15 December 2006

40 acres and an earthmover

As promised earlier in the week, here are some pictures of the area that includes the 40-acre city land that the A's are seeking for use as a parking facility.

First up is Auto Mall Parkway, which transforms from a six-lane road (at I-880) to a four-lane road...

... which then turns into a three-lane road...

... and finally a two-lane road with soft shoulders...

... before finally ending at the landfill.

The tracks in the foreground are the Union Pacific line used by both ACE and Capitol Corridor. Once you cross those tracks and turnaround, you get the view of the 40-acre parcel:

Drive back the other direction, and you see
PG&E's Newark Substation and power lines along the eastern edge of the parcel:

These electrical towers are actually situated in a parking lot, which makes the land in the foreground a possible route for a four-lane road, people mover, greenbelt, or all three.
Tuesday's post has a map that indicates how the power lines run in relation to the area.

The fact that Auto Mall Parkway shrinks from six to two lanes at its western end makes widening the road imperative. Perhaps the widening only needs to happen to the point in the above picture, but either way, some infrastructure will need to be built to make it viable. Fortunately, the three-lane section has large shoulders that imply that widening could be done with relative ease.

14 December 2006

When is BART not BART?

Answer: When it's being pitched by VTA.

The still-languishing BART-to-San Jose project got a bit of a reprieve today, as the
VTA board approved $135 million in additional design and engineering costs associated with the project. Dissenting Santa Clara Supervisor Liz Kniss put out a rather pointed question:

"Are we concerned at all about starting BART without knowing where it's going?"
This is extremely important, as it gets to the heart of the matter. There is still uncertainty as to how far BART will travel into Santa Clara County, if at all. There's talk of having BART terminate in Milpitas at the Great Mall, or in San Jose at the old Flea Market, which is 2.5 miles (crow flies) northeast of Downtown San Jose. The mode may not even be BART, as light rail could be used for most of the route up to Warm Springs, where it would meet BART's new southern terminus. The most expensive part of the entire 16.1-mile project is the controversial 4.8 mile downtown subway, which would burrow under the most heavily-used thoroughfare, Santa Clara Street.
There are numerous alternatives in VTA's 2001 MIS Report. In addition to the aforementioned concepts, there are possibilities for enhanced commuter rail along the ACE/Amtrak corridor, a separate busway along the planned BART corridor, or even a strange situation in which BART technology would be used throughout, but users would transfer at Warm Springs to San Jose-bound trains.

Personally, I'm warming up to the idea of light rail coming up from the Valley and meeting BART at Warm Springs. It would capture two-thirds of the projected riders taking the BART alternative, but it would cost less than half as much ($1.5 billion for LRT vs. $3.7 billion for BART in 2001 dollars - now $4.7 billion). There would be dedicated routes from Mountain View and Downtown San Jose, with simple transfers from East and South San Jose, and Campbell. Plus with VTA's fare structure, it'd be quite inexpensive to ride. That's a double-edged sword since it's bad for "farebox recovery" but good for ridership numbers.

If you're from the East Bay, you might be asking how this affects you. It all comes down to feasibility. The rising costs of the BART extension make it more difficult to justify with each passing day. VTA already had to abort an earlier attempt to get federal funding because of insufficient ridership projections, and now there's talk that they're inflating the numbers to make it work. If you're only using BART to go to A's games, all you want is the extension to Warm Springs and a solid transfer method to get you the rest of the way. If you're a commuter, the BART extension isn't a perfect anyway since it sidesteps many of the heavy employment centers in the Golden Triangle and takes a circuitous route to downtown San Jose, likely requiring a transfer in Milpitas.

For those of you in the South Bay, what do you think of a light rail alternative as opposed to BART from San Jose/Milpitas? If you could take a 30-45 minute, $2 ride to Fremont from Mountain View or San Jose and then a short shuttle from there to Cisco Field, would you take that instead of your car?

Fremont-A's negotiations begin in earnest

The Merc's Lisa Fernandez reports that the first of probably many biweekly meetings involving the A's and the City of Fremont was held this morning at Fremont's City Hall. City Manager Fred Diaz said little about the substance of the meetings, describing this first session as an "icebreaker."
There was also no discussion of a Nov. 21 A's letter to Fremont in which team officials offered the possibility of Fremont one day owning the land and stadium, which many see would be a tax break for the team.
This is the first article I've seen that acknowledges the tax break option that the A's are proposing.

12 December 2006

Some Fremont details emerge

The Argus's Chris De Benedetti has a story summarizing a letter dated November 21, from Lew Wolff to Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz. It's only two pages, so obviously it's not a proposal, yet there are little bits here and there worthy of further analysis. The letter is PDF (Page 1/Page 2). My comments are in italics.

Project Goals (quoted in its entirety):
It is our desire to create a new home for the Athletics that significantly enhances the quality of life in the surrounding local community as well as the fan experience at the ballpark. Additionally, we seek to have a significant portion of the project funded through the development of the remaining vacant areas surrounding the ballpark. It is our intent to have the majority of this support funded by revenues and resources generated directly from the Ballpark Village development as opposed to receiving substantial direct subsidies outside of the project area (i.e. taxes) typically associated with new ballpark development projects.
Nothing new here.

Ballpark Village will contain:
  • 32,000-35,000 seat ballpark
  • a lifestyle center retail project within a mixed-used development at a level of quality equal to that of the award winning Santana Row project in San Jose
  • a residential community with a majority of multi-family units in a pedestrian-friendly village in proximity to the ballpark

This is the first official acknowledgment of the Village's resemblance to Santana Row. The idea that the remaining (majority) housing will be separated from the Ballpark Village is good. If well conceived, it'll provide the convenience that comes with living near an entertainment center, while providing a quiet and safe environment for raising children. That's a pretty tall order.


  • Up to $500 million
  • In return for successfully completing the Ballpark Village entitlement approach... along with other real estate related financing tools... the Athletics would agree to enter into a long term arrangement (40 years including extensions) for the team to remain in Fremont for the distant future.
  • The A's would be responsible for building and running the ballpark, as well as cost overruns.
  • No City or County support required beyond the initial project support
  • If desired by all parties, the City or its designated public agency designee (think of a JPA like the Coliseum authority) could potentially own the land and the completed ballpark under our proposal.

Remember that if the city owns the land and/or part of the stadium, the A's won't have to pay property taxes on the city-owned piece.
40-Acre City Parcel (quoted in its entirety):

"In order to create the pedestrian-oriented Ballpark Village community and avoid having a typical "sea" of surface parking around the proposed ballpark, we would propose to enter into a lease or other arrangement for a portion of the 40-acre City parcel to the west of the Pacific Commons development. The term of this arrangement for the parcel would be equivalent to that of the Athletics' commitment at the ballpark. This parcel and other areas would be included in an integrated transit, traffic, and parking program for the new planned Ballpark Village community."
If you're wondering where this parcel is, take a look at the map below:

The map is based off the original Cisco development plans. Notice how office buildings are concentrated along a street and parking is on the outside towards the wetlands. The parking lots act as a buffer, and as murf mentioned in an earlier comment, a large buffer may be required. It could become a sticking point. The map also shows the planned Capitol Corridor/ACE station to the west of (below) the city parcel.

To make this work, the A's will have to designate some of their project land as parkland. That's going to happen as part of the residential development requirement, so it's potentially a fair trade. The land is not a great place for a park anyway. Why? The landfill is only a few hundred feet away, across the tracks (I'll have pictures tomorrow).

40 acres equals 5,000 parking spaces. Couple that with the parking I've targeted close to 880 and you've got 9,000-10,000 spaces. What will that integrated transit, traffic, and parking program contain?

11 December 2006

Newswrap for 12/11

A few worthwhile news items came in over the last week.

Fremont officials and representatives from several public transportation authorities have had three roundtable discussions since August about the challenges presented by the Pacific Commons site. Among the solutions being considered are a system of shuttles, a monorail, or a people mover. I'll present a people mover option later this week.

Meanwhile in San Jose, the city council approved the last $20,000 to be spent on the mostly dead ballpark study to formally complete it. Some of the environmental impact details, especially research into historic buildings in the area, will be useful for the next project that is planned for Diridon South - whether it's a stadium, concert hall, parking lot, housing, or anything else.

Last but not least, the Raiders vs. Oakland saga has finally come to an end for now, with the Raiders choosing not to appeal the outcome of a legal decision that struck down a $34 million award to the Raiders. Chip Johnson's column notes that Al Davis has put a 31% stake (likely non-controlling, of course) in the team on the open market, but so far there are no takers. To get the Coliseum up to the standards of the rest of the league, it will take far more than the $50-100 million or so that could be available from the NFL's G3 loan program ($150 million is available to teams that are building a new stadium from the ground up). Football has only three two-team markets (NYC, Baltimore-Washington, SF-Oakland), and one of them has a shared facility. Is it time to start thinking that way here?

05 December 2006

Stern visits Sactown

Now that the Kings' and local Sacramento pols' efforts to build a downtown arena have hit a wall, NBA commish David Stern came to the state capitol to pull a Winston Wolfe. From the Bee article:

Stern arrived in town Monday for a two-day whirlwind schedule of meetings with those in a position to help craft an arena plan, or shed light on why previous efforts have failed.

He said he came with no preconceived notions of what would work, but in meetings Monday he repeatedly brought up the idea of a statewide authority to help finance California sports venues.

Accompanying him was Baltimore sports and entertainment consultant John Moag, who plans to stay in town for at least two weeks to work on the effort.

Moag called the Sacramento arena effort to date "a little rudderless" and said Stern -- who officially represents the Maloof family, which owns the Kings -- will step into the role usually played by a political leader.

Do the words "statewide authority" sound familiar? It should, because it's reminiscent of SB 4, the sports facilities bill penned by State Senator Kevin Murray (D-Culver City). Murray, who's being termed out with November's election, was hired by super agency William Morris in October.

Should a similar bill try to make its way through the legislature, it could face a similar gauntlet to what SB4 faced in committee review. The net effect of this was to neuter SB 4, which eventually died without getting a governor's signature, or even a full Assembly or Senate vote.

It's a good idea to get Stern involved instead of the persona non grata Maloof brothers, but getting public help for the Kings doesn't look anymore promising than it did a year ago. The passage of Propositions 1A-1E puts the state in the hole $37 billion. Why would it be any easier to get public funds now or even in the near future?

And who could be an ally in the legislature? State Senator Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) just introduced SB 49 (cute), which is specifically targeted at Santa Clara's efforts to move the 49ers to the South Bay. Considering the gargantuan amount of infrastructure that would have to be built to make the Candlestick Point/Lennar development plan work, she may be game.