To my surprise, last night's San Jose Ballpark Economic Study session was not the eye-rolling extravaganza that I had expected. The city has, in fact, clearly decided to work with a consulting firm that isn't usually involved with sports franchises or the sports industry. That firm, bae, specializes in infill-type development such as TOD (transit-oriented development) and military base reuse (they've worked on both Alameda NAS and the Oakland Army Base).
The refreshing thing about the methodology that will be used is that the public isn't going to hear grandiose proclamations about "5,000 jobs" or economic revitalization because, in fact, we all know better. Focus will be largely on displacement of existing businesses, effects on surrounding neighborhoods, opportunity costs - topics that can't be easily summed up in a short press release. Ironically, the city's decision to move towards a spin-free study is symptomatic of the flagging fortunes of the Baseball-in-San Jose effort - if things were moving along more positively, the city might have had more motivation to push for a "positive" study instead of a "neutral" one.
Crowd turnout at the meeting was also a good indicator of the city's direction. The prospects of a soccer stadium were repeatedly brought up, despite the fact that no soccer booster groups such as SSV were present. Inquiries came up frequently enough that it appears the effects of a soccer stadium (which has a different business model) could take up a decent portion of the document. (The study's being paid for, might as well cover all contingencies, right?) For those readers out there that are soccer partisans, be forewarned: the neighborhood associations are smart and resourceful. Approaching a stadium proposal in the wrong manner (without vetting it through the NA's) is one sure step towards failure. That said, in the past SSV has been much better than the city at outreach efforts in the neighborhoods.
The hope here is that when the study is finally published (with proper amounts of feedback framing the discussion), we may finally have a locally produced and focused document that can't be written off as a simple propaganda piece. It could prove beneficial for future discussions about stadia and neighborhoods.