giants and said that San Jose was the exclusive territory of the San Francisco Giants. Selig has since stated that San Jose "is a dead issue."

5) Lew Wolff has to put some pressure on the Oakland government to at least get behind a move to keep the A's in Oakland, even if it does not financially assist the owners in building a new ballpark. There are certain tax concessions that the City can make that would help the owners build a new ballpark. After all, the City subsidized the building of condominiums at 20th and Telegraph (a site that was once seriously considered as the best spot in Oakland for a new ballpark) to the tune of $54 million. All that the team would now be asking for is probably some tax concessions, not an outright gift of real property on which to build a new ballpark.

6) Wolff also needs to put some pressure on the property owners northwest of the Coliseum to be more reasonable with respect to their demands for compensation if their land is purchased for a ballpark.

7) Thus, the discussion of other sites in Oakland, including auto row near 27th and Broadway, as well as the current suggestion that the team might be looking seriously at sites in Fremont. Wolff knows that he has to keep the people guessing as to his real intentions.

8) Finally, consider the fact that Wolff is floating a trial balloon to extend the lease at the Oakland Coliseum. That is hardly something that one would do if he was planning to pull up stakes in the middle of the night and leave town.

9) In short, look for the A's to be here for the foreseeable future. And now, on to October and the World Series!

Marine Layer said...

I'm not going to argue the history points, because as important as the A's legacy in Oakland is, it's an intangible. I can see history playing a part if Wolff is choosing between two proposals but right now that's not the case. There's nothing resembling a proposal in Oakland currently. Maybe that will change after June, maybe not.

Tax concessions don't pay the bills. Most stadium deals are constructed so that the team doesn't pay much if any taxes, whether that's the sales or property variety. Teams often don't even want to own stadiums much of the time because of tax and insurance implications.

There's a way to make the Broadway Auto Row site work, but it might involve signing development rights all along Broadway between 24th St and 580 to Wolff. Should that happen, how do the real estate transactions get done? Is any of it subsidized as Forest City was with the Uptown project? If Wolff has to pay market rate, what's to ensure that he'll have enough of a return to pay for the stadium?

It's not just about getting a site. It's just as much about making the numbers work. That's a key problem with San Jose and it's an issue with Oakland. Should Fremont values tank, it could sink Pacific Commons just as rising costs sunk the downtown LA Hilton project.

Jeff said...

Great points ML. I tend to take Wolfe at his word to a certain extent. I realize his whole aim is to turn a profit, and I don't begrudge him that. It seems to me that he is being truthfull when he says Oakland is built out. There really is not that much viable space for a ballpark. The same could be said for SJ. Fremont's advantage would seem to be the very same things that others fault it for. It HAS the available space required for future growth. How many other communities in the Bay can say the same? While other area's in the Bay have only urban density into which they can grow...Fremont has open space. Correct me if I'm wrong, but open space is much cheaper to build on and therefore more attractive to developers. So is Wolfe looking twenty years down the road? That seems to be a distict possibility.

James said...

Keith,

In response to your points:

1. True we are not dealing with Schott. Wolff is much smarter and has figured out a way to get the best of both worlds... stay in Alameda County and tap in to the San Jose/Silicon Valley market and money.

2a. You are right. Wolff does keep his word. His word to the City of Oakland was that it has until December 2005 to come up with a location. Oakland has failed to do so, and the pols there have been so brazen as to say they lack the time and resouces to deal with such a monumental project.

2b. It's true that Wolff has substantial experience puting together huge business deals. Don't you think that's what he's doing in Fremont? Don't you think that he prefers to work with people who want to work with him?

2c. I fail to see how Wolff's being smart and highly experienced gives Oakland any more or less of a disadvantage than any other municipality.

2d. I also fail to see how the team he has assembled points to Oakland as being Wolff's location of choice.

2e. Again, I don't see how all this points to Oakland.

3. It's a strange argument that the laws of physics will keep a sports team in a city that is crime-ridden and has an infrastructure which precludes him from building the facility of his dreams. You do not say where you expect Wolff to find 100+ acres within Oakland that will not require emminent domain prosecution and, even if the city did locate such an area, Wolff has said on numerous occasions that he wants no part of a property that will require acquisitions in such a manner.

4. If your only citation is to history as being an argument that the A's will stay in Oakland... well, such an argument just fails.

5. I don't recall Wolff puting much pressure on Oakland other than the underlying pressure that it may lose it's major league baseball team if it is unwilling or unable to meet him, at least part way. In fact, as I pointed out earlier, he gave them a timeframe, one which the city openly and notoriously failed to meet. Further, in stark contrast to Fremont (whose City Manager is now working full-time to secure a transaction within the latter municipality), Oakland has shown little, if any, desire to keep the team there.

6. Puting pressure on property owners, many of whom I believe not only own the Coliseum-adjacent property (or adjacent to any proposed site, for that matter) but also the businesses housed therein, isn't going to do much good. In cases where property is owned and operated by separate entities, you are probably dealing with long-term leases, which would need to be bought-out, at a premium of course. The only options are (1) Offer building owners a lot of money to sell, and, at the same time, offer the businesses a lot of money to relocate, or (2) Hope the city will attempt to force the sale of numerous properties and the leasehold interests through emminent domain. The latter prospect will undoubtedly take several years even if the target entities don't tie the matter up in court.

7. The only people who seem to be guessing as to Wolff's real intentions are those who (a) are hoping against hope that a deal might be struck in Oakland, or (b) those who want the A's in San Jose, which, as with Oakland, presents its own set of near-insurmountable obsticles.

8. What is this trial balloon to which you refer? The only reason Wolff extended the lease on the Coliseum is to give him the time to secure a permanent home for the A's. The lease extension is temporary, and he has an iron-clad out the second the new stadium is ready for occupancy.

9. "The A's won't move because I don't want them to move" which is what you seem to be saying here, is hardly an argument.

Fact... Wolff has spent untold hours of his own time over the past few months working exclusively on getting a deal in Fremont... Not Oakland or San Jose or Concord/Walnut Creek or Dublin/Pleasanton Cisco is actively talking to him. The City of Fremont has reported that a deal is very close. Fremont affords Wolff the possibility of:

(a) lots of land (a requirement of his);

(b) land that can be acuired with a single pen stroke (figuratively, not literally) rather than a mish-mash of convoluded and time-consuming transactions;

(c) land that does not need to be acquired through emminant domain;

(d) land where he can build the ballpark community of his dreams, which contains the housing of his dreams, the hotel of his dreams, and the commercial space of his dreams;

(e) a city that actually wants to work with him;

(f) a location with established nearby hotels (Fremont Marriott, Hilton, Courtyard Marriott, LaQuinta, Hampton Inn, Amerisuites);

(g) sits within Silicon Valley and the huge financial resources that that brings with it;

(h) a location that will not require a public vote;

(i) a single-ownership, vacant property not involving the need to demolish buildings and perform environmental rehabilitation.

Anything can happen at this point, but my guess is that the fat lady is in dress rehearsal!

Jeff said...

Geez ML, I think Rob may be onto something when he spoke of a pissing contest in another thread. Have you looked at the OAFC site lately? You seem to be the focus of attention on one particular thread. It would appear that you're one of the leigons of the great Satan who is tearing the A's from their ancestral home....and no, not the one in Philadelphia. For what it's worth, your neutrality on the whole ballpark issue has been notable....and obvious to the non partisan. I guess you went to far when you extended the same neutral assistance to the Fremont advocates as you did the Oakland advocates. I wonder if I'll soon see your face on leaflets in the Coliseum parking lot....lol. Hope that Oakland PD doesn't have too many loyalist A's fans....cause if they do you might want to skip the next few games...lol

Marine Layer said...

They're entitled to assail me if they like. They're wrong, but it's a free country. I spent the better part of last year looking at sites throughout the East Bay, focusing on Oakland. I met with community groups. I spoke to developers and pols. If I were truly focused on a single outcome that were anti-Oakland, I wouldn't have wasted time doing any of that. But they're entitled to believe whatever conveniently fits into their worldview. Like the idea that I'm an employee of the City of Fremont. That's a hoot! Maybe next I'll be a plant of Wolff, deliberately placed to confuse Oaklanders.

Kevin said...

Yeah Jeff, that OAFC is one tough crowd.

ML, FWIW, I think your work here has been extremely fair. Got a chuckle with that comment about you being employed by the City of Fremont.

Jeff said...

I don't know about "tough" Kevin....I was thinking of another few adjectives. I can understand their frustration, but their focus is entirely counter productive if they truly are interested in keeping the team. A lot of the stuff I see posted there seems geared more to ushering the A's out the door than to keeping them in the city. I swear, how is it possible that so many people can fail to realize that the sixties are dead and gone? They should lay off on demonizing Wolfe and focus their wrath on the politicians who consistently screw the city. If the city is to suceed in keeping the team, it will have to be a politcal act which gives the team cause to stay. Telling a billionair what he can and can't do with his property and demanding that he submit to their whims is hardly a wise choice to pursue if keeping the A's is their goal. I like the OAFC crowd and I respect their emotional attachment to the A's....but their methods cause me to wonder.

Georob said...

Jeff, let's not forget that much of Oakland, both culturally and politically; is influenced by that little college town directly to the north. If you ask me, the OAFC has been smoking too much weed at Peoples Park.

They don't call it "Berzerkeley" for nothing.

Jeff said...

LOL....True enough Rob. But that much influence? Ah well, maybe that explains the confusion!